Oscar: Best Actress–Leigh, Vivien in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Vivien Leigh won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan’s 1951 version of Tennessee Williams’ best-known play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”


In 1951, the other Best Actress nominees were Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen,” Eleanor Parker in “Detective Story,” Shelley Winters in “A Place in the Sun,” and Jane Wyman in “The Blue Veil.”

Arguably, the best acting to be seen in American films of the 1950s and 1960s is in the various film versions of Williams’ plays. In this collection, you’ll see the brilliant and young Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Geraldine Page and Warren Beatty. 


Williams, from whose pen came stunning unforgettable characters, powerful portraits of the human condition and an incredible vision of life in the South, stands with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller as one of the three quintessentially eminent American playwrights. 
A Streetcar Named Desire is perhaps Williams’ greatest masterpiece. This edition features three minutes of footage that was deleted from the final release version ( and thought lost until its rediscovery in the early 1990s) that underscores, among other things, the sexual tension between Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) and Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), and Stella Kowalski’s (Kim Hunter) passion for husband Stanley. The Legion of Decency required these scenes be cut in order for the film to be released.  
A Streetcar Named Desire depicts a culture clash between Blanche DuBois, a pretentious, fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, inner-city immigrant class. Blanche is a Southern belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask her nymphomania and alcoholism
Arriving at the house of her sister Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter), Stella fears Blanche’s arrival will upset the balance of her relationship with her husband Stanley, a primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual force of nature. He dominates Stella in every way, and she tolerates his offensive crudeness and lack of gentility largely because of her sexual need for him. Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch (Karl Malden) is similarly trampled along Blanche and Stanley’s collision course. Their final and inevitable confrontation results in Blanche’s mental annihilation.
Oscar Awards
Oscar Nominations
About Tennessee Williams


Thomas Lanier Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1911 and his southern upbringing was reflected in the subjects, often based on family members that he chose to write about. He published his first short story at the age of sixteen and his first great Broadway success was The Glass Menagerie, starring Laurette Taylor that won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award in 1945 as the best play of the season. 
Williams himself often commented on the violence in his own work, which to him seemed part of the human condition; he was conscious, also, of the violence in his plays. Critics who attacked the “excesses” of Williams’ work often were making thinly veiled assaults on his sexuality. Homosexuality was not discussed openly at that time but in Williams’ plays the themes of desire and isolation show, among other things, the influence of having grown up gay in a homophobic world.

End Note

In 1999, the film was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.