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Streetcar Named Desire Adaption Analysis

1515 words - 7 pages

"In A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams seeks to portray the nature and effects of sexuality." How effectively does the film capture this central concern?

Elia Kazan’s 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee William’s 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire was forced to dilute the primary concern of sexuality to make it more suitable for a broader American audience. Due to anticipated and unanticipated interjections of the conservative Production Code Administration (PCA) of America, headed by strict Roman Catholic Joseph Breen, Kazan was not allowed to remain strictly faithful to William’s original portrayal of sexuality. Kazan instead employed creative cinematography solutions, to address ...view middle of the document...

This alternative depiction of the tragic protagonist leads the audience to sympathise with Blanche, but at the same time appreciate the fact that it was Blanche becoming licentious that led her to her end. As Breen perceived himself as the ‘safe guard [of modern] morality’ [Marotous, G. 2006], he saw it as his duty to protect society from developing sympathy for a woman, who consciously used her sexuality to use men. Breen’s influences are also observed in the differences in the scene with the collector from the Evening Star. The replacement of the lusty ‘blue piano’ of the play with the film’s ‘polka music’ suggests that Blanche is not consciously trying to prey on the minor, but instead, is drawn to the boy because he reminds her of Allan. The auditory difference in music renders Blanche as a deluded and mentally unstable character instead of a predatory nymphomaniac. Furthermore, the alteration of Blanche’s dialogue from ‘get wet in the shower’ to ‘caught in the rain’ eliminates the sexual double entendre and instead elicits a tone of maternal concern, which would have been far less alarming to the 1950’s audience. The PCA forced Kazan to mould Blanche’s sensuality into a more socially acceptable, however shallow version of herself and therefore fails to capture the complexity of her feminine sexuality.

While the film struggles to capture many aspects of feminine sexuality, it does succeed entirely in capturing the rawness of unbridled, masculine sexuality. As the embodiment of visceral male sexuality, Stanley’s (Marlon Brando) portrayal was not changed as much from William’s screenplay as were many of the female characters. During the 1950’s, even after woman suffrage, men’s position in society was far ahead of that of women’s and consequently, having an overtly sexualised male character was more acceptable than that of a woman. Due to this distinction, most of Breen’s 68 demanded changes of the original Broadway screenplay concerned Blanche and Stella instead of Stanley. Even with the few changes from the screenplay, Brando’s Stanley was still ‘mean, course, violent, and magnificent’ (Warner Bros. promotional material) and portrayal was just as brutal as in the play. Even with the film’s omission of much phallic symbolism like Stanley throwing his ‘red-stained’ package of ‘meat’ at a ‘thrilled’ Stella, it does not detract from the audience’s overall perception of Stanley. The medium of film even assisted Brando’s performance in terms of sexuality through the use of high-angle camera shots accentuating Stanley’s dominance and the use of close-ups on Brando’s strong physique, which made his body more available to the audience than in the Barrymore Theatre. Additionally, the inclusion of Stanley brawling at the bowling alley implicitly shows the audience that Stanley is domineering in all realms of life and feels no qualms in displaying his sexuality everywhere he goes, a fact that could only be alluded to in the play due to a restricted...

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