A Streetcar Named Desire (1952)

125 mins | Drama | 22 March 1952

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HISTORY

The opening credits read: "Warner Bros. Pictures present the Pulitzer Prize and New York Critics Award Play A Streetcar Named Desire ." The 1949 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' play was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Jessica Tandy as "Blanche." The New York production featured Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, as well as Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias and Edna Thomas, all of whom appeared in the film. The play's London premiere was held on 11 Oct 1949, with Vivien Leigh starring as "Blanche." In Aug 1949, HR and DV news items reported that Paramount was planning to buy the screen rights to the play with the intention of featuring Bette Davis in a lead role, under William Wyler's direction. In Oct 1949, however, Charles K. Feldman bought the rights to the play. According to modern sources, Warner Bros. insisted that a "star" play the lead role of "Blanche," and therefore rejected Kazan's casting of Jessica Tandy.
       Information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: In a 28 Apr 1950 letter, the MPAA office notified Warner Bros. that the script posed "three principal problems" with regard to the Production Code. These problems were cited as "an inference of sex perversion...[with] reference to the character of Blanche's young husband, Allan Grey, [as] there seems little doubt that this young man was a homosexual;" "an inference of nymphomania with regards to the character of Blanche herself;" and the "reference to the rape." The MPAA offered various plot alterations to resolve these violations of the Production ... More Less

