Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983) was an American playwright. Along with contemporaries Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller, he is considered among the three foremost playwrights of 20th-century American drama.
After years of obscurity, at age 33 he became suddenly famous with the success of The Glass Menagerie (1944) in New York City. This play closely reflected his own unhappy family background. It was the first of a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). With his later work, he attempted a new style that did not appeal to audiences. Increasing alcohol and drug dependence inhibited his creative expression. His drama A Streetcar Named Desire is often numbered on short lists of the finest American plays of the 20th century alongside Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Much of Williams' most acclaimed work has been adapted for the cinema. He also wrote short stories, poetry, essays and a volume of memoirs. In 1979, four years before his death, Williams was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Williams photographed by Orland Fernandez in 1965 for the 20th anniversary of The Glass Menagerie.
Thomas Lanier Williams III
March 26, 1911
Columbus, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||February 25, 1983 (aged 71)|
|Cause of death||Choking|
|Resting place||Calvary Cemetery|
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Education||University of Iowa (BA)|
|Height||5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)|
|Partner(s)||Pancho Rodríguez y González |
Thomas Lanier Williams III was born in Columbus, Mississippi, of English, Welsh, and Huguenot ancestry, the second child of Edwina Dakin (August 9, 1884 – June 1, 1980) and Cornelius Coffin "C. C." Williams (August 21, 1879 – March 27, 1957). His father was a traveling shoe salesman who became alcoholic and was frequently away from home. His mother, Edwina, was the daughter of Rose O. Dakin, a music teacher, and the Reverend Walter Dakin, an Episcopal priest from Illinois who was assigned to a parish in Clarksdale, Mississippi, shortly after Williams' birth. Williams lived in his parsonage with his family for much of his early childhood and was close to his grandparents.
As a young child Williams nearly died from a case of diphtheria that left him weak and virtually confined to his house during a period of recuperation that lasted a year. At least in part as a result of his illness, he was less robust as a child than his father wished. Cornelius Williams, a descendant of hearty East Tennessee pioneer stock, had a violent temper and was a man prone to use his fists. He regarded what he thought was his son's effeminacy with disdain. Edwina, locked in an unhappy marriage, focused her overbearing attention almost entirely on her frail young son. Many critics and historians note that Williams drew from his own dysfunctional family in much of his writing.
When Williams was eight years old, his father was promoted to a job at the home office of the International Shoe Company in St. Louis, Missouri. His mother's continual search for what she considered to be an appropriate address, as well as his father's heavy drinking and loudly turbulent behavior, caused them to move numerous times around St. Louis. Williams attended Soldan High School, a setting he referred to in his play The Glass Menagerie. Later he studied at University City High School. At age 16, Williams won third prize (five dollars, = $70± in 2017) for an essay published in Smart Set, titled "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?" A year later, his short story "The Vengeance of Nitocris" was published in the August 1928 issue of the magazine Weird Tales. That same year he first visited Europe with his maternal grandfather Dakin.
From 1929 to 1931, Williams attended the University of Missouri, in Columbia, where he enrolled in journalism classes. He was bored by his classes and distracted by unrequited love for a girl. Soon he began entering his poetry, essays, stories, and plays in writing contests, hoping to earn extra income. His first submitted play was Beauty Is the Word (1930), followed by Hot Milk at Three in the Morning (1932). As recognition for Beauty, a play about rebellion against religious upbringing, he became the first freshman to receive honorable mention in a writing competition.
At University of Missouri, Williams joined the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, but he did not fit in well with his fraternity brothers. According to Hale, the "brothers found him shy and socially backward, a loner who spent most of his time at the typewriter." After he failed a military training course in his junior year, his father pulled him out of school and put him to work at the International Shoe Company factory. Although Williams, then 21, hated the monotony, the job "forced him out of the pretentious gentility" of his upbringing, which had, according to Hale, "tinged him with [his mother's] snobbery and detachment from reality." His dislike of his new nine-to-five routine drove him to write even more than before. He set himself a goal of writing one story a week, working on Saturday and Sunday, often late into the night. His mother recalled his intensity:
Tom would go to his room with black coffee and cigarettes and I would hear the typewriter clicking away at night in the silent house. Some mornings when I walked in to wake him for work, I would find him sprawled fully dressed across the bed, too tired to remove his clothes.
