Williams, Tennessee: Critical Vs. Commercial Response to his Movies (Playwright, Critics, and Audiences)

The vast majority of Tennessee Williams’s movies were quite reasonably popular with the American public. They grossed collectively in domestic rentals close to $50 million, a figure that excludes their performance in foreign movie markets.

It is plausible to assume that they appealed to mature, adult audiences, who were also his loyal theatergoers. Because his movies were essentially character studies, with not much traditional action or plot in them, they made extraordinary demands on moviegoers to concentrate their attention on the dialogue.

In terms of commercial appeal, Williams’ oeuvre can be divided into three equal groups: the smash box-office hits, the moderate successes, and the total failures.

Williams Box-Office Hits

Five Williams pictures that did extremely well at the box-office: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, Streetcar Named Desire, The Rose Tattoo, and Night of the Iguana. This category reveals some interesting patterns. First, three of the most commercially successful films were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Streetcar, and The Rose Tattoo. Second, with the exception of Suddenly Last Summer, the popular films were based on Williams’s long-running plays; Streetcar ran on Broadway for 855 performances, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for 694 performances. The plays that appealed to large theatrical audiences proved to be popular with moviegoers too.

Third, the films of the widest appeal were based on his award-winning plays: Streetcar and Cat won the Pulitzer, and Rose Tattoo and Night of the Iguana, the Tony Award. And fourth, the most commercial films were not necessarily the best artistic adaptations, as Rose Tattoo, a movie with many shortcomings, demonstrated.

Of all his film versions, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was the most commercially successful Williams movie, grossing in domestic rentals 9.75 million dollars. This film achieved the extraordinary record of being the second top grosser of 1958, preceded only by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific (which grossed 17.5 million). Moreover, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was one of the ten biggest moneymakers in the history of its studio, M.G.M. The movie received unanimously good reviews, and Bosley Crowther, the then dean of the N.Y. critics, ranked it fifth in his Ten Best movies of the year. In many ways, it is the most melodramatic and thus most accessible of the Williams movies, much simplified in its transfer from stage to screen.

A lush, Technicolor production, it opened at the Radio City Music Hall, and featured an all’star cast headed by Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives. The success of this picture is all the more remarkable when placed in context with the other popular movies of 1958. In addition to South Pacific, the top moneymakers were: Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell; the military comedy No Time for Sergeants, based on Ira Levin’s play and starring Andy Griffith; the Oscar-winning musical Gigi; and the historical adventure The Vikings, featuring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.

Suddenly, Last Summer

Much more interesting was the tremendous box-office success of Suddenly Last Summer, the second most popular Williams movie, grossing in domestic rentals 6.4 million dollars. It opened to mixed reviews, with some critics complaining about the “tedious talking” and “the terminal showdown that is irritatingly obscure.” However, other critics admired “the beauty of language and the power of acting.”

While Gore Vidal’s screen adaptation and Mankiewicz’s direction much improved on the one-act play, the movie was rather slow in its revelations.  The climactic confession about Sebastian’s homosexuality and violent death appears rather late in the narrative.

Yet the movie had a poetic style, particularly in the lengthy monologues of Katharine Hepburn, who delivered a bravura performance as Mrs. Violet Venable, the demented and domineering Southern matron, obsessed with her homosexual son. Her entrance, descending in a private elevator into her exotic garden, and her first line, “Are you interested in the Byzantine” (addressed to Montgomery Clift) are unforgettable.

Apart from hers and Elizabeth Taylor’s acting, the shocking issues of homosexuality and cannibalism and the controversy that the film aroused at the time, also accounted for its popular appeal.

Suddenly Last Summer was one of the ten top grossers in 1959, preceded by such mass spectacles as: Ben-Hur, the historical epic; Blake Edwards’s war comedy, Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis; two Walt Disney features, Sleeping Beauty and The Shaggy Dog; and Billy Wilder’s camp comedy, Some Like It Hot, featuring Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, as two musicians in drag.