The opening credits read: "Warner Bros. Pictures present the Pulitzer Prize and New York Critics Award Play A Streetcar Named Desire ." The 1949 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' play was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Jessica Tandy as "Blanche." The New York production featured Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, as well as Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias and Edna Thomas, all of whom appeared in the film. The play's London premiere was held on 11 Oct 1949, with Vivien Leigh starring as "Blanche." In Aug 1949, HR and DV news items reported that Paramount was planning to buy the screen rights to the play with the intention of featuring Bette Davis in a lead role, under William Wyler's direction. In Oct 1949, however, Charles K. Feldman bought the rights to the play. According to modern sources, Warner Bros. insisted that a "star" play the lead role of "Blanche," and therefore rejected Kazan's casting of Jessica Tandy.
       Information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: In a 28 Apr 1950 letter, the MPAA office notified Warner Bros. that the script posed "three principal problems" with regard to the Production Code. These problems were cited as "an inference of sex perversion...[with] reference to the character of Blanche's young husband, Allan Grey, [as] there seems little doubt that this young man was a homosexual;" "an inference of nymphomania with regards to the character of Blanche herself;" and the "reference to the rape." The MPAA offered various plot alterations to resolve these violations of the Production Code. In the first they suggested that the filmmakers "affirmatively establish...some other reason for [Allan Grey's] suicide which will get away entirely from sex perversion." Secondly, the MPAA suggested that Blanche appear to be "searching for romance and security, and not for gross sex" and frequently call for "Allan," so that she would appear to be "seeking for the husband she has lost in any man she approaches." The MPAA also recommended that all inferences to the rape be entirely eliminated and merely be Blanche's hallucination, brought on by her "dementia." In a 2 May 1950 memo, the MPAA noted that both Kazan and Williams were telephoned after receiving their comments, and "were inclined to make speeches about the integrity of their art and their unwillingness to be connected with a production which would emasculate the validity of their production. Mr. Williams actually signed off in a great huff, declaiming that he did not need the money that much."
       Negotiation continued between the MPAA and the filmmakers; however, a 24 May 1950 note written by Joseph I. Breen, head of the MPAA, noted that "we are not entirely out of the woods on this particular production....we still have some things to do by way of straightening out the characterization of the girl and the disposal of Stanley at the end of the script." A 25 Jul 1950 memo recorded a meeting between the MPAA and Warner Bros. representatives, in which they specifically discussed the "so-called rape scene," which the MPAA continued to reject. "A solution was suggested...that the indication of rape be simply abolished, and that in its place it be indicated that Stanley struck Blanche quite violently, and from this blow she collapsed. This would mean that his very pointed line, 'We've had this date with each other from the beginning,' would be simply eliminated."
       According to a NYT article, Kazan began shooting the film in mid-Aug 1950. As of 24 Aug 1950, the matter of the rape scene was still unresolved. Actor Marlon Brando noted in a 21 Aug 1950 NYT article that the MPAA office would not allow him "to pick Miss Leigh up and carry her off to bed." In addition, an 8 Sep 1950 letter written by Breen suggests that he still found inferences in the script that Blanche's first husband was homosexual. Kazan responded to Breen's concern in a 14 Sep 1950 letter by stating that "I wouldn't put homosexuality back in the picture, if the Code had been revised last night and it was now permissible....I prefer the delicately suggested impotence theme; I prefer debility and weakness over any kind of suggestion of perversion." On 20 Oct 1950, Williams wrote the following to Breen about the rape scene: " Streetcar is an extremely and peculiarly moral play, in the deepest and truest sense of the term....The rape of Blanche by Stanley is a pivotal, integral truth in the play, without which the play loses its meaning, which is the ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate by the savage and brutal forces in modern society." Williams went on to praise Leigh's performance as Blanche, and continued with "Please remember, also, that we have already made great concessions which we felt were dangerous to attitudes which we thought were narrow." Indeed, Williams rewrote the end of the screenplay to indicate, somewhat ambiguously, that Stella leaves her husband, whereas in the play she returns to him after her sister is removed.
       The film was completed and ready for release by Jul 1951, when the Catholic Legion of Decency condemned it. That same month, as reported in a Var news item, a Chicago federal judge refused "to permit an extension of the two-week limitation in the Loop" for the run of the film, and declared that "he would not 'condone any picture which dealt with sex nymphomania and liquor' as its basic theme." According to Kazan, quoted in a 24 Oct 1951 Var news item, Warner Bros. feared that a condemnation by the Legion of Decency would ruin their chances of getting an audience for the film. Without consulting Kazan, studio officials worked with the MPAA to make cuts in the film that would meet the MPAA's and Legion of Decency's approval. The editing was supervised by Martin Quigley (as identified in modern sources), a film trade magazine publisher and Catholic layman, who reportedly was "invited" by Warner Bros. In the 24 Oct 1951 Var article (which reprinted an interview with Kazan from a 21 Oct 1941 NYT article), Kazan noted that twelve cuts were made in the film, which resulted in a total of "three or four minutes of film." Kazan noted the cuts as follows: "a trivial cut of three words;" "a recutting of the wordless scene in which Stella...comes down the stairway to Stanley after a quarrel;" Stanley's line "You know, you might not be bad to interfere with," which is spoken shortly before he rapes Blanche; and a few other cuts "of like nature."
       Kazan noted that the scene in which Stella descends the stairway "was carefully worked out...to show Stella's conflicting revulsion and attraction to her husband....It was explained to me that both the close shots and the music made the girl's relation to her husband 'too carnal.'" In addition, Kazan noted that the elimination of Stanley's line before he attacks Blanche "removes the clear implication that only here, for the first time, does Stanley have any idea of harming the girl. This obviously changes the interpretation of the character, but how it serves the cause of morality is obscure to me, though I have given it much thought."
       After the cuts were made, the Legion of Decency awarded the film a "B" rating, and it was released to great critical acclaim. Although the film showed at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, Italian censors refused to permit its exhibition throughout the country for three years, according to an 18 Mar 1954 HR news item. In 1993, Warner Bros. re-released the film with the cuts restored. The film won Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden), Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Kim Hunter), and Best Art Direction (black & white). The film was also nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Music (scoring dramatic or comedy picture), Best Sound Recording (Warner Bros. Studio Sound Dept., Nathan Levinson, sound director), and Best Writing (Screenplay). In 1984, a television version of the play was aired featuring Ann-Margret, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo and Randy Quaid; and in 1992, the play was revived on Broadway starring Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. That version was also adapted for television. A Streetcar Names Desire was ranked 47th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 45th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Oct 51
pp. 400, 424-25, 428.
Box Office
16 Jun 1951.
---
Daily Variety
12 Oct 1949.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
14 Jun 51
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 50
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 50
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1954
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jun 51
pp. 885-86.
New York Times
28 May 1950.
---
New York Times
21 Aug 1950.
---
New York Times
19 Sep 51
p. 37.
New York Times
30 Sep 51
p. 27.
Variety
20 Jun 51
p. 6.
Variety
4 Jul 1951.
---
Variety
3 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
24 Oct 1951.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Elia Kazan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adpt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
Asst cam
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Supv art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Props
Asst props
MUSIC
Orig mus
Mus dir
SOUND
Cableman
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Body Makeup
Hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr clerk
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, as presented by Irene Mayer Selznick (3 Dec 1947).
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 March 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 19 September 1951
Production Date:
mid August--mid October 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Charles Feldman Group Productions
Copyright Date:
15 October 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1240
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
125
Length(in feet):
10,977
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14871
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Blanche DuBois arrives in New Orleans by train, and follows a sailor's directions to take a streetcar named "Desire" to her sister Stella Kowalski's apartment at Elysian Fields in the French Quarter. Blanche, an aging Southern belle, is horrified by the dilapidated building in which her sister lives with her husband Stanley, but is delighted to reunite with Stella, whom she feels abandoned her after their father's death. Blanche explains that she was given a leave of absence from her teaching job because she had become a little "lunatic," and now makes herself at home in the cramped apartment, which affords little privacy. Blanche is immediately offended by Stanley's coarse manners, and he is infuriated when he learns that Blanche has lost the family home at Belle Reve. Stanley rants about the "Napoleonic code," which he claims decrees that what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband. Unimpressed by Blanche's genteel manners, Stanley reveals that his wife is pregnant, and at his insistence, Blanche reluctantly digs out the papers which document the many unpaid loans written against the Belle Reve estate. That night, Stanley's poker game runs late, and when Stella and Blanche return from an outing together, Blanche meets Stanley's best friend Mitch, a bachelor who looks after his sick mother. Blanche turns on the radio and dances by herself, but Stanley is distracted by the music and flies into a drunken rage, during which he beats Stella. Stella and her terrified sister run up to their neighbor Eunice's apartment, but later, when Stanley calls up to her in remorse, Stella is drawn back to her husband and makes up with him. Blanche, horrified by Stanley's brutality, ... +


