A Streetcar Named Desire Written vs Performed Version

A Streetcar Named Desire

 The Written In Comparison With the Performed Version

Tennessee Williams authored ‘A streetcar Named Desire’ in his mid-thirties and launched it in 1947 in New York. The play was so successful that it maintained Williams as one of the most celebrated playwrights in America. The play was transformed into a movie, attracting him more fame and respect in the modern theater. Indeed, ‘Streetcar’ was his first production to be transformed from a written into a performed version. The movie was performed by superb actors and structured in a highly emotional plot that made it a blockbuster in the film industry. The original movie comprised of the same story and themes contained in the play. However, some adjustments were made to diminish the screenplay according to specifications by the National Legion of Decency and the Hollywood Production Code. The film was produced in two versions because censoring and cutting led to the disappearance of utterances and several lines in the first version. The film can be compared to the play by exploring the similarities and differences between the written and the performed version of the Williams’ work. Despite the efforts of the film director to maintain the film similar to the original play, there are significant diseases that result between the play and the movie.

There are some similarities between the written and performed version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ The performed version is based on the play, hence the storyline in the play is transferred to the movie.  According to Forster Hirsch, “The Williams films retain the spirit of the original play, especially, as in the case of Streetcar, when Williams himself worked on the screenplay. His personality still dominates the film version” (Phillips 223). The many similarities between the film and the play confirm the statement by Forster Hirsch that, “a movie based on a Tennessee Williams play is a Tennessee Williams film” (Phillips 223). Similar to the popularity attributed to Williams from the success of his play, the movie was so successful and highly celebrated. The movie won various Academy Awards just as the play won the Drama Critic’s Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Thus, both the written and performed versions of Streetcar were successful.

Most of the words in the movie match those used in the play. Similarly, there is a close connection between the plot of the film and the structure of the play. The eleven scenes of the Streetcar formed a significant script for both the play and the movie. The director of the movie, Kazan, strived to maintain the original production of the play. He only made a few adjustments when transforming the play into the film. He explains, “What I did was to make the set smaller; as the story progressed, I took out little flats, and the set got smaller and smaller” (Phillips 227). The director was great personnel who incorporated and dependent on the efforts of Williams in the production of the film. This created a significant opportunity for William to shape the plot of the film about that of the play.

Despite the existence of some similarities between the play and the movie versions, there are significant differences between the written and performed versions of the Streetcar. Censorship at different scenes of the film creates significant differences between the movie and the play. Although the film comprised of the same story and themes as in the original play by Williams, some significant adjustments were made to make the film adhere to the requirements of the National Legion of Decency and the Hollywood Production Code. The changes made during the film production made the movie differ from the play. There is a different form of censorship in every scene of the movie. First, there are new scenes included in the movie which are not involved in the play. For example, there is the place of a dance casino in the movie where Blanche informs Mitch about the suicidal death of her husband at the casino. However, the place of the casino is not mentioned in the play, and detailed information about the death of Blanche’s husband is not provided.

Elimination of references to homosexuality in the movie makes it different from the play. Blanche’s husband is exposed to be a homosexual in the play. Blanche narrated to Mitch of how she found her husband in bed with another man (scene 6).  Blanche is biased and judgmental against her husband over his homosexual behavior. The rules of the Code did not allow for references to homosexuality in the film. Therefore, the scenes exploring the references to homosexuality were eliminated in the film, making it different from the play. The scenes on rape as found in the play are considerably weakened or fully eliminated in the film. In the play, it is revealed that Stanley rapes Blanche behind the stage. However, the film does not expose whether raping happened. “Streetcar is an extremely and peculiarly moral play, in the deepest and truest sense of the term… The rape of Blanche by Stanley is a pivotal, integral truth in the play, without which the play loses its meaning, which is the ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society” (Philips 230).

Movie directors and producers had to be attentive in handling certain issues like explicit expressions of sex, violence and related aspects. Mr. Kazan, the film director uses a series of symbols to represent sexual overtones. He provides the reason that “because in those days we had to be very indirect in depicting material of that kind” (Phillips 231). Besides, the director uses a deep language when expressing the erotic behavior of the sexually active couple in the film. Indeed, one can’t understand what goes on without paying much attention. These differences between the comprehension of the play and the film arise from the set of rules by the Code on film production. There is a major difference in the ending of the film and the play. The film ends much differently from the play by subjecting Stanley to punishment for rape cases. This is even though no rape incidence is revealed in the movie.

Indeed, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is among the significantly staged plays in the modern theater. Its success attracts popularity and creates opportunities for Tennessee Williams to excel in his career. The play was transferred into a movie, following the standards and rules of the Hollywood Codes. Just as the play was successful, its performed version was also amazing under the direction of Kazan. The film director, Kazan, aimed at making the film similar to the original play by Williams. To an extent, he incorporated Williams in the production work to help in achieving some significant similarities. Although there are some similarities between the play and the film, some significant differences distinguish between the written and performed version of Streetcar. The differences range from the issue of censorship, sexuality, rape and punishment and other general differences in the production of the film.

Works Cited

Phillips, Gene D. „A Streetcar Named Desire: Play and Film.“ Confronting Tennessee

Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire: Essays In Critical Pluralism. Ed. Philip C. Kolin.

Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Signet, 1951.



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