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire was the third most popular Williams movie, though it took some time for the movie to catch on; word-of-mouth proved to be much more effective in getting moviegoers to the theater than the critics’ rave reviews.

There was quite a critical consensus over the film’s quality; The N. Y. Times critic, Bosley Crowther, placed it sixth on his Year’s Ten Best List.

Put in historical perspective, it is amazing and a credit to the American movie public that a film like Streetcar became the fourth top moneymaker of 1951. The box-office hits of that season were the historical spectacle Quo Vadis starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr; the fully animated Disney cartoon, Alice in Wonderland, with a musical score by Oliver Wallace; and the classic musical Showboat, featuring Howard Keel and Ava Gardner.

The Rose Tattoo was far from a good movie; its critical reaction was lukewarm. Yet Anna Magnani’s outstanding performance helped to turn it into a smash hit at the box office, grossing in rentals 4.2 million dollars and ending as one of the 20 most commercial films of 1955. Once again, it is the other blockbusters that make its achievement all the more striking. In 1955, The Rose Tattoo was in the company of two Disney movies, Lady and the Tramp and Cinerama Holiday; two musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Guys and Dolls, starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra; and the service comedy, Mister Roberts, headed by Henry Fonda and featuring Jack Lemmon in his first Oscar winning performance.

If Tennessee Williams experienced his theatrical peak in the late 1940s, the heyday of his movies was in the 1950s. True, the only Williams movie, which turned a commercial success in the 1960s, was John Huston’s Night of the Iguana, grossing in rentals 4.4 million dollars. It opened to lukewarm or at best mixed notices, with Crowther complaining about the film’s “difficulty in communicating what is so barren and poignant about the people,” and lacking the power of showing “what is so helpless and hopeless” about them.

Pauline Kael noted that Huston brought some “coarse melodramatic vitality” to the play, but “whatever poetry it had, seems to have leaked out (28).” While the movie was reasonably successful with audiences, unlike the Williams hits of the 1950s, the gap between its appeal and that of 1964’s blockbusters was really huge, considering the immense popularity of Mary Poppins, which made an instant movie star of Julie Andrews; the Oscar winning musical My Fair Lady, featuring Rex Harrison in his bestknown part; and the James Bond adventure Goldfinger.

Williams’ Moderate Successes

The group of Williams’ moderately successful work includes five features: The Glass Menagerie, Baby Doll, The Fugitive Kind, Sweet Bird of Youth and Period of Adjustment. Of these, the most interesting and the most controversial was Kazan’s Baby Doll.

Baby Doll is a fascinating case in film history. Both the film and its advertising strategies were condemned by the Catholic Church (29). Cardinal Spellman voiced his condemnation from the platform of Saint Patrick’s Church, describing it as “a definite corruptive moral influence” on American society and warning his Catholic constituency to stay away from the film. Although defended by some Protestant leaders for its “essential morality,” Catholic leaders were quick to point out that Baby Doll offended the moral standards not just of the church, but also of the entire community. There were also picket lines, threats to boycott movie theaters, which showed it, and even some bomb scares materialized. Indeed, the conflict over this film between the Legion of Decency and the Motion Picture Association of America is considered to be one of the most vicious battles in film history, but significantly it was one of the last attempts of the Legion to exercise censorship on motion pictures.