Overworked, unhappy, and lacking any further success with his writing, by his twenty-fourth birthday Williams had suffered a nervous breakdown and left his job. He drew from memories of this period, and a particular factory co-worker, to create the character Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. By the mid-1930s his mother separated from his father, due to C.C.'s worsening alcoholism and abusive temper (part of his ear was bitten off in a poker game fight). They never divorced.
In 1936, Williams enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis; while there, he wrote the play Me, Vashya (1937). In the autumn of 1937, he transferred to the University of Iowa, where he graduated with a B.A. in English in August 1938. He later studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City. Speaking of his early days as a playwright and referring to an early collaborative play called Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay!, produced while he was a part of an amateur summer theater group in Memphis, Tennessee, Williams wrote, "The laughter ... enchanted me. Then and there the theatre and I found each other for better and for worse. I know it's the only thing that saved my life." Around 1939, he adopted "Tennessee Williams" as his professional name.
Williams' writings include mention of some of the poets and writers he most admired in his early years: Hart Crane, Arthur Rimbaud, Anton Chekhov (from the age of ten), William Shakespeare, Clarence Darrow, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, August Strindberg, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, and Emily Dickinson. In later years he also referred to William Inge, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway; of Hemingway, he said "[his] great quality, aside from his prose style, is this fearless expression of brute nature.":xi
In the late 1930s, as Williams struggled to gain production and an audience for his work, he worked at a string of menial jobs that included a notably disastrous stint as caretaker on a chicken ranch in Laguna Beach, California. In 1939, with the help of his agent Audrey Wood, he was awarded a $1,000 grant [2017 equivalent $17,000+] from the Rockefeller Foundation in recognition of his play Battle of Angels; it was produced in Boston in 1940, but poorly received.
Using some of the Rockefeller funds, Williams moved to New Orleans in 1939 to write for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federally funded program begun by President Franklin D. Roosevelt created to put people to work. In addition to sponsoring construction and infrastructure projects, it hired many artists, musicians and writers, to create local cultural programs, to write state histories, and to create art for public buildings. It was critical to the survival of many such artists during the Great Depression. Williams lived for a time in New Orleans' French Quarter; first at 722 Toulouse Street, the setting of his 1977 play Vieux Carré. (The building is now part of The Historic New Orleans Collection.) The Rockefeller grant brought him to the attention of the Hollywood film industry and Williams received a six-month contract as a writer from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio, earning $250 weekly.
During the winter of 1944–45, his "memory play" The Glass Menagerie, developed from his 1943 short story "Portrait of a Girl in Glass", was successfully produced in Chicago and garnered good reviews. It moved to New York where it became an instant and enormous hit, and had a long Broadway run. It explores the lives of a young man named Tom, his disabled sister, Laura, and their controlling mother Amanda, who tries to make a match between Laura and a gentleman caller. Williams' use of his own familial relationships as inspiration for the play is clear. Elia Kazan (who directed many of Williams' greatest successes) said of Williams: "Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life." The Glass Menagerie won the award for the best play of the season, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
The huge success of his next play, A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947 secured his reputation as a great playwright. Although widely celebrated and increasingly wealthy, Williams was still restless and insecure, always gripped by fear that he would not be able to replicate his success. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Williams began to travel widely with his partner Frank Merlo (1922 – September 21, 1963), often spending summers in Europe. To stimulate his writing he moved often, living in cities including New York, New Orleans, Key West, Rome, Barcelona, and London. Williams wrote, "Only some radical change can divert the downward course of my spirit, some startling new place or people to arrest the drift, the drag."
Between 1948 and 1959 Williams had seven of his plays produced on Broadway: Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), Garden District (1958), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). By 1959 he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards, and a Tony Award.
Williams' work reached wide audiences in the early 1950s when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were adapted as motion pictures. Later plays also adapted for the screen included Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana, Sweet Bird of Youth, and Summer and Smoke.
