Friday, April 8, 2011

(He kneels beside her

and his fingers find the opening of her blouse.)

Someone at our discussion of A Streetcar Named Desire mentioned this stage direction in Stanley's last line of the play as evidence of his inherently bestial even depraved nature, thinking that he could evanesce Stella's grief by arousing her (shutting off the waterworks above, so to say, by putting those below in flow). Incredible as this seems for any character we may have seen on the stage it certainly is in keeping with Williams' original view of the "gaudy seed-bearer's" effect of "narcotized tranquility" on his ex-Belle Reve wife. This stage direction is in the play's first edition (published less than three weeks after its premiere) as well as in the second edition three years later (and incorporating for the first time changes in the script that had come about in that production). In the next year (1951) the film appeared and two years after that the Dramatists Play Service published an acting edition, which has some changes in the dialogue but many more in the stage directions. One of those changes is this stage direction — deleted!

All of which makes wonder what Marlon Brando did in the film. Anyone remember? Please let us know or look for it in the future. Brando himself was a very sensitive man and brought that sensitivity, with memorable effect, to the various low-life or out-law characters he portrayed. Elia Kazan, director of both the original production and the film, feared that the play was becoming "the Marlon Brando show ... What would I say to [him]? Be less good?" Brando himself thought that both he and Jessica Tandy had been miscast. And of course, as I mentioned in our discussion, Harold Clurman famously criticized Kazan for tilting the audience's sympathy away from Blanche and onto Stanley. The film—and this is a delayed and very roundabout response to Terry's earlier post—is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it records this truly phenomenal performance (his best on film—one of the best on film), and a curse in that it perpetuates a performance so at odds with the play. Brando was only offered the role after Jack Garfield and Burt Lancaster refused it (the former "because he felt Blanche [!] dominated the play"). How much safer they would have been, as well as his understudy Jack Palance. The first national tour was directed by Harold Clurman with Uta Hagen and Anthony Quinn. That must have been definitive!

1 comment:

Tim said...

Just seen the film, the end of it, the DVD ("Original Director's Version"). Of course the stage direction has not been enacted. The ending is significantly different from the play, with Blanche rebuffing Stanley, tell him to never touch her again, snatching up her newborn (abandoned for over ten minutes in the courtyard) and running up to the Hubbells' upstairs apartment, swearing she'll never go back to him this time, and Stanley—ironically—yelling out "Stella, Stella" again.