But Baby Doll, more than any other Williams’s movie, demonstrated not only the conservative attitude and the power of the Legion within the movie industry, but also among film critics who one would assume to be more liberal and less biased than church officials. To think today that the Time critic described Baby Doll as “just possibly the dirtiest Americanmade motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited,” and one that “might well have embarrassed Boccaccio (30),” is both artistically and intellectually shocking. And this critic was not alone in the dark. Entitling his review “Streetcar on Tobacco Road,” Crowther wrote in the N.Y. Times that Williams was “on the level of pure ‘white trash,”‘ and went on to describe the heroine as an “unmistakable victim of arrested development (31).” Crowther’s criticism was so literalminded that it focused mostly on the content of the story and the characters, instead of the artistic values of the film, which were indeed very high. Defining Baby Doll’s protagonists as “morons,” he also wrote that they were “virtually without character, content, or consequence (32).” Zinsser, reviewing the film in the Herald Tribune, also felt that the tale was “too slender,” with “few thin sketches,” and a “hackneyed and theatrical climax,” but at least conceded that it was an “unusually good film,” featuring “magnificent acting (33).”‘

There has been contradictory evidence over the issue of whether the controversy damaged or contributed to the financial performance of Baby Doll at the boxoffice. According to Variety, the film received only 4000 play dates, which was about one fourth of its booking potential (34). Released in December 1956, the picture became one of the 40 topranking films in 1957, grossing in domestic rentals 2.3 million dollars.

The appeal of two other moderately successful features was largely due to their acting. The Fugitive Kind was one of the few films to improve on their source material, in this case “Orpheus Descending,” which ran for a short time on Broadway in 1957 and two years later Off Broadway. Sidney Lumet directed this study of moral corruption in an interesting way, pacing it extremely slowly and using revealing closeups of its legendary cast, which included Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, and Joanne Woodward, all recent Oscar winners. Anna Magnani, as the lonely wife of a sadistic invalid husband; Brando, as the vagrant guitar singer; and Woodward, as a desperate wild woman; were all-excellent in conveying the movie’s morbid vision of despair and loneliness. The Fugitive Kind opened to excellent reviews and subsequently grossed 1.7 million dollars in rentals. By comparison, Richard Brooks’s version of Sweet Bird of Youth could not have differed more from Lumet’s approach. It was staged as a naturalistic melodrama, with a new happy ending that did not exist in the original play. But like The Fugitive Kind, it was distinguished by acting of the highest order down to the smallest part. Geraldine Page, as the aging and fading movie star; and Paul Newman, as the corrupt stud, repeated their successful stage roles. This movie, unlike Streetcar and Baby Doll, was not interesting as a whole, but several of its scenes had extraordinarily emotional power. The critical reaction was mixed, but the movie was quite successful, grossing in rentals 2.7 million dollars.

Period of Adjustment’s appeal (grossing $2 million) was a surprise, considering it was a trifle based on a slight play, which was disliked by both critics and audiences on Broadway. It was Williams’s only conscious effort to write a straight comedy, which dealt with the adjustment (or maladjustment) of two couples: one newly wed (Jane Fonda and the late Jim Hutton), the other (Lois Nettleton and Tony Franciosa) on the verge of separation after six years of marriage. The fact that Williams wrote about the trials of more or less straight characters caught the critics by surprise, as the Time’s review showed:” Shock merchant Tennessee Williams shocked everyone by writing a play about normal people.” Geroge Roy Hill’s perfunctory direction, however, failed to bring out the sense of irony that was in the play, though the acting was generally good, particularly of Jane Fonda, in her fourth film appearance. The critics singled out her “gift of timing,” and the fact that “her comic touch is as sure as her serious one.”

Tennessee Williams’ Commercial Flops

Of the five pictures that proved to be disastrous at the box-office, two were released in 1961: The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Summer and Smoke. Ironically, Williams considered The Roman Spring to be the best film version of his work, probably because it was more faithful to his novella than the other pictures. However, the story of an aging American actress buying sexual favors from Italian gigolos was neither evocative nor shocking enough to pull audiences in the 1960s. But the film did have some redeeming qualities, especially the acting of Lotte Lenya, as a vicious female pimp; Warren Beatty, in one of his earlier films, as the sly and attractive gigolo; and some moments of Vivien Leigh’s portrayal, though, as sev~ral critics noted, her character was not very credible. Both The Roman Spring and Summer and Smoke were harshly criticized by most reviewers and subsequently disappeared from the theaters almost as soon as they arrived.