After the extraordinary successes of the 1940s and 1950s, he had more personal turmoil and theatrical failures in the 1960s and 1970s. Although he continued to write every day, the quality of his work suffered from his increasing alcohol and drug consumption, as well as occasional poor choices of collaborators. In 1963, his partner Frank Merlo died.
Consumed by depression over the loss, and in and out of treatment facilities while under the control of his mother and younger brother Dakin, Williams spiraled downward. His plays Kingdom of Earth (1967), In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969), Small Craft Warnings (1973), The Two Character Play (also called Out Cry, 1973), The Red Devil Battery Sign (1976), Vieux Carré (1978), Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980), and others were all box office failures. Relentlessly negative press notices wore down his spirit. His last play, A House Not Meant To Stand, was produced in Chicago in 1982. Despite largely positive reviews, it ran for only 40 performances.
Critics and audiences alike failed to appreciate Williams' new style and the approach to theater he developed during the 1970s. Williams said, "I've been working very hard since 1969 to make an artistic comeback...there is no release short of death" (Spoto 335), and "I want to warn you, Elliot, the critics are out to get me. You'll see how vicious they are. They make comparisons with my earlier work, but I'm writing differently now" (Spoto 331). Leverich explains that Williams to the end was concerned with "the depths and origin of human feelings and motivations, the difference being that he had gone into a deeper, more obscure realm, which, of course, put the poet in him to the fore, and not the playwright who would bring much concern for audience and critical reaction" (xxiii).
In addition to struggling with changing audience tastes, Williams had to deal with changes in the business model of the theatrical world. In the 1970s, free performances for charitable causes were becoming increasingly popular. The aging playwright found it a challenge to adapt to the times, although many of the changes in theater were due to his own legacy. Despite the inferior quality of Williams's work compared to his creative peak 30 years earlier, he continued writing almost without a break.
In 1974, Williams received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates. In 1979, four years before his death, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Throughout his life Williams remained close to his sister Rose, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young woman. In 1943, as her behavior became increasingly disturbing, she was subjected to a lobotomy. It required her to be institutionalized for the rest of her life. As soon as he was financially able, Williams had her moved to a private institution just north of New York City, where he often visited her. He gave her a percentage interest in several of his most successful plays, the royalties from which were applied toward her care. The devastating effects of Rose's illness may have contributed to Williams' alcoholism and his dependence on various combinations of amphetamines and barbiturates.
After some early attempts at relationships with women, by the late 1930s Williams began exploring his homosexuality. In New York City he joined a gay social circle that included fellow writer and close friend Donald Windham (1920–2010) and his then partner Fred Melton. In the summer of 1940, Williams initiated an affair with Kip Kiernan (1918–1944), a young Canadian dancer he met in Provincetown, Massachusetts. When Kiernan left him to marry a woman, he was distraught. Kiernan's death four years later at age 26 was another heavy blow.
On a 1945 visit to Taos, New Mexico, Williams met Pancho Rodríguez y González, a hotel clerk of Mexican heritage. Rodríguez was, by all accounts, a loving and loyal companion. But he was also prone to jealous rages and excessive drinking, and their relationship was tempestuous. In February 1946 Rodríguez left New Mexico to join Williams in his New Orleans apartment. They lived and traveled together until late 1947, when Williams ended the affair. Rodríguez and Williams remained friends, however, and were in contact as late as the 1970s.
Williams spent the spring and summer of 1948 in Rome in the company of an Italian teenager, called "Rafaello" in Williams' Memoirs. He provided financial assistance to the younger man for several years afterward. Williams drew from this for his first novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.
When he returned to New York that spring, Williams met and fell in love with Frank Merlo (1922–1963). An occasional actor of Sicilian heritage, he had served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. This was the enduring romantic relationship of Williams' life, and it lasted 14 years until infidelities and drug abuse on both sides ended it. Merlo, who had become Williams' personal secretary, took on most of the details of their domestic life. He provided a period of happiness and stability, acting as a balance to the playwright's frequent bouts with depression. Williams feared that, like his sister Rose, he would fall into insanity. His years with Merlo, in an apartment in Manhattan and a modest house in Key West, Florida, were Williams' happiest and most productive. Shortly after their breakup, Merlo was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Williams returned to him and cared for him until his death on September 20, 1963.
