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USA 1951
Directed by
Elia Kazan
122 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Streetcar Named Desire, A

A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the icons of American cinema from one of its best, albeit under-a-cloud, directors.

Brando (in a role originally offered to John Garfield and turned down by Burt Lancaster) is outstanding as Tennessee William's brutish Stanley Kowalski, but the whole cast is superb with Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden picking up Oscars (it was probably Leigh's last significant screen performance and her most memorable since Gone With The Wind, 1939, her Scarlett in that film being a credible ancestor of her faded Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, here). Although a wordy affair Kazan's direction is outstanding, making this an exemplary cinematization of a stage play and joining the strengths of the one to the other.

All this is little wonder as with the exception of Leigh the lead actors had played their parts on Broadway for two years under Kazan's direction. It also features an excellent score by Alex North and striking photography by Harry Stradling. Tennessee Williams, who  wrote the script, toned down his own play in order to meet the Hays code requirements, for instance euphemistically making Blanche's young husband a "poet" (read "homosexual") and tip-toeing around the real meaning of Blanche's dependence on "the kindness of strangers". Even so, the League of Decency engineered a cut of 4 minutes from Kazan's original print which was restored in 1993.

FYI: At this time Kazan was refusing to name names to the House of Un-American Activities Committee and in a clear snub, the film was passed over at the Oscars for Best Film, Best Director and Brando, who was known to be anti-HUAC, lost Best Actor to Humphrey Bogart who had made it clear that he was no Red-lover. 




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