The last three Williams movies, This Property Is Condemned, Boom! and Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, marked a rather sad ending to the playwright’s Hollywood saga, which unfortunately coincided with a sharp decline in his theatrical reputation. To begin with, all three features were based on thin source material that was pretentious as well as boring. This Property, for instance, was a gross elaboration of his one act play, with numerous writers working on the script (38). Williams himself was so horrified when he read the shooting screenplay that he asked to remove his name, but his wish was not respected. Boom! was based on another oneact play,

“The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” ran on Broadway for only 69 performances. And, as was noted earlier, Last of the Mobile Hot Shots was also based on a play that had failed.

All three features were heavily characterized by religious symbolism, reflecting Williams’s recurrent, almost obsessive, fear of and preoccupation with death. The stories and characters seemed unoriginal recreations and variations of themes which had been better explored in his earlier work.

Veteran film critics now appeared to be harsher and less tolerant toward his movies. Crowther, for instance, titled his review of This Property Is Condemned: “Natalie Wood as Camille in Dixieland,” describing it as “a soggy, sentimental story of a po’ white ‘trash gal.”

A new generation of critics, who started to write in the 1960s, applied different yardsticks in their reviews. Boom! was unanimously panned by the critics, though some, like Andrew Sarris, singled out Joseph Losey’s mise-en-scene and his style of “glamorous fantasy.”

As for the quality of the text itself, there seems to have been an agreement. Vincent Canby described it in the N.Y. Times as “a fuzzy unconsummated work,” and Sarris criticized its “metaphysical posturing and pretenses,” with “a tendency for nothing much to happen for the longest stretches.”

The very last Williams movie, Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, was possibly the worst Williams feature. Even its X rating by the Motion Picture Association and the rising reputation of director Lumet did not arouse the audience’s curiosity to see it. Canby thought of the film as “a slapstick tragicomedy,” which “looks and sounds and plays like cruel parody of Tennessee Williams.”

Other critics panned the acting, particularly that of Lynn Redgrave, who was totally miscast. Her portrayal was described as “a comic caricature, based on one key near hysteria.”

