Classic Film Guide

Streetcar Named Desire, A (1951)

Brando's pleading wail "Stella! Hey, Stella!" (#45 of AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list) is just one of the many great lines in this essential Tennessee Williams drama; another is Vivien Leigh's "I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers" (#75 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list). Directed by Elia Kazan (Gentleman's Agreement (1947)), Williams’s screenplay earned him the first of his two Oscar nominations for Writing (he received his second for his only other collaboration with the director five years later, Baby Doll (1956)). Kazan, who received his second Best Director nomination, would win his second Oscar on his third (of five) Best Director nomination three years later with his Oscar winning Best Picture On the Waterfront (1954)), which also features actor Karl Malden. In fact Malden, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in this film, would receive his only other Oscar nomination for his Supporting role in On the Waterfront (1954). I'm guessing the playwright & the actor have nothing but nice things to say about their director.

The love story is between Stanley Kowalski (Brando, who received his first Best Actor nomination) and his wife Stella (Kim Hunter, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar on her only nomination). Stella is pregnant with their first child when her older sister Blanche DuBois (Leigh, who earned her second Best Actress Oscar on her second nomination; the other was for Gone With the Wind (1939)) comes to visit. Blanche is a destitute Southern Belle who finds Stanley to be too crude for her tastes, even as his animalistic sexual energy overwhelms her. Stanley thinks Blanche is a phony, and begins checking up on her story, finding financial malfeasance and more in her recent past. Malden plays a card playing buddy of Brando's that believes Blanche is the idealistic, refined lady of the South she pretends to be, until he learns otherwise.

In addition to Leigh, Malden, and Hunter, this Best Picture nominated film's B&W Art Direction-Set Decoration also won an Oscar; its B&W Cinematography and Costume Design also received nominations as did its Dramatic Score and Sound Recording. #45 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list. #67 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Love Stories list. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1999. #19 on AFI's Top 25 Film Scores list.

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