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Tennessee Williams

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I felt we needed a thread about Tennessee Williams in this sub-forum, so I am making one..!

 

Supposedly, Williams' relationship with a teenaged boy in Italy during the late 1940s was the basis for THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE. 

 

In SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, Sebastian is devoured by men on the streets of Europe. Read into that what you will.

 

Blanche's husband in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE killed himself, and we are led to guess why. 

 

Brick and Maggie have sexual problems in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. 

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Blache's husband commit suicide because  she entered a room she thought was empty and found him in the arms of his gay lover.  William's women can be seen as "homosexual men" I wonder if Tennessee had been writing now would his plays be more explicit in they gay content- Brick is emotionally cripple because he could not handle the fact that his best friend/team mate wanted them to go off to "Brokeback Mountain"  

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Tennesee Williams' women are so strongly drawn that I don't think that they can be seen as anything else but women.

 

However, his empathy with them was enormous.

 

Surely, he wrote himself into them.

 

So many of his women were unforgettable.

 

And, in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", he gave us a heterosexual woman and a homosexual man who were at odds with each other.

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I wonder if Tennessee had been writing now would his plays be more explicit

 

Interesting thought to ponder. In a thread on another forum, we've been discussing remakes. Films based on Tennessee Williams' stories might be remade to more explicitly present his themes. 

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So many of his women were unforgettable.

 

Weren't they all based on his mother and sister? And on himself? 

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Weren't they all based on his mother and sister? And on himself? 

Jarrod, I do wish that I knew the answer to that one.

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Jarrod, I do wish that I knew the answer to that one.

Over the years I've heard that Tennessee was very close to his mother and sister; so of course they show up in his work.

 

But the only fact that I have about it is that his sister had a lobotomy.

 

And that could relate to the character that Elizabeth Taylor played in Suddenly Last Summer. They were wanting her to have a lobotomy so that she wouldn't discuss her summer with Sebastian.

 

But I have no real evidence to link them to characters in his plays-

 

- - but I always thought that Blanche Dubois was in some regards resembling his sister.

 

 

Coming from Kansas, I've done more research on the Kansas Pulitzer-Winning Playwright William Inge. He was more of a closeted homosexual. So much so, that he didn't write about homosexuality in his plays.

 

I believe his constant references to sexually frustrated women was related to his own feelings.

 

After you've talked about Tennessee - - maybe you can get into William Inge because he certainly was a powerful force in the fifties and sixties on Broadway and in Hollywood.

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Over the years I've heard that Tennessee was very close to his mother and sister; so of course they show up in his work.

 

But the only fact that I have about it is that his sister had a lobotomy.

 

And that could relate to the character that Elizabeth Taylor played in Suddenly Last Summer. They were wanting her to have a lobotomy so that she wouldn't discuss her summer with Sebastian.

 

But I have no real evidence to link them to characters in his plays-

 

- - but I always thought that Blanche Dubois was in some regards resembling his sister.

 

 

Coming from Kansas, I've done more research on the Kansas Pulitzer-Winning Playwright William Inge. He was more of a closeted homosexual. So much so, that he didn't write about homosexuality in his plays.

 

I believe his constant references to sexually frustrated women was related to his own feelings.

 

After you've talked about Tennessee - - maybe you can get into William Inge because he certainly was a powerful force in the fifties and sixties on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Reportedly, Tennessee Williams and William Inge were very good friends. 

 

"A Loss Of Roses", which I happen to like very much, in its' story about an older, experienced woman who becomes involved with a very young man, has such a strong homoerotic charge to it.

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Reportedly, Tennessee Williams and William Inge were very good friends.

 

"A Loss Of Roses", which I happen to like very much, in its' story about an older, experienced woman who becomes involved with a very young man, has such a strong homoerotic charge to it.

Tennessee had been a mentor to William Inge.

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A Loss of Roses was filmed as The Stripper with Joanne Woodward. It's not all that good but it obviously has enough of a pedigree that I would think TCM might want to show it.

 

In regard to Williams, probably the most direct (and also most positive) reference to homosexuality comes in the scene where Big Daddy gets the truth out of Brick that he's being lied to by the family, that he has more wrong with him than a "**** colon" and that it's going to kill him. Big Daddy gets nostalgic and talks about the time he hopped off a freight train and slept in a cotton wagon. The male couple who owned the place, Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, befriended him and made him the manager of the property. When Jack Straw died, Peter took to his (their) bed and also died a short while later. Big Daddy's respect for them is obvious and, while it's not stated , he obviously inherited the property from this gay couple who gave him his first break. Brick also suggests that Big Daddy may have put Maggie and himself in Jack and Peter's room in the hope that the idea of marital constancy might rub off on them. Big Daddy was crass and rude to just about every character in the play (with the possible exception of Maggie), but he spoke with true fondness and understanding of the gay couple who gave him his start.

 

*****Not sure why s-p-a-s-t-i-c was deleted.

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I saw the second Broadway production of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" with Elizabeth Ashley and Keir Dullea and the original uncut script.