xosotin chelseathông tin chuyển nhượngcâu lạc bộ bóng đá arsenalbóng đá atalantabundesligacầu thủ haalandUEFAevertonxosokeonhacaiketquabongdalichthidau7m.newskqbdtysokeobongdabongdalufutebol ao vivofutemaxmulticanaisonbethttps://bsport.fithttps://onbet88.ooohttps://i9bet.bizhttps://hi88.ooohttps://okvip.athttps://f8bet.athttps://fb88.cashhttps://vn88.cashhttps://shbet.atbóng đá world cupbóng đá inter milantin juventusbenzemala ligaclb leicester cityMUman citymessi lionelsalahnapolineymarpsgronaldoserie atottenhamvalenciaAS ROMALeverkusenac milanmbappenapolinewcastleaston villaliverpoolfa cupreal madridpremier leagueAjaxbao bong da247EPLbarcelonabournemouthaff cupasean footballbên lề sân cỏbáo bóng đá mớibóng đá cúp thế giớitin bóng đá ViệtUEFAbáo bóng đá việt namHuyền thoại bóng đágiải ngoại hạng anhSeagametap chi bong da the gioitin bong da lutrận đấu hôm nayviệt nam bóng đátin nong bong daBóng đá nữthể thao 7m24h bóng đábóng đá hôm naythe thao ngoai hang anhtin nhanh bóng đáphòng thay đồ bóng đábóng đá phủikèo nhà cái onbetbóng đá lu 2thông tin phòng thay đồthe thao vuaapp đánh lô đềdudoanxosoxổ số giải đặc biệthôm nay xổ sốkèo đẹp hôm nayketquaxosokq xskqxsmnsoi cầu ba miềnsoi cau thong kesxkt hôm naythế giới xổ sốxổ số 24hxo.soxoso3mienxo so ba mienxoso dac bietxosodientoanxổ số dự đoánvé số chiều xổxoso ket quaxosokienthietxoso kq hôm nayxoso ktxổ số megaxổ số mới nhất hôm nayxoso truc tiepxoso ViệtSX3MIENxs dự đoánxs mien bac hom nayxs miên namxsmientrungxsmn thu 7con số may mắn hôm nayKQXS 3 miền Bắc Trung Nam Nhanhdự đoán xổ số 3 miềndò vé sốdu doan xo so hom nayket qua xo xoket qua xo so.vntrúng thưởng xo sokq xoso trực tiếpket qua xskqxs 247số miền nams0x0 mienbacxosobamien hôm naysố đẹp hôm naysố đẹp trực tuyếnnuôi số đẹpxo so hom quaxoso ketquaxstruc tiep hom nayxổ số kiến thiết trực tiếpxổ số kq hôm nayso xo kq trực tuyenkết quả xổ số miền bắc trực tiếpxo so miền namxổ số miền nam trực tiếptrực tiếp xổ số hôm nayket wa xsKQ XOSOxoso onlinexo so truc tiep hom nayxsttso mien bac trong ngàyKQXS3Msố so mien bacdu doan xo so onlinedu doan cau loxổ số kenokqxs vnKQXOSOKQXS hôm naytrực tiếp kết quả xổ số ba miềncap lo dep nhat hom naysoi cầu chuẩn hôm nayso ket qua xo soXem kết quả xổ số nhanh nhấtSX3MIENXSMB chủ nhậtKQXSMNkết quả mở giải trực tuyếnGiờ vàng chốt số OnlineĐánh Đề Con Gìdò số miền namdò vé số hôm nayso mo so debach thủ lô đẹp nhất hôm naycầu đề hôm naykết quả xổ số kiến thiết toàn quốccau dep 88xsmb rong bach kimket qua xs 2023dự đoán xổ số hàng ngàyBạch thủ đề miền BắcSoi Cầu MB thần tàisoi cau vip 247soi cầu tốtsoi cầu miễn phísoi cau mb vipxsmb hom nayxs vietlottxsmn hôm naycầu lô đẹpthống kê lô kép xổ số miền Bắcquay thử xsmnxổ số thần tàiQuay thử XSMTxổ số chiều nayxo so mien nam hom nayweb đánh lô đề trực tuyến uy tínKQXS hôm nayxsmb ngày hôm nayXSMT chủ nhậtxổ số Power 6/55KQXS A trúng roycao thủ chốt sốbảng xổ số đặc biệtsoi cầu 247 vipsoi cầu wap 666Soi cầu miễn phí 888 VIPSoi Cau Chuan MBđộc thủ desố miền bắcthần tài cho sốKết quả xổ số thần tàiXem trực tiếp xổ sốXIN SỐ THẦN