When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of A Streetcar Named Desire

Sam Staggs, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (394p) ISBN 978-0-312-32164-2

Tennessee Williams's 1947 masterpiece took Broadway by storm and made the brooding Marlon Brando a star. Blanche DuBois's last line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," has become a cliché, but Staggs (All About All About Eve ; Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard ) argues that the whole play is a seminal work, which still "seduces with its disordered exoticism and its power to engulf." He has crafted an entertaining behind-the-scenes narrative of both the play and the film—from Williams's early drafts to the film's battles with Hollywood censors. Rather than dwell on academic interpretations of Streetcar , Staggs takes a more personal tack. He profiles everyone from director Elia Kazan to Jessica Tandy (Broadway's Blanche) as well as backstage personnel. The result is a comprehensive minihistory of 20th-century American stage and screen. And he doesn't stint on tabloid juice, either, noting that both Vivien Leigh and Kazan had voracious sexual appetites. He also incorporates playful trivia, such as a Jeopardy! -style quiz on actresses who've played Blanche. The inclusion of such lighthearted information balances Staggs's absorbing account of the creation of and continued fascination with this American classic. Photos. Agent, Jim Donovan. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/02/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
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