 

It was a revelation.

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Hey, guys, how would you rate the film versions? -

 

1. "The Glass Menagerie" - 1950

 

2. "A Streetcar Named Desire" - 1951

 

3. "The Rose Tattoo" - 1955

 

4. "Baby Doll" - 1956

 

5. "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" - 1958

 

6. "Suddenly, Last Summer" - 1959

 

7. "The Fugitive Kind" - 1959

 

8. "The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone" - 1961

 

9. "Summer and Smoke" - 1961  

 

10. "Period of Adjustment" - 1962

 

11. "Sweet Bird of Youth" - 1962

 

12. "Night of the Iguana" - 1964

 

13. "This Property Is Condemned" - 1966

 

14. "Boom" - 1968

 

15. "Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots" - 1970

 

16. "The Glass Menagerie" - 1987    

 

(I am not including the TV adaptations.)                              

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My comments are in bold:

 

Hey, guys, how would you rate the film versions? -

 

1. "The Glass Menagerie" - 1950  Glad you listed it first. I think this is the best film version of a Williams play. Jane Wyman is perfect as the fragile daughter and I like Kirk Douglas as the gentleman caller. it used to air on the Fox Movie Channel...somehow the rights are controlled by Fox.

 

2. "A Streetcar Named Desire" - 1951 I feel this version is overrated. Brando is sensational and Kim Hunter is very good. But Vivien Leigh overacts. I don't think she should have earned an Oscar for it. It would have been better, with a much more subtle performance, if Jessica Tandy had been cast.

 

3. "The Rose Tattoo" - 1955 Anna Magnani overacts. But unlike Vivien Leigh, she can get away with it, because we're used to the stereotype of the highly dramatic Italian woman. Burt Lancaster overacts, too. But he overacts in everything.

 

4. "Baby Doll" - 1956 I don't like this film and I can't figure out why.

 

5. "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" - 1958 After GLASS MENAGERIE, the second best adaptation. Burl Ives and Judith Anderson nailed it. I also think Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood shine. I like Taylor and Newman but they're kind of bland compared to the rest of this amazing cast.

 

6. "Suddenly, Last Summer" - 1959 I agree with Kate Hepburn, who said in a letter to Williams, that Mankiewicz destroyed the story. The hysterical montage at the end is way over the top. 

 

7. "The Fugitive Kind" - 1959 Joanne Woodward is miscast. Magnani is good, so is Brando...but Victor Jory is even better.

 

8. "The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone" - 1961 I like this version a lot. I think it helps that they cast Warren Beatty. He's the one to watch, not Leigh who is once again over-emoting.

 

9. "Summer and Smoke" - 1961  After MENAGERIE and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, this is the third-best adaptation. I wrote in another thread that the main characters switch personalities at the end. Page's character has a reverse transformation which is very hard to play...she should have earned the Oscar that year. To me, Page succeeds with Williams' tragic heroines the way Vivien Leigh does not. Leigh goes overboard and renders these women as camp, but Page gives us humanity and dignity in the pathos.

 

10. "Period of Adjustment" - 1962 I like this one, but I still have a hard time believing it's snowing in that part of the south.

 

11. "Sweet Bird of Youth" - 1962 Again, Page excels. 

 

12. "Night of the Iguana" - 1964 This one works because we have John Huston's ideas superimposed on top of Williams, and I think Burton is truly excellent as the defrocked clergyman. 

 

13. "This Property Is Condemned" - 1966 Kate Reid is superb and so is Mary Badham. But Wood and Redford seem out of place in this type of material. They try hard and almost succeed, but not quite.

 

14. "Boom" - 1968 Haven't seen it.

 

15. "Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots" - 1970 Also haven't seen it.

 

16. "The Glass Menagerie" - 1987   Another one I haven't watched.

 

 

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Hey, Jarrod, great comments on all of the films.

 

"Boom" is actually "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore".

 

I liked the original Broadway production with Hermione Baddeley (sp?).

 

"The Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots" is Sidney Lumet's version of "The Seven Descents of Myrtle".

 

It starred Estelle Parsons on Broadway.

 

I read the play and liked it a lot.

 

I think that Paul Newman's version of "The Glass Menagerie" was treated as an art house film.

 

Also, I prefer the TV adaptation of "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" with Helen Mirren, because the sexual atmosphere is a lot more "charged" in that one.

 

For example, the young homeless man who is trying to capture Mrs. Stone's attention doesn't hesitate to reveal "his assets" and is a lot more grungier.

 

And, somehow, Helen Mirren's Mrs. Stone is allowed more sexual heat in this one.

 

It becomes much more a portrait of a famous woman who was sexually frustrated for a long time and now welcomes the fact that there are no more boundaries.

 

If she loses her young and handsome kept man, she can go down to the street and get another.

 

They will live a life of depravity together. 

 

Waiting for Mrs. Stone - Rodrigo Santoro - who leaves nothing to Mrs. Stone's imagination -

filmsromantiquessantoro7.jpg

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Interesting comments. It sounds like Mirren's MRS. STONE takes the material in a direction that filmmakers in the early 60s would have been too timid (and restricted by the code) to attempt.