TÀI THỔ ĐỊACầu lô số đẹplô đẹp vip 24hsoi cầu miễn phí 888xổ số kiến thiết chiều nayXSMN thứ 7 hàng tuầnKết quả Xổ số Hồ Chí Minhnhà cái xổ số Việt NamXổ Số Đại PhátXổ số mới nhất Hôm Nayso xo mb hom nayxxmb88quay thu mbXo so Minh ChinhXS Minh Ngọc trực tiếp hôm nayXSMN 88XSTDxs than taixổ số UY TIN NHẤTxs vietlott 88SOI CẦU SIÊU CHUẨNSoiCauVietlô đẹp hôm nay vipket qua so xo hom naykqxsmb 30 ngàydự đoán xổ số 3 miềnSoi cầu 3 càng chuẩn xácbạch thủ lônuoi lo chuanbắt lô chuẩn theo ngàykq xo-solô 3 càngnuôi lô đề siêu vipcầu Lô Xiên XSMBđề về bao nhiêuSoi cầu x3xổ số kiến thiết ngày hôm nayquay thử xsmttruc tiep kết quả sxmntrực tiếp miền bắckết quả xổ số chấm vnbảng xs đặc biệt năm 2023soi cau xsmbxổ số hà nội hôm naysxmtxsmt hôm nayxs truc tiep mbketqua xo so onlinekqxs onlinexo số hôm nayXS3MTin xs hôm nayxsmn thu2XSMN hom nayxổ số miền bắc trực tiếp hôm naySO XOxsmbsxmn hôm nay188betlink188 xo sosoi cầu vip 88lô tô việtsoi lô việtXS247xs ba miềnchốt lô đẹp nhất hôm naychốt số xsmbCHƠI LÔ TÔsoi cau mn hom naychốt lô chuẩndu doan sxmtdự đoán xổ số onlinerồng bạch kim chốt 3 càng miễn phí hôm naythống kê lô gan miền bắcdàn đề lôCầu Kèo Đặc Biệtchốt cầu may mắnkết quả xổ số miền bắc hômSoi cầu vàng 777thẻ bài onlinedu doan mn 888soi cầu miền nam vipsoi cầu mt vipdàn de hôm nay7 cao thủ chốt sốsoi cau mien phi 7777 cao thủ chốt số nức tiếng3 càng miền bắcrồng bạch kim 777dàn de bất bạion newsddxsmn188betw88w88789bettf88sin88suvipsunwintf88five8812betsv88vn88Top 10 nhà cái uy tínsky88iwinlucky88nhacaisin88oxbetm88vn88w88789betiwinf8betrio66rio66lucky88oxbetvn88188bet789betMay-88five88one88sin88bk88xbetoxbetMU88188BETSV88RIO66ONBET88188betM88M88SV88Jun-68Jun-88one88iwinv9betw388OXBETw388w388onbetonbetonbetonbet88onbet88onbet88onbet88onbetonbetonbetonbetqh88mu88Nhà cái uy tínpog79vp777vp777vipbetvipbetuk88uk88typhu88typhu88tk88tk88sm66sm66me88me888live8live8livesm66me88win798livesm66me88win79pog79pog79vp777vp777uk88uk88tk88tk88luck8luck8kingbet86kingbet86k188k188hr99hr99123b8xbetvnvipbetsv66zbettaisunwin-vntyphu88vn138vwinvwinvi68ee881xbetrio66zbetvn138i9betvipfi88clubcf68onbet88ee88typhu88onbetonbetkhuyenmai12bet-moblie12betmoblietaimienphi247vi68clupcf68clupvipbeti9betqh88onb123onbefsoi cầunổ hũbắn cáđá gàđá gàgame bàicasinosoi cầuxóc đĩagame bàigiải mã giấc mơbầu cuaslot gamecasinonổ hủdàn đềBắn cácasinodàn đềnổ hũtài xỉuslot gamecasinobắn cáđá gàgame bàithể thaogame bàisoi cầukqsssoi cầucờ tướngbắn cágame bàixóc đĩa开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育亚新体育亚新体育亚新体育爱游戏爱游戏爱游戏华体会华体会华体会IM体育IM体育沙巴体育沙巴体育PM体育PM体育AG尊龙AG尊龙AG尊龙AG百家乐AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人<AG真人<皇冠体育皇冠体育PG电子PG电子万博体育万博体育KOK体育KOK体育欧宝体育江南体育江南体育江南体育半岛体育半岛体育半岛体育凯发娱乐凯发娱乐杏彩体育杏彩体育杏彩体育FB体育PM真人PM真人<米乐娱乐米乐娱乐天博体育天博体育开元棋牌开元棋牌j9九游会j9九游会开云体育AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人爱游戏华体会华体会im体育kok体育开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育欧宝体育ob体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育开云体育开云体育棋牌棋牌沙巴体育买球平台新葡京娱乐开云体育mu88qh88
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter