ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Streetcar Named Desire, Groundbreaking Hollywood

Updated on September 25, 2014

An Historic Work Of Art

'A Streetcar Named Desire', made in 1951, is a highly charged work of art, which challenged the prevailing censorship laws and which deals openly with such adult subjects as rape, domestic violence, homosexuality, and nymphomania.The movie features remarkable acting performances from the main stars. Marlon Brando's uncouth, sweaty animal magnetism contrasts with and compliments Vivien Leigh's frail, faded belle, and dominates the screen.

The movie received an amazing twelve Academy nominations and won 4, including an unprecedented 3 in the Best Acting categories: Best Actress for Vivien Leigh (her second Best Actress Oscar), and Best Supporting Awards to Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. This was the first time in Academy history that three acting awards were won by a single film.

Basic Story Line

The name of the play and film is taken from a streetcar route in New Orleans where the story takes place. In a line of dialogue from the movie, Blanche asks about the streetcar that runs on Desire Street. That is the streetcar that will take her to Stella and Stanley's apartment on Elysian Fields Avenue. Elysian Fields is the name of the final resting place of the heroic souls in Greek Mythology.

The movie is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the years immediately following World War Two. Having lost the declining family estate to back taxes Blanche, a schoolteacher, arrives in New Orleans to stay with her pregnant sister Stella and churlish brother-in-law Stanley in their cramped, sweltering apartment. Stanley doesn't like Blanche, and starts pushing her for information on some property he know was left to the sisters. He discovers she has mortgaged the place and spent all the money, and he starts to be driven wild by her neurotic behaviour, as she pathetically tries to cling to her refinement and delusions.

Blanche's heavy drinking, which she attempts to conceal, is another sign that all is not well with her. She has a romance with one of Stanley's friends, Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell (Karl Malden) which blows up when Stanley learns news of Blanche's sordid past and tells Mitch. He says that after losing the DuBois mansion, Blanche moved into a fleabag motel from which she was eventually evicted because of her numerous sexual liaisons. Also, she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher because the principal discovered that she was having an affair with a teenage student.

Under Stanley's resentful bullying, Blanche's last hopes are brutally destroyed, everything comes to a head in a rape scene that is hinted at but not shown and she retreats into a psychotic state.

The Actors

'Streetcar' features some of the finest acting ever offered on the screen and a lot of the film's raw emotional power is generated by great performances from the main characters. Brando's acting contains the kind of raw sexual energy seldom seen anywhere. His animal-like force on the screen is staggering. To see his performance in this film is to see one of the greatest actors in history at the height of his power.

His animalism is given greater force when compared to the stiff theatricality that surrounds him, personified by Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois. The battle of wills between Stanley and Blanche is beautifully captured in the differing styles of the two actors, Brando's new 'method,' inner emotion, acting and Leigh's theatrical, genteel artificiality.

Kim Hunter has the straightest role as the down to earth Stella, but she does it skilfully and holds her own against Brando effectively. Karl Malden as the hopeless, timid Mitch also does a great job and brings fire to the role as the climatic scenes play out.

* Marlon Brando - Stanley Kowalski

* Vivien Leigh - Blanche DuBois

* Kim Hunter - Stella Kowalski

* Karl Malden - Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell

* Rudy Bond - Steve Hubbel

* Nick Dennis - Pablo Gonzales

* Peg Hillias - Eunice Hubbel

* Wright King - A Collector

* Richard Garrick - A Doctor

Brando's Performance

When discussing this movie, you just can't get away from Brando. Breakthrough performances don't come much more electrifying than this one. He had starred in the Broadway production of "Streetcar," and he gives a repeat in the movie, as Stanley Kowalksi - half child, half animal, all menacing masculinity.

Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden — who plays Mitch, Stanley's buddy with a romantic interest in Blanche — all received acting Oscars. Brando was spurned at the awards ceremony in favor of Humphrey Bogart's magnificent performance in "The African Queen". Nevertheless, the movie made his reputation in Hollywood, establishing him as an international icon. He cemented it forever with films like "On the Waterfront," "The Wild One," "The Young Lions," and "The Fugitive Kind," and for a time during the 1950s, people considered him America's greatest actor.

Brando's performance showcased 'the method' school of acting, as taught by Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio in New York in the 1940s and 1950s and by many others since then. The method is a technique whereby actors try to create a realistic performance by internalizing the emotions attributed to the character they are portraying. Imagination and memory of past experiences and emotions are used by the actor to help them internally 'become' the character.

Brando's reputation later faded as his temperamental personality got the better of him. Nevertheless, he influenced the whole acting generation that followed him, actors like James Dean, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson. We owe him a lot.

Vivien Leigh as Blanche - For I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

An Important and Meaningful Film

The movie was adapted from Tennessee Williams' 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play (his first) of the same name. It was directed by Elia Kazan (his first piece of work with Williams), a socially-conscious, independent director who had also directed the

play on Broadway and who insisted that the film should not deviate significantly from the original. It proved to be a landmark in American filmmaking.

The movie caused a sensation n its release and was described as "decadent", and "morally repugnant" and it challenged the regulatory Production Code's censors with its bold adult drama and sexual subjects. Although some scenes were deleted or had to be rewritten, there is still a raw sexuality about the story that is communicated in the characters' actions, their looks, the squalid setting, and the steamy music and it signalled a significant weakening of Hollywood censorship. Things would never be the same again.

Clips From A Mighty Movie

Leigh and Brando, Two Geniuses At Work

Your Opinion Counts

"Streetcar is a sublime work of genius"

See results

What do you think of "Streetcar"? Let us know your thoughts!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MusicFan57 profile image


      6 years ago

      I wish everyone would watch this movie at least once. Brando turned traditional acting on it's head with this one. One of my favorite movies of all time.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)