AFI Top 100: No. 47 A Streetcar Named Desire

When I was in high school, I read “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. It was one of my favorite plays assigned in my AP English class and I was not surprised when doing research after the film I found that Williams also wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire.” With all that said, “A Streetcar Named Desire” was yet another movie I went into blind. I honestly thought it was going to be a happy musical for some reason. If you have seen this, you know that this film could not be farther from a joyful song and dance. In many aspects, it reminded me of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in many aspects.

Starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire was a controversial film of its time. Themes of sexuality, mental instability, deceit and abuse wrapped the characters into performing unforgivable actions. The dark tones made the viewer feel uncomfortable throughout the movie. All four stars were spectacular in their role, especially Leigh and Brando. Leigh was perfectly cast in her role as the unstable and insecure Blanche. Not until the end did you truly feel sorry for her, as she was so condescending toward her sister and such a con artist. Brando was incredible. He was able to make you both loathe and at times feel empathetic to his situation. He was a brute, an ass and at the end a monster, but I think Brando did a good job of showing while he was those things, he also truly cared for Stella. His love for her did not stop him from being destructive and cruel however.

Speaking of Stella, of all the stars, she is the one I felt most for. She was in love with Stan but let herself be constantly abused due to it. She loved her sister but let her walk all over her. The end of the film shows her finally making the decision to leave Stan but she does not leave the complex where all the inhabitants are engaged in similar destructive behavior with their significant others. Instead she goes upstairs, to her friend, who endures physical abuse from her husband time and time again. It ended like this to show that the cycle of abuse will not end here for Stella.

Overall it was a strong film, one that needed and received incredible actors. On an admittedly shallow note, can we please admire for one moment how attractive Marlon Brando was when he was young? Prior to this film, the only movie I had seen him in was The Godfather. All I have to say is wow.

Next Up: It Happened One Night


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