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I like the horror movie atmosphere of "Suddenly Last Summer" (1959) yes it can be a bit much but the story is like some sort of Tales from the Gay Crypt.

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Yes, that Helen Mirren version of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was good. My grandmother fell in love with Rodrigo Santoro in that, despite him having very little dialogue. I had to track down every movie with him I could find for her after she saw that one. She would have been amused that he's currently appearing as Jesus in the new version of Ben-Hur!

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Yes, that Helen Mirren version of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was good. My grandmother fell in love with Rodrigo Santoro in that, despite him having very little dialogue. I had to track down every movie with him I could find for her after she saw that one. She would have been amused that he's currently appearing as Jesus in the new version of Ben-Hur!

Your grandmother had good taste.

 

As for "Suddenly, Last Summer", I don't know if there's a way to avoid its' hysterical nature.

 

It builds and builds - until that horrific conclusion.

 

I remember an interview with Tennesee Williams in which he said that Elizabeth Taylor was too "knowing" a screen personality for the role of Catherine.

 

He would have preferred Julie Harris.

 

As far as I'm concerned, both Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were wrong for their roles.

 

But Taylor AND Clift were probably a package deal.

 

I remember the TV adaptation with Natasha Richardson, Rob Loewe and Maggie Smith.   

 

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Your grandmother had good taste.

 

As for "Suddenly, Last Summer", I don't know if there's a way to avoid its' hysterical nature.

 

It builds and builds - until that horrific conclusion.

 

I remember an interview with Tennesee Williams in which he said that Elizabeth Taylor was too "knowing" a screen personality for the role of Catherine.

 

He would have preferred Julie Harris.

 

As far as I'm concerned, both Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were wrong for their roles.

 

But Taylor AND Clift were probably a package deal.

 

I remember the TV adaptation with Natasha Richardson, Rob Loewe and Maggie Smith.   

 

 

 

Why do you feel Taylor was wrong for her role?   To me this is the best acting she did.  

 

One reason is that the mom and son were using her as bait,  and in that white bathing suit, she was something too look at.

Julie Harris couldn't attract flies.   

 

But yea, Clift didn't come off as a doctor.   He just looked uncomfortable during the entire film.

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"One Arm" would make a interesting movie- the play adaptation was not a success- but the short story is haunting- I always imagine Brad Pitt in the lead- Matt Damon would have been perfect ( personally Mr Damon is always perfect...) 

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A Tennessee Williams thread should also include mention of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, who were close to Tennessee and appeared in many of his works. In fact, Eli and Anne met in 1946 whilst performing in a production of This Property Is Condemned in a tiny theater in Greenwich Village. Eli went on to appear in the original Broadway productions of The Rose Tattoo and Camino Real. Camino Real is a strange play, and it took time for Tennessee and his beloved producer, Cheryl Crawford, to get the funding. Nevertheless Eli promised to play the lead, and turned down a plum film role (in From Here to Eternity) when Cheryl finally got the funds.

 

Tennessee's letters to Cheryl Crawford are fascinating and heartbreaking. He talks about not being able to walk down a street, unless there's a bar on the street. Other letters relate more to his work, including his persistent attempts to get Anna Magnani to appear in the original Broadway production of The Rose Tattoo (he was unsuccessful -- Maureen Stapleton played the role). But, as we all know, he got Magnani for the film.

 

Tennessee also wrote about sitting at the Oscar ceremony when Streetcar was nominated, and his feelings about losing: part of him eschewed the idea of the awards but another part of him wanted to win.

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I saw Tennessee Williams' revised script for his last Broadway outing.

 

(I can't remember the title - but it starred Sylvia Sydney.)

 

The original Broadway presentation has, if I am remembering correctly, three different stories, which all took place in a boarding house.

 

The revised script integrated all of the plotlines.

 

As a piece of writing, it was a sensational success.

 

But it was given in a small Off-Off Broadway house (on lower Fifth Ave., NYC).

 

When it should have gone directly to Broadway - again.

 

But, by this time, Williams had been "written off".

 

A few years later, he re-surfaced - quite well, in fact - with "Small Craft Warnings".

 

 

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I saw Tennessee Williams' revised script for his last Broadway outing...

 

 

...But, by this time, Williams had been "written off".

 

 

I think several things factored into his being 'written off,' don't you?

 

One of the more interesting things is he became a follower of organized religion in his later years. I wonder if his newfound Catholicism affected the way he viewed the themes that had worked for him earlier in his life and career.

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I think several things factored into his being 'written off,' don't you?

 

One of the more interesting things is he became a follower of organized religion in his later years. I wonder if his newfound Catholicism affected the way he viewed the themes that had worked for him earlier in his life and career.

Williams was perhaps our greatest playwright but he was also human- the alcohol, "the cures" and who knows what else caught up with him- and every play can not be- "The Glass Menagerie"-  William Inge share the same sad fate at the end- Inge seemed to have been ever more sexually repressed.

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