In the years following Merlo's death, Williams descended into a period of nearly catatonic depression and increasing drug use; this resulted in several hospitalizations and commitments to mental health facilities. He submitted to injections by Dr. Max Jacobson – known popularly as Dr. Feelgood – who used increasing amounts of amphetamines to overcome his depression. Jacobson combined these with prescriptions for the sedative Seconal to relieve his insomnia. During this time, influenced by his mother, a Roman Catholic convert, Williams joined the Catholic Church (though he later claimed that he never took his conversion seriously). He was never truly able to recoup his earlier success, or to entirely overcome his dependence on prescription drugs.
Edwina Dakin died in 1980 at the age of 95. Her health had begun failing during the early 1970s and she lived in a care facility from 1975 onward. Williams rarely saw his mother in her later years and retained a strong animosity toward her; friends described his reaction to her death as "mixed".
As Williams grew older, he felt increasingly alone; he feared old age and losing his sexual appeal to younger gay men. In the 1970s, when he was in his 60s, Williams had a lengthy relationship with Robert Carroll, a Vietnam veteran and aspiring writer in his 20s. Williams had deep affection for Carroll and respect for what he saw as the younger man's talents. Along with Williams' sister Rose, Carroll was one of the two people who received a bequest in Williams' will. Williams described Carroll's behavior as a combination of "sweetness" and "beastliness". Because Carroll had a drug problem (as did Williams), friends such as Maria St. Just saw the relationship as "destructive". Williams wrote that Carroll played on his "acute loneliness" as an aging gay man. When the two men broke up in 1979, Williams called Carroll a "twerp", but they remained friends until Williams died four years later.
On February 25, 1983, Williams was found dead at age 71 in his suite at the Hotel Elysée in New York. The Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, Elliot M. Gross, reported that Williams had choked to death from inhaling the plastic cap of a bottle of the type that might contain a nasal spray or eye solution.
He wrote in his will in 1972: "I, Thomas Lanier (Tennessee) Williams, being in sound mind upon this subject, and having declared this wish repeatedly to my close friends-do hereby state my desire to be buried at sea. More specifically, I wish to be buried at sea at as close a possible point as the American poet Hart Crane died by choice in the sea; this would be ascrnatible [sic], this geographic point, by the various books (biographical) upon his life and death. I wish to be sewn up in a canvas sack and dropped overboard, as stated above, as close as possible to where Hart Crane was given by himself to the great mother of life which is the sea: the Caribbean, specifically, if that fits the geography of his death. Otherwise—whereever fits it [sic].". But his brother Dakin Williams arranged for him to be buried at Calvary Cemetery, in St. Louis, Missouri, where his mother is buried.
Williams left his literary rights to The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, an Episcopal school, in honor of his maternal grandfather, Walter Dakin, an alumnus of the university. The funds support a creative writing program. When his sister Rose died in 1996 after many years in a mental institution, she bequeathed $7 million from her part of the Williams estate to The University of the South as well.
From February 1 to July 21, 2011, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the home of Williams' archive, exhibited 250 of his personal items. The exhibit, titled "Becoming Tennessee Williams," included a collection of Williams manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and artwork. The Ransom Center holds the earliest and largest collections of Williams' papers, including all of his earliest manuscripts, the papers of his mother Edwina Williams, and those of his long-time agent Audrey Wood.
In late 2009, Williams was inducted into the Poets' Corner at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. Performers and artists who took part in his induction included Vanessa Redgrave, playwright John Guare, Eli Wallach, Sylvia Miles, Gregory Mosher, and Ben Griessmeyer.
The Tennessee Williams Theatre in Key West, Florida, is named for him. The Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit on Truman Avenue houses rare Williams memorabilia, photographs, and pictures including his famous typewriter.
At the time of his death, Williams had been working on a final play, In Masks Outrageous and Austere, which attempted to reconcile certain forces and facts of his own life. This was a continuing theme in his work. As of September 2007, author Gore Vidal was completing the play, and Peter Bogdanovich was slated to direct its Broadway debut. The play received its world premiere in New York City in April 2012, directed by David Schweizer and starring Shirley Knight as Babe.
