Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tennessee Williams, 'A Streetcar Named desire' is set in post World War II New Orleans and centers around a young married couple attempting to keep their bond despite a noted class distinction. Stanley Kowalski, played by Marlon Brando in perhaps one of the greatest performances ever to project off the big screen, is a young Polish American living in a cozy apartment with his quasi-newlywed bride. Stella, a magnolia fresh off a Southern plantation, portrayed with equal panache by Kim Hunter. Things seem to be going along pretty well until Stella's older sister shows up on the doorstep. Blanche Dubois, ( Vivian Leigh ) is a figure as obnoxious as she is tragic, and almost from the very start she is despised by her Polish brother-in-law. Kowalski suddenly discovers that his middle class roots, which hadn't seemed like a much of a point of contention with his new wife, are the subject of snide insinuations and clandestine conversations rolling off the tongue of his sister-in-law. Who, it turns out, is not without considerable baggage herself. That's when the once toasty love nest ( Complete with the memory of twinkling Christmas lights ) turns into a war zone. Things are further complicated when Stanley's Army/factory buddy, brilliantly portrayed by Karl Malden, suddenly takes a shine to Miss Dubois, The incredible thing about 'Streetcar' is not just the quality of the acting, but the way the actors approach the complex and beautiful dialog. Brando combines dynamic sexual magnetism with passionate anger, possessive love and cynicism. Vivian Leigh's tragic character perhaps mirroring the insanity she suffered through in her own life, is portrayed with raving vanity one minute and fleeting youth the next. As she often hears and sees flashbacks which the audience does not. William's dialogue manages to do the impossible, that is to blend in poetic imagery with normal conversation, while not sounding sickly sentimental or downright ridiculous. This is as much a credit to the actors themselves, especially Leigh, who really had to do the bulk of the tough solo
scenes in which Blanche begins to lose her mind for good. But Brando is simply too hard to beat. Stanley Kowalski is fully rounded in every sense when this great American actor delivers his lines. Perhaps the only injustice is that Brando did not receive the Oscar for this film, while his costars Hunter, Leigh and Malden all did. Numerous attempts have been made to remake this film, both on the stage and for television. But no one has been able to execute the premise like this wonderful quartet. A fantastic and moving American classic. 10 out of a possible 10 T.H.