Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tennessee Williams: Drama All The Way

Tennessee Williams in 1951

Tennessee Williams, a pillar of 20th century American drama, was born on this day in 1911. The Public Broadcasting Service's American Masters series online biography of Williams opens with this paragraph:

He was brilliant and prolific, breathing life and passion into such memorable characters as Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski in his critically acclaimed A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. And like them, he was troubled and self-destructive, an abuser of alcohol and drugs. He was awarded four Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was derided by critics and blacklisted by Roman Catholic Cardinal Spellman, who condemned one of his scripts as “revolting, deplorable, morally repellent, offensive to Christian standards of decency.” He was Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest playwrights in American history.

Like most Americans, I know Willams only through his best play adaptations on film.  For me, the prolonged tension and violence he presented in virtually all of his work always had limited appeal. On the other hand watching Elizabeth Taylor cavorting in various stages of dress had its own set of production and entertainment values for a young teenager.  

Here is an Arts and Entertainment biography excerpt covering Williams's later years: 

The full American Masters article on Williams is available here.

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