The rectory of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Columbus, Mississippi, where Williams's grandfather Dakin was rector at the time of Williams's birth, was moved to another location in 1993 for preservation. It was newly renovated in 2010 for use by the City of Columbus as the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center.
Williams's literary legacy is represented by the literary agency headed by Georges Borchardt.
In 1985, French author-composer Michel Berger wrote a song dedicated to Tennessee Williams, "Quelque chose de Tennessee" (Something of Tennessee), for Johnny Hallyday. It became one of the singer's most famous songs.
Since 1986, the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival has been held annually in New Orleans, Louisiana, in commemoration of the playwright. The festival takes place at the end of March to coincide with Williams's birthday.
Since 2016, St. Louis, Missouri has held an annual Tennessee Williams' Festival, featuring a main production and related events such as literary discussions and new plays inspired by his work. In 2018 the festival produced A Streetcar Named Desire.
The U.S. Postal Service honored Williams on a stamp in 1994 as part of its literary arts series.
Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was understood to be modeled on his sister Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is also based on her.
Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was generally taken to represent Williams' mother, Edwina. Characters such as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly, Last Summer were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy as a motif in Suddenly, Last Summer.
The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. These two plays were later adapted as highly successful films, by noted directors Elia Kazan (Streetcar), with whom Williams developed a very close artistic relationship, and Richard Brooks (Cat). Both plays included references to elements of Williams's life such as homosexuality, mental instability, and alcoholism.
Although The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets was the preferred choice of the Pulitzer Prize jury in 1955, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was at first considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees, Joseph Pulitzer Jr., chairman of the Board, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize. The Board went along with him after considerable discussion.
Williams wrote The Parade, or Approaching the End of a Summer when he was 29, and worked on it sporadically throughout his life. A semi-autobiographical depiction of his 1940 romance with Kip Kiernan in Provincetown, Massachusetts, it was produced for the first time on October 1, 2006, in Provincetown by the Shakespeare on the Cape production company. This was part of the First Annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival.
Williams wrote over 70 one-act plays during his lifetime. The one-acts explored many of the same themes that dominated his longer works. Williams' major collections are published by New Directions in New York City.
A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 play written by American playwright Tennessee Williams that received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The play opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947, and closed on December 17, 1949, in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Broadway production was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Jessica Tandy, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter. The London production opened in 1949 with Bonar Colleano, Vivien Leigh, Renee Asherson and Bernard Braden and was directed by Laurence Olivier. The drama A Streetcar Named Desire is often regarded as among the finest plays of the 20th century, and is considered by many to be Williams' greatest work.A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 film)
A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1951 American drama film, adapted from Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play of the same name. It tells the story of a southern belle, Blanche DuBois, who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves her aristocratic background seeking refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in a dilapidated New Orleans tenement. The Broadway production and cast was converted to film with several changes.
Tennessee Williams collaborated with Oscar Saul and Elia Kazan on the screenplay. Kazan, who directed the Broadway stage production, also directed the black and white film. Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden were all cast in their original Broadway roles. Although Jessica Tandy originated the role of Blanche DuBois on Broadway, Vivien Leigh, who had appeared in the London theatre production, was cast in the film adaptation for her star power.Upon release of the film, Marlon Brando, virtually unknown at the time of the play's casting, rose to prominence as a major Hollywood film star, and received the first of four consecutive Academy Award nominations for Best Actor. The film earned an estimated $4,250,000 at the US and Canadian box office in 1951, making it the fifth biggest hit of the year. In 1999, A Streetcar Named Desire was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".Baby Doll
Baby Doll is a 1956 American black comedy drama film directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Carroll Baker, Karl Malden and Eli Wallach. The film also features Mildred Dunnock and Rip Torn. It was produced by Kazan and Tennessee Williams, and adapted by Williams from his own one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. The plot focuses on a feud between two rival cotton gin owners in rural Mississippi; after one of the men commits arson against the other's gin, the owner retaliates by attempting to seduce the arsonist's nineteen-year-old virgin bride with the hopes of receiving an admission by her of her husband's guilt.
