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A Streetcar Named Desire

FromElia Kazan

WithVivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden



The mentally unstable teacher Blanche DuBois, who has a disastrous marriage behind her, seeks refuge with her younger, pregnant sister Stella, who lives in New Orleans in a cramped two-room flat with car mechanic Stanley Kowalski. Blanche's wealth has evaporated, the family estate Belle Rêve has had to be sold and she has lost her job as a teacher because of an affair with a 17-year-old pupil. Inwardly she struggles with her despair, outwardly she endeavours to keep up appearances.

The coarse, almost animalistic Stanley, who prefers to play cards and drink with his mates, doesn't get on at all with her and her dreamy, pretentious manner and is openly suspicious of her from the outset. Tensions between the two come to a dramatic head when Blanche starts a relationship with a shy poker partner of Stanley's, but Stanley brutally puts an end to the potential romance. While Stella gives birth to her child in hospital, an argument between Stanley and Blanche escalates in the small flat and disaster strikes...

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, an atmospherically dense and oppressive chamber play based on the stage play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, who also worked on the screenplay, is one of the best literary adaptations of all time. The film made Marlon Brando a star and was instrumental in revolutionising the art of acting in the middle of the 20th century. Director Elia Kazan, co-founder of the renowned actors' workshop "The Actors Studio", whose courses were attended by film greats such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Marlon Brando, has taken the art of method acting practised there to a highly impressive extreme, giving the film its drastic and realistic character.

Brando's performance in particular is widely regarded as one of the most influential in film history. It helped usher in the era of the anti-hero, a character type that Brando would cement two years later in his role as a brooding biker in THE WILD ONE. But A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE also made film history in other respects. Just think of the jazz-inspired soundtrack by Alex North, which was one of the first jazz compositions for a mainstream feature film and marked a turning point in film music composition; think of the plot, which established a closeness to reality in Hollywood productions that had hardly been known until then. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, with its timeless portrayal, is a psychologically powerful film.