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Costly Performances: Tennessee Williams: The Last Stage Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (October 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595137571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595137572
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,351,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sympathetic, admiring, gifted with seemingly total recall and afflicted with grammatical lapses, a Chicago publicist describes his intimate (but not sexual) three-year friendship with the aging, alcoholic, drug-addicted Tennessee Williams. In Key West, Chicago and New York, assisting the playwright as he worked on the production of his last two plays, Clothes for a Summer Hotel and A House Not Meant to Stand, Smith kept a journal in which he recorded episodes of the dramatist's paranoia, his feelings about Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page and various gay companions. Less bitchy and not as depressing as other books on the "last, sad decline," this memoir stresses the "one great, occasional prick to the tension: humor"--a "psychic emollient" with which Williams was "wildly endowed." Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

There is always something dubious about a memoir written by a companion of a notorious celebrity. This one relies on "anecdotage" spawned by several sporadic meetings between Williams and the author. The result is an exploitative and judgmental, but not very interesting, report of drug and alcohol consumption, abuse by parasitic associates, and unsuccessful play productions. This is a sad story of one of America's foremost playwrights and the liabilities of creative brilliance. What little light is shed on Williams's last three years is darkened by the personal tastes of the author; this seamy memoir would have benefited from a modicum of distance. Not a very useful account.
- Janice Braun, Medical Historical Lib., Yale Univ.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sean Ian Fiennes on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
I am a young actor living in London where the plays of Tennesssee Williams are experiencing a great deal of interest within the entire theatre community: schools and universities; theatre companies; theatre media. All fans of his work are turning to background material on Williams and one of the most discussed -- and admired -- is Costly Performances/Tennessee Williams: The Last Stage by Bruce Smith. Mr Smith has, since writing this memoir, become actively involved in London's theatre world, saying he learned "at the master's hand" many enduring and valuable lessons re dramaturgy, play production and, more importantly, playwriting. His play 'Papal Gore' is scheduled for a West End staging. As well, his book about Mr. Williams is now being made into a major motion picture here in England. Real theatre people understand the sensitivity Mr. Smith brought to his portrayal of Mr Williams in his last, very difficult years and value it as a real contribution to 20th Century theatre history. It is highly literate but -- above all -- a very good read. This book, with Lyle Leverich's
The Unknown Tennessee Williams and the gossipy The Kindness of Strangers by Donald Spoto provide an indepth look at the author's life and times.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By F. M. Dalessandro on February 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What is most striking about this book is its lack of sentimentality and incisive, sharp language. There has, indeed, been much written about Tennessee Williams, perhaps too much; the endless nonsense of his being a self-hating homosexual, the lurid tales of his promiscuity, the alleged Oedipal complexes, the temper tantrums and paranoia, and other such twaddle have all obfuscated many essential things about the genius who was Tennessee Williams. This excellent book stands out because it reminds us of Mr. Williams' power -as a person and a playwright- and at the same time it is not sycophantic nor is it cleverly bitchy. Smith, the author, meets Williams rather by accident and the unlikely friendship blossoms. I found the writing to be rather enthralling, evocative, and extremely well-crafted, which allows it to stand apart from many of the other (lesser) books on Williams. It is a memoir and does not purport to be anything but that, which allows the reader a keen insight into the life and work and humanity of the great Tennessee Williams. Because it is told from Smith's eyes the recounting of these stories is deeply personal and often effervescent with images and ideas; a far cry from the mawkish, self-consumed memoirs that pass as literature these days. I also liked the fact that Smith names some names and makes clear the case that the critics, PR people, and the various 'powers that be' in the theater and film worlds (i.e. agents, lawyers, producers) all played their part in Williams' miserable and protracted demise as much as the alcohol and pills did. And while Smith does not exculpate Williams from his vices he carefully explains why, he in fact, had them, and elucidates the nefarious forces constantly in conflict with the artist and his creative process.Read more ›
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