The film was controversial when it was released due to its implicit sexual themes, provoking a largely successful effort to ban it, waged by the Roman Catholic National Legion of Decency. Nevertheless, the film received multiple nominations for major awards and performed decently at the box office. Kazan won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the film was nominated for four other Golden Globe awards, as well as four Academy Awards and four BAFTA Awards awards, with Eli Wallach taking the BAFTA prize for "Most Promising Newcomer to Film."
The film is credited with originating the name and popularity of the babydoll nightgown, which derives from the costume worn by Baker's character. The film was featured in The New York Times' Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.Boom! (film)
Boom! is a 1968 British drama film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noël Coward, directed by Joseph Losey, and adapted from the play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams.Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play by Tennessee Williams. One of Williams's more famous works and his personal favorite, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955. Set in the "plantation home in the Mississippi Delta" of Big Daddy Pollitt, a wealthy cotton tycoon, the play examines the relationships among members of Big Daddy's family, primarily between his son Brick and Maggie the "Cat", Brick's wife.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof features motifs such as social mores, greed, superficiality, mendacity, decay, sexual desire, repression and death. Dialogue throughout is often rendered phonetically to represent accents of the Southern United States. The original production starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Burl Ives and Ben Gazzara. The play was adapted as a motion picture of the same name in 1958, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman as Maggie and Brick, with Burl Ives and Madeleine Sherwood recreating their stage roles. Williams made substantial excisions and alterations to the play for a revival in 1974. This has been the version used for most subsequent revivals, which have been numerous.List of one-act plays by Tennessee Williams
This is a list of the one-act plays written by American playwright Tennessee Williams.Mohamed Choukri
Mohamed Choukri (Berber: ⵎⵓⵢⴰⵎⵎⴻⴷ ⵛⵓⴽⵔⵉ, Arabic: محمد شكري), born on July 15, 1935 and died on November 15, 2003, was a Moroccan author and novelist who is best known for his internationally acclaimed autobiography For Bread Alone (al-Khubz al-Hafi), which was described by the American playwright Tennessee Williams as "A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact".
Choukri was born in 1935, in Ayt Chiker (Ayt Chiker, hence his adopted family name: Choukri / Chikri), a small village in the Rif mountains, in the Nador province, Morocco. He was raised in a very poor family. He ran away from his tyrannical father and became a homeless child living in the poor neighborhoods of Tangier, surrounded by misery, prostitution, violence and drug abuse. At the age of 20, he decided to learn how to read and write and became later a schoolteacher. His family name "Choukri" is connected to the name Ayt Chiker which is the Berber tribe cluster he belonged to before fleeing hunger to Tangier. It is most likely that he adopted this name later in Tangier, because in the rural Rif family names were rarely registered.
In the 1960s, in the cosmopolitan Tangier, he met Paul Bowles, Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams. Choukri's first writing was published in Al-adab (monthly review of Beirut) in 1966, a story entitled "Al-Unf ala al-shati" ("Violence on the Beach"). International success came with the English translation of Al-khoubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone, Telegram Books) by Paul Bowles in 1973. The book was translated to French by Tahar Ben Jelloun in 1980 (Éditions Maspero), published in Arabic in 1982 and censored in Morocco from 1983 to 2000. The book would later be translated into 30 other languages.
His main works are his autobiographic trilogy, beginning with For Bread Alone, followed by Zaman Al-Akhtaâ aw Al-Shouttar (Time of Mistakes or Streetwise, Telegram Books) and finally Faces. He also wrote collections of short stories in the 1960s/1970s (Majnoun Al-Ward, The Flower Freak, 1980; Al-Khaima, The Tent, 1985). Likewise, he is known for his accounts of his encounters with the writers Paul Bowles, Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams (Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams in Tangier, 1992, Jean Genet in Tangier, 1993, Jean Genet, Suite and End, 1996, Paul Bowles: Le Reclus de Tanger, 1997). See also In Tangier, Telegram Books, 2008, for all three in one volume.
