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Sweet Bird of Youth Paperback – September 1, 1989


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Sweet Bird of Youth + Cat on a Hot Tin Roof + A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (September 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811205967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811205962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,419,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) is one of the most acclaimed playwrights of the twentieth century. New Directions publishes his letters, short stories, poems, fiction, memoir, essays and over sixty of his plays including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, and The Night of the Iguana. Lanford Wilson is the New York Drama Critics Circle and Tony Award-winning author of Hot L Baltimore, The Fifth of July, The Mound Builders, Burn This, and the libretto for an opera of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke. Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for Talley's Folly. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), one of the 20th century's most superb writers, was also one of its most successful and prolific. His classic works include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Summer and Smoke, Camino Real, Sweet Bird of Youth, Night of the Iguana, Orpheus Descending, and The Rose Tattoo.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Aco on December 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'd like to see this play. Why? Because there is an incredible amount of angst, self-pity, self-agrandizment, posturing, emoting, and innocent awe. It is also short, surprisingly too.
Chance is a hyper-sexual ne'r' do'well whose coupling with Princess, a hyper-vain Hollywood Queen suffering from lose of face after an amazingly bad "come-back" film, lands them in Saint Cloud, Chance's old stomping grounds, and perhaps some sort of symbolic nowhere town, dead to the world and quite possibly changeless. His appearence is bad news, as he generally is bad news. Princess, who is significantly older is so wrapped in her vanity and stardom, or there-lack-of, has latched onto Chance, because they are similar and desperate for what each other has.
Sweet Bird of Youth is not a nice play. These are people who are not likeable, nor funny, and their desperation almost defines them. I say almost, because they are also passionate and hopeful, even in round about ways. They are symbols of Time's heavy hand, extravegance, unfortunate fame, addicts, wayward souls.
Sweet Bird of Youth belongs in the second tier of Williams' plays. After Streetcar, Cat, Glass, and with The Rose Tattoo, Suddenly, Last Summer, and Orpheus Descending. Full of loud, troubled people on point of hysteria, whose sexual, or emotional hunger is suicidal and beyond reason. But lacking in broad connection to the world, in familial dynamics and struggle. In that way I recommend Sweet Bird of Youth for the Williams' lover or admirer, not someone who wants to know his best work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was well established as a major talent by the 1944 THE GLASS MENAGERIE. By the end of the 1950s he was easily among the best regarded dramatists in world theatre. But although Williams continued writing until the year of his death, after about 1960 he found both critical and popular success increasingly elusive.

SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH opened in 1959 starring a remarkable pairing of Paul Newman and Geraldine Page and ran for about a year--but subsequent stagings and adaptations have not been as successful. A film version starring Newman and Page tampered with original script and emerged as stodgy instead of exciting; a major 1975 Broadway revival lasted fifty performances; and the play has not fared as well over time as such works as A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. It is rarely studied and rarely performed.

SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH concerns a handsome drifter named Chance Wayne who has been picked up by a neurotic and has-been movie star with the unlikely private name of The Princess Kosmonopolis and the stage name of Alexandra Del Lago. After a drug-and-alcohol fueled road trip through Florida, the two have arrived at the semi-resort community of St. Cloud, the location of which is not specified but which from other geographic references seems to be on the Mississippi gulf coast.

It happens that Chance has specifically come to St. Cloud in the hope of reuniting with his teenage love Heavenly Finley. We soon learn that on his last visit Chance gave Heavenly a nasty veneral disease that ultimately resulted in a hysterctomy, and that Chance has been warned away by Heavenly's father local political power Boss Finley, a vicious racist who is behind the recent castration of a black man accused of seducing white women.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Don't see the movie instead of reading the play, in fact, don't see the movie at all, because it is TERRIBLE. It changes the ending completely, and lacks the overall spirit of the play. With "Sweet Bird of Youth," Williams has created something touching and brilliant. If you like Williams' other plays, you will like this, but if not, you won't. A wonderful dramatic landmark. Amazing.
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By Bud Coffey on August 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Item as described.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on January 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first couple of paragraphs here have been used as introduction to other plays written by Tennessee Williams and reviewed in this space. This review applies to both the stage play and the film versions with differences noted as part of the review

Perhaps, as is the case with this reviewer, if you have come to the works of the excellent American playwright Tennessee Williams through adaptations of his plays to commercially distributed film you too will have missed some of the more controversial and intriguing aspects of his plays that had placed him at that time along with Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller as America's finest serious playwrights. Although some of the films have their own charms I want to address the written plays in this entry first (along with, when appropriate, commentary about Williams' extensive and detailed directing instructions).

That said, there are certain limitations for a political commentator like this reviewer on the works of Williams. Although his plays, at least his best and most well-known ones, take place in the steamy South or its environs, there is virtually no acknowledgement of the race question that dominated Southern life during the period of the plays; and, for that matter was beginning to dominate national life. Thus, although it is possible to pay homage to his work on its artistic merits, I am very, very tentative about giving fulsome praise to that work on its political merits. With that proviso Williams nevertheless has created a very modern stage on which to address social questions at the personal level like homosexuality, incest and the dysfunctional family that only began to get addressed widely well after his ground-breaking work hit the stage.

"Sweet Bird Of Youth" is a case in point.
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