A Streetcar Named Desire, with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, the movie that changed everything

70 years have passed since the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, the film with which Marlon Brando began to become an icon. But the film, directed by Elia Kazan which also featured Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden Y Kim Hunter, It’s much more than that.

Classic of universal cinema, the black and white images of its protagonists refer directly to a moment of American popular culture and to his later influences.

The story is based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. At that time, the same playwright was the one who insisted that the film version be made of his piece, which had already successfully passed through a Broadway theater.

With the cast of the theater

Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, which turns 70 years old.

One of the curiosities of the film is precisely that nine actors and actresses from the theatrical cast also participated from the movie, something unusual then and even today. The director was also the same in both versions. Only the leading actress, Jessica Tandy, was left out of the film production because Hollywood wanted a better-known face.

It was like this Blanche Dubois’s character was left to Vivien Leigh, which was already a star for gone With the Wind. But also, Leigh had played the same role as Blanche in the London stage version.

The movie got twelve nominations for the Oscars and it was the first and one of the few, to date, to win three awards for the best performances: Leigh and the supporting actors: Malden and Hunter.

The consecration of Brando

Despite being the second film in which Brando appeared and being the only one of the cast to be left out of the Oscars that year, the character of Stanley Kowalski became one of his great performances. With only 27 years, his presence in the film caused a sensation, marked a generation of actors with a style that is still a reference today. And he made the tight-fitting T-shirts that his character wore fashionable.

The plot of A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of Blanche, a mature woman nostalgic for her past, who visits her sister Stella and her husband Stanley, a macho and violent man. The difficult coexistence between them leads the action to unsustainable peaks of drama. And that situation will irreversibly affect Blanche’s mental health.

Marlon Brando.  At the age of 27, the actor caused a sensation with his acting and his tight-fitting T-shirts. "A Streetcar Named Desire, the film directed by Elia Kazan.

Marlon Brando. At the age of 27, the actor caused a sensation with his performance and his tight shirts in “A Streetcar Named Desire, the film directed by Elia Kazan.

Marlon Brando’s performance made Kowalski’s character definitely become attached to him, almost like an alter ego. On the other hand, Blanche’s characteristics of psychic fragility had a negative influence on the bipolar disorder that Vivien Leigh suffered from in real life. At that time it was ensured that the actress, at times, confused her character with reality.

The film, actually Williams’ work, set in the city of New Orleans, reflects, among other things, a class conflict with the confrontation between a woman (Blanche) who comes from an upper class but has come down and a man (Kowalski) who represents an immigrant worker, with adaptation and social behavior problems.

Another data in which A Streetcar Named Desire was avant-garde is the film’s music, written by Alex North, since it was the first jazz soundtrack made especially for a dramatic film.

The censorship put its hands

The Broadway stage version was very faithful to Williams’ original play. However, the censorship of Hollywood forced to make a few changes to the script, cutting out various references to rape and homosexuality, among other topics. Despite these changes, which were almost seventy, Tennessee Williams assured that, except for the end, the censors had not managed to ruin the story.

Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter in a scene from "A Streetcar Named Desire".

Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter in a scene from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Filmed in a record time of 36 days, in 1999 the film was highlighted by the Library of Congress of the United States for its cultural, aesthetic and historical contribution.

I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers“, the phrase that Blanche Dubois pronounces in Vivien Leigh’s voice and Brando’s withering gaze, are already part of the national heritage of that country, protected in the National Film Registry, as a true cultural treasure.