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When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of "A Streetcar Named Desire" Hardcover – May 26, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
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Top customer reviews
The story behind the play version is light on facts and "new" information. The story behind the movie version has more "heft" but I never read anything that surprised (or, shocked) me.
That being said, the most enjoyable part of this book--for me--was the wonderful dramaturgical history about the original production. Staggs' manages to weave a number of characters that figure prominently in Williams life into his narrative (Irene Selznick, Audrey Wood, Frank Merlo) in such a way that the orbit of the satellites helps define the body they are orbiting. The part that I found tedious and will admit to skimming (on occasion) is the rather lengthy discourse on the machinations of Joseph Breen and the Hayes office, perhaps because I find this period in American History embarrassing in much the same way that generations hence will look away when the politically fundamentalist Tea Party is mentioned.
Staggs writes masterful prose. Any book that has me scurrying to the online dictionary ( I don't think I had ever seen the word 'ukase' used outside a college text) will keep my interest. Making my way through this book is rather like a eating a crab dinner. Sometimes the mallet yields up large meaty chunks of buttery goodness and sometimes, no matter how hard you crack, only a sinewy thread is produced.
Most recent customer reviews
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