When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of A Streetcar Named Desire

When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of A Streetcar Named Desire

by Sam Staggs
     
 

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Exhaustively researched and almost flirtatiously opinionated, When Blanche Met Brando is everything a fan needs to know about the ground-breaking New York and London stage productions of Williams' "Streetcar" as well as the classic Brando/Leigh film. Sam Staggs' interviews with all the living cast members of each production will enhance what's known about

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Overview

Exhaustively researched and almost flirtatiously opinionated, When Blanche Met Brando is everything a fan needs to know about the ground-breaking New York and London stage productions of Williams' "Streetcar" as well as the classic Brando/Leigh film. Sam Staggs' interviews with all the living cast members of each production will enhance what's known about the play and movie, and help make this book satisfying as both a pop culture read and as a deeper piece of thinking about a well-known story.

Readers will come away from this book delighted with the juicy behind-the-scenes stories about cast, director, playwright and the various productions and will also renew their curiosity about the connection between the role of Blanche and Viven Leigh's insatiable sexual appetite and later descent into breakdown. They may also-for the first time-question whether the character of Blanche was actually "mad" or whether her anxiousness was symptomatic of another disorder.

"A Streetcar Named Desire" is one of the most haunting and most-studied modern plays. Staggs' new book will fascinate fans and richen newcomers' understanding of its importance in American theater and movie history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Opinionated, revealing, constantly entertaining account of the birth and growth of Tennessee Williams's most famous play." —Kirkus Reviews

"A comprehensive minihistory of 20th-century American stage and screen and [Staggs] doesn't skimp on tabloid juice." —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Tennessee Williams's 1947 masterpiece took Broadway by storm and made the brooding Marlon Brando a star. Blanche DuBois's last line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," has become a cliche, but Staggs (All About All About Eve; Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard) argues that the whole play is a seminal work, which still "seduces with its disordered exoticism and its power to engulf." He has crafted an entertaining behind-the-scenes narrative of both the play and the film-from Williams's early drafts to the film's battles with Hollywood censors. Rather than dwell on academic interpretations of Streetcar, Staggs takes a more personal tack. He profiles everyone from director Elia Kazan to Jessica Tandy (Broadway's Blanche) as well as backstage personnel. The result is a comprehensive minihistory of 20th-century American stage and screen. And he doesn't stint on tabloid juice, either, noting that both Vivien Leigh and Kazan had voracious sexual appetites. He also incorporates playful trivia, such as a Jeopardy!-style quiz on actresses who've played Blanche. The inclusion of such lighthearted information balances Staggs's absorbing account of the creation of and continued fascination with this American classic. Photos. Agent, Jim Donovan. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
For those who love behind-the-scenes action with all the trimmings, this extensive account of everything Streetcar-from the play's several stage productions to the filming of the black-and-white classic movie-will not disappoint. Staggs (Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard) researched with gusto, conducting in-depth interviews with all the living cast members and thereby yielding significant material about personalities, performances, and circumstances that is at once revealing and entertaining. Details abound, some quite juicy, about the development of the play; its casting, sets, opening nights, problems, individual productions, and on-set conversations; censorship; public reaction; Tennessee Williams himself; and the stars who appeared in various roles along the way, from Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy to Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, and, most notably, Vivien Leigh. Staggs does not stint on vivid anecdotes, offering choice Brando vignettes and chronicling Leigh's mental breakdown. Discussions of plot and characters, particularly regarding Blanche, are interwoven with these vibrant details. An intriguing blend of research and pop culture, this will make an exuberant addition to libraries with large entertainment collections.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Opinionated, revealing, constantly entertaining account of the birth and growth of Tennessee Williams's most famous play. In the form we now know it, A Streetcar Named Desire, suggests Staggs (Close Up on Sunset Boulevard, 2002), blends Katherine Anne Porteresque Southern gothic, Samuel Beckettian nihilism and Cole Porterish camp. In a feverish moment, he deems it "a root canal on the soul," but elsewhere lauds its sexual-comedic moments. Staggs neatly deconstructs the evolution of the genre-hopping play, observing its manic center's transformation from Blanche Shannon of Chicago to Blanche DuBois of New Orleans, and charting the many changes Williams made to the script over a decade as a result not only of second and third thoughts but also, later, of audience reactions, director Elia Kazan's suggestions and the meddling of censors and studio executives. The play came to life when, in 1947, a scarcely known actor named Marlon Brando was signed for the part of Stanley Kowalski (who, in earlier drafts of the play, had been first Irish, then Italian). Brando's performances gave birth to method acting, whose theory, Staggs writes, had been well established but whose practice seems mostly to have consisted of other actors' imitating Brando's halting, hulking presentation. Staggs is less enthusiastic about the Blanche of the two-year New York theatrical run, Jessica Tandy, second-guessing Kazan six decades after the fact. (Williams, he writes, wanted Greta Garbo for the role.) Staggs then follows the twists and turns the play took to get to the screen, now with the appropriately disturbed Vivien Leigh as Blanche; it's an unhappy story, even though the film made Academy Award history: "It was .. . the first time that three actors from the same film won Oscars." Adds Staggs, after reconstructing a dozen scenes that the censors slashed, that story is also made a little happier by the fact that a director's cut is now available, giving audiences a chance to get a better sense of Williams's and Kazan's intentions-to say nothing of the young Brando's power. Everything you ever wanted to know about a masterpiece.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312321642
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/01/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.25(d)

Meet the Author

Sam Staggs is the author of All About All About Eve and Close-Up On Sunset Boulevard. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

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