A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan, 1951, 122’

Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.


“In terms of style and mores, 1951 was a long time ago, and certainly there are elements of Kazan’s direction – some overwrought, hothouse effects – that seem dated now. So does the acting, with the startling exception of Brando, who burns on the screen. Leigh is excellent, but as Kazan noted about the stage production with Tandy, ‘Hers seemed to be a performance; Marlon was living onstage.’ Brando’s performance as Stanley is one of those rare screen legends that are all they’re cracked up to be: poetic, fearsome, so deeply felt you can barely take it in. In the hands of other actors, Stanley is like some nightmare feminist critique of maleness: brutish and infantile. Brando is brutish, infantile and full of a pain he can hardly comprehend or express. The monster suffers like a man.”

Lloyd Rose1


“Vivien Leigh gives one of those rare performances that can truly be said to evoke pity and terror. As Blanche DuBois, she looks and acts like a destroyed Dresden shepherdess. Blanche’s plea ‘I don’t want real­ism... I want magic!’ is central to Streetcar. When Marlon Brando, as the realist Stanley Kowalski, cuts through her pretensions and responds to her flirting with a direct sexual assault, the system of illusions that holds her together breaks down, and he is revealed as a man without compassion – both infant and brute. Elia Kazan’s direction is often stagy, and the sets and the arrangement of actors are frequently too transparently ‘worked out,’ but who cares when you’re looking at two of the greatest performances ever put on film and listening to some of the finest dialogue ever written by an American? When Leigh says ‘The Tarantula Arms!’ or ‘It’s Della Robbia blue,’ you know how good Tennessee Williams can be. He adapted his play himself, with additional adaptation work by Oscar Saul.”

Pauline Kael2

UPDATED ON 22.03.2023