Classic Review – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Title – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Director – Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront)

Cast – Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden

Plot – Troubled by recent events in her life, Blanche DuBois (Leigh) heads to New Orleans to spend some time with her sister Stella (Hunter) and her hot-headed husband Stanley (Brando). In their small home, a range of emotions and controversies are unearthed.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”

Review by Eddie on 03/09/2020

Great American director Elia Kazan’s at the time controversial and boundary pushing adaptation of Tennessee William’s equally controversial but famed stage play is a film that continues to live out a strong and respected life in the minds of cinephiles and critics across the globe, with its intensely acted and on point scripting making it the quintessential version of the story of the DuBois sisters.

Through stage and screen there have been ample iterations of William’s heavy hitting drama that deals with mental illness, repression, relationships and the human condition in general but Kazan and his performers (each of whom were nominated for Academy Awards with gongs going to Vivian Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden) invest their hearts and souls into this incendiary tale of Leigh’s teetering on the edge Blanche DuBois, whose trip to New Orleans may well be the catalyst for her tipping over.

Set almost exclusively in the small abode of Blanche and her husband Stanley’s sweat inducing house, A Streetcar Named Desire (both a metaphor and also description of the named transport that brings Blanche to the city) is a smoldering pot of emotion and airing out of past discretion’s and misdemeanors as Blanche’s tense relationship with the poker and drink loving Stanley the cause of much disharmony and distress, while Malden’s poor old well-meaning love interest Mitch gets caught up in his fair share of issues with Blanche to.

There’s barely an ounce of respite from the tension that is building between the stories four central players and with Leigh and Brando (bringing his soon to be famous fire to the screen) bringing the heat at every given moment, particularly in the films final act, Desire is one of the rare golden era film that maintains a high standard in today’s setting as both an acting and directional showcase for incredible talent and verve.

The film may tend to lend itself to moments of melodramatics but at the core of its creation lays some incredibly well-realized characters born out of the mind of one of the 1900’s great story-tellers, who from all accounts embedded Desire with a number of elements close to his heart, giving the film and its journey a beating heart that can’t be denied.

Giving us some of the most well-rounded performances of the cast’s career, most notable in the roles of Leigh and Brando, Desire is deserving of its reputation as a changing of the guard in the Hollywood system and in its acclaim as one of the top 100 films of all-time.

Final Say – 

Bleak stuff, A Streetcar Named Desire is heavy-hitting Hollywood drama with a collection of outstanding performances front and centre throughout. At times falling into slightly over done territory, Elia Kazan’s well-respected offering is still one of the finest examples of old-school Hollywood craft.

4 sweaty t-shirts out of 5

15 responses to “Classic Review – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

  1. This movie is definitely well-acted with powerful performances. However I watched at three different points in my life, and I came to different conclusions each time. I won’t go Into a whole lot of detail here but suffice it to say that while Stanley was definitely a brute, his sister-in-law Blanche (and his wife) calling him a “pig” and a “pollock” didn’t make me give them a whole lot of admiration. However what really disgusts me about Blanche is the way she mistreats Karl Malden’s character throughout the entire story. When I was younger, I was that “nice guy” that Karl Malden portrayed. So while I don’t say Blanche got what she deserved, I can’t say that her attitude gained much sympathy from me.

    • Some great points Emperor, Blanche was a very difficult character and one that isn’t exactly someone that’s easy to warm to. She makes for a very interesting main protagonist but not exactly a likable one.
      E

      • Woody Allen’s film Blue Jasmine is Streetcar reimagined in the post-Bernie-Madoff era with Blanch reimagined as Madoff’s wife. I know Allen is canceled these days because of his unsavory personal life but it’s worth seeing, if only to contrast Cate Blanchett with Vivian Leigh.

      • I know that I’m likely posting an unpopular opinion here, but in my opinion, “Blue Jasmine”
        Is overrated. Full disclosure: there are Woody Allen films that I think are terrific, such as “Vicky. Cristina, Barcelona” “Hannah & Her Sisters” and “Radio Days.” In fact, I’ve teared up in ten movies my entire life, and the final scene of “Crimes & Misdemeanors” still moves me/—I think that film is brilliant! However “Blue Jasmine” feels to me like “Whatever Works” “Irrational Man” and “Match Point”—-just Meh,sub par but not downright bad Like “Deconstructing Harry” “Small Time Crooks” and “Manhattan Murder Mystery “. I’m sure we can agree to disagree

    • I’m not sure if it’s his best performance but everybody should see Brando as the English mercenary imperialist Sir William Walker in Gillo Pontecorvo’s film Queimada.

      Sadly this film was butchered in the editing process so there’s one version in Italian with subtitles and another version with Brando’s voice dubbed over the Italian. You really have to see both to get the full sense of the film and Brando’s performance.

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