Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer views: A Streetcar Named Desire, 1984

I have just watched the 1984 versison of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Ann-Margret and Treat Williams, which I imagined would be Tennessee-lite, but was very involving and emotional, with great art-direction and that late 1940s look. Is it a quality production of the play, is Ann a creditable Blanche?

I have liked Ann in several items lately (like THE TWO MRS GRENVILLES and her 1966 THE PLEASURE SEEKERS, as per label here) and she seems to be ticking all the boxes here, even if too shrill at the start but by the second half she is terrific. No one could ever be as good as Vivien Leigh but Ann has a creditable stab, with all those lines we know: about the Tarntula Arms, and "I don't want realism, I want magic", "deliberate cruelty is unforgiveable" and of course "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" for that great climax. Beverely D'Angelo is good too as Stella.

Stanley though is Treat Williams who seems to have bulked up and looks sexy enough. He plays him as an infantile brute. Treat was fun in THE RITZ and in HAIR and great in PRINCE OF THE CITY (and still looks good now), (Treat label), but Brando he ain't. 
Looking at it again it seems a very cruel work, as Blanche is stripped of everything and Kowalski gets away with raping her, as she is carried off to the looneybin.

It is also well directed by John Erman (who has done a lot of 'gay interest' items: AN EARLY FROST, Anne again in OUR SONS and THE TWO MRS GRENVILLES, Lee Remick's THE LETTER, THIS YEAR'S BLONDE, THE LAST BEST YEAR, Midler's STELLA etc), with Travilla dressing Ann, Sydney Guilaroff doing her hair, and Marvin Hamlish doing that rather good score.

I'd love to have seen Faye Dunaway and Jon Voight, or Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. Any other famous Blanches? The only one I saw on the stage was Claire Bloom's in London in 1974. (Claire Bloom label). Gillian Anderson is just about to open in a new production here in London. One has to feel a bit sorry for Jessica Tandy - the original Blanche with Brando in Kazan's first 1947 production, but the part became so associated with Vivien Leigh after the movie and her playing it in London.
Ann is certainly the most voluptuous Blanche - she knows her effect on men, maybe that is all she has left, as she is - as she says - all played out. The reason she makes the journey to New Orleans is because she has burned all her bridges after losing the family home and her reputation with her erratic behavior and poor judgment.  "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at -- Elysian Fields!" Desire and Cemeteries were actual streetcar lines in New Orleans and Elysian Fields is a street in the French Quarter (where Stella and Stanley live), but Williams used them as a metaphor. 
She strives to start anew but she can't escape her past nor her illness. Still, she refuses to see herself as she is but instead creates the illusion of what ought to be, and like an actress playing a role, shes very theatrical and selects her wardrobe with tremendous care. But it's a front. People with mental illness who try to pass themselves off as "normal" eventually begin to crack under the pressure. That's what happens to Blanche. She starts out seemingly normal, but eventually the facade wears off. She is now at a dead end (Elysian Fields). Elysian Fields in mythology is the land of the dead, ruled by Hades.
Ann still looks marvellous now in her 70s, in new series of RAY DONOVAN (right).

Next: more hot summer night movies: SUMMERTIME, 1995, and THE GREENGAGE SUMMER, 1961, and my favourite scene from A LETTER TO THREE WIVES ....

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