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Sweet Bird of Youth Paperback – September, 1989


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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,908,621 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

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
Tennessee Williams' play "Sweet Bird of Youth" shows deeply flawed individuals self-destructing as they try to recover their innocence and youth. As are the characters, the play is beautiful, if flawed. The same might be said of the playwright. The play was a success when it opened on Broadway in 1959. Elia Kazan directed, Paul Newman played the leading male character, Chance Wayne, while Geraldine Page won recognition and a Tony Award for her portrayal of the leading woman, The Princess Kosmonopolis, aka Alexandria Del Lago.

This three-act play is set in a town called St. Cloud on the Florida Gulf on an Easter Sunday in the late 1950's. It centers on the parasitic, yet partly affectionate relationship between Chance Wayne, 29, and the aging Princess. Violence, particularly in the form of castration, looms heavily over the play. Chance grew up in St. Cloud, aspired to an acting career, and loved a young girl, Heavenly, the daughter of the town political strongman, Boss Finley. Chance's life degenerated rapidly to wandering, substance abuse, and serving as a gigolo to middle aged or elderly wealthy women. Chance has been run out of town by Boss Finley because of his relationship with Heavenly. On his last visit to town, Heavenly had contracted a venereal disease requiring an operation making it impossible for her to bear children. Chance meets a wealthy, ill, aging actress, The Princess, who had been successful in her youth but had faded from public notice 15 years earlier. She has made a new movie to try to revitalize her career but she thinks it has been hooted and rejected. The Princess and Chance get together and with Chance trying to blackmail the Princess and the Princess trying to compel Chance to satisfy her sexually.
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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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