Blanche DuBois arrives in New Orleans by train, and follows a sailor's directions to take a streetcar named "Desire" to her sister Stella Kowalski's apartment at Elysian Fields in the French Quarter. Blanche, an aging Southern belle, is horrified by the dilapidated building in which her sister lives with her husband Stanley, but is delighted to reunite with Stella, whom she feels abandoned her after their father's death. Blanche explains that she was given a leave of absence from her teaching job because she had become a little "lunatic," and now makes herself at home in the cramped apartment, which affords little privacy. Blanche is immediately offended by Stanley's coarse manners, and he is infuriated when he learns that Blanche has lost the family home at Belle Reve. Stanley rants about the "Napoleonic code," which he claims decrees that what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband. Unimpressed by Blanche's genteel manners, Stanley reveals that his wife is pregnant, and at his insistence, Blanche reluctantly digs out the papers which document the many unpaid loans written against the Belle Reve estate. That night, Stanley's poker game runs late, and when Stella and Blanche return from an outing together, Blanche meets Stanley's best friend Mitch, a bachelor who looks after his sick mother. Blanche turns on the radio and dances by herself, but Stanley is distracted by the music and flies into a drunken rage, during which he beats Stella. Stella and her terrified sister run up to their neighbor Eunice's apartment, but later, when Stanley calls up to her in remorse, Stella is drawn back to her husband and makes up with him. Blanche, horrified by Stanley's brutality, lingers in the street with Mitch. The next day, Stanley overhears Blanche encourage Stella to leave Stanley, whom she calls an "animal" and "subhuman," but she is unable to shake Stella's devotion to her husband. Stanley reveals that he has heard some unsavory gossip about Blanche, and his apparent secret knowledge unnerves her. That night, Blanche and Mitch go out on a date, and she resists his amorous advances by telling him that she is old-fashioned. After avoiding Mitch's questions about her age, she reveals that she drove her first young husband to suicide by mercilessly demeaning him because their marriage was not consummated. She then accepts Mitch's kiss. Five months later, when Mitch reveals his plans to marry Blanche, he and Stanley fight after Stanley tells him about her sordid past. Stanley then tells Stella that he has learned that Blanche was fired for seducing a seventeen-year-old student, and that she has a notorious reputation. Mitch stands up Blanche on her birthday and refuses to take her calls. When Stanley tells Blanche that she has overstayed her welcome, she insults him by calling him a "Polack." Stanley defends his Polish heritage, and then gives her a birthday gift of a one-way bus ticket home. Blanche then becomes hysterical and shuts herself in the bathroom. Stella and Stanley start to fight, but she goes into labor and Stanley takes her to the hospital. Later, Mitch comes to see Blanche, who is hearing music in her head, and calls her a hypocrite. Blanche truly loves Mitch, but admits that she has had "many meetings with men." Mitch forces a kiss on Blanche, but breaks their engagement and is run out of the apartment by her. She then dresses up as if she were attending a ball, and when Stanley returns home, claims that Mitch has apologized and that she has received an invitation to a cruise. Stanley accuses Blanche of lying and assaults her. When Stella returns home with her baby, she finds that Blanche has gone insane and now lives under the delusion that she is going on a Caribbean cruise. Stella has reluctantly arranged for her sister to be sent to a sanatorium, but when the doctor and matron arrive, Blanche goes completely berserk. Mitch attacks Stanley, who vows that he never touched Blanche. Blanche finally calms down, and is touched by the doctor's gentlemanly manner, telling him that she has "always depended on the kindness of strangers." After they leave, Stella rebuffs Stanley and runs to Eunice's apartment with her baby, vowing never to return. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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