Mohamed Choukri died of cancer on November 15, 2003, at the military hospital of Rabat. He was buried on November 17 at the Marshan cemetery in Tangier, with the audience of the Minister of Culture, numerous government officials, personalities and the spokesman of the King of Morocco. Before he died, Choukri created a foundation, Mohamed Choukri (president, Mohamed Achaâri), owning his copyrights, his manuscripts and personal writings. Prior to his death he provided for his servant of almost 22 years.Orpheus Descending
Orpheus Descending is a play by Tennessee Williams. It was first presented on Broadway in 1957 where it enjoyed a brief run (68 performances) with only modest success. It was revived on Broadway in 1989, directed by Peter Hall and starring Vanessa Redgrave and Kevin Anderson. The production ran for 13 previews and 97 performances.The play is a rewrite of an earlier play by Williams called Battle of Angels, which was written in 1940. Williams wrote the character of Myra Torrance for Tallulah Bankhead, but she turned down the role, saying "The play is impossible, darling, but sit down and have a drink with me." The production premiered on Broadway the same year, starring Miriam Hopkins. It was the first produced play written by Williams and by his account it "failed spectacularly". Battle of Angels remained un-produced in New York for 34 years, until the Circle Repertory Company opened their sixth season with it in 1974, directed by Marshall W. Mason.
When Orpheus Descending appeared in 1957, Williams wrote: "On the surface it was and still is the tale of a wild-spirited boy who wanders into a conventional community of the South and creates the commotion of a fox in a chicken coop. But beneath that now familiar surface it is a play about unanswered questions that haunt the hearts of people and the difference between continuing to ask them...and the acceptance of prescribed answers that are not answers at all."Suddenly Last Summer
Suddenly Last Summer is a one-act play by Tennessee Williams. It opened off Broadway on January 7, 1958, as part of a double bill with another of Williams' one-acts, Something Unspoken (written in 1958). The presentation of the two plays was given the overall title Garden District, but Suddenly Last Summer is now more often performed alone. Williams said he thought the play "perhaps the most poetic" he had written, and Harold Bloom ranks it among the best examples of the playwright's lyricism.Summer and Smoke
Summer and Smoke is a two-part, thirteen-scene 1948 play by Tennessee Williams, originally titled Chart of Anatomy when Williams began work on it in 1945. The phrase "summer and smoke" probably comes from the Hart Crane poem "Emblems of Conduct" in the 1926 collection White Buildings. After a disappointing Broadway run in 1948, the play was a hit Off-Broadway in 1952. In 1964, Williams revised the play as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1959 play by Tennessee Williams which tells the story of a gigolo and drifter, Chance Wayne, who returns to his home town as the companion of a faded movie star, Alexandra Del Lago (travelling incognito as Princess Kosmonopolis), whom he hopes to use to help him break into the movies. The main reason for his homecoming is to get back what he had in his youth: primarily, his old girlfriend, whose father had run him out of town years before. The play was written for Tallulah Bankhead, a good friend of Williams.
Sweet Bird of Youth originated circa 1956 as two plays: a two-character version of the final play featuring only Chance and the Princess, and a one-act play titled The Pink Bedroom that was later developed into Act Two of the play, featuring Boss Finley and his family.The Catastrophe of Success
"The Catastrophe of Success" is an essay by Tennessee Williams about art and the artist's role in society. It is often included in paper editions of The Glass Menagerie.A version of this essay first appeared in The New York Times, November 30, 1947, four days before the opening of A Streetcar Named Desire (previously titled "The Poker Night"). Another version of this essay, titled "A Streetcar Named Success" is sometimes used as an introduction to A Streetcar Named Desire.The Fugitive Kind
For the 1937 Tennessee Williams play, see Fugitive Kind.The Fugitive Kind is a 1960 American drama film starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani, and directed by Sidney Lumet. The screenplay by Meade Roberts and Tennessee Williams was based on the latter's 1957 play Orpheus Descending, itself a revision of his unproduced 1940 work Battle of Angels.
Despite being set in the Deep South, the United Artists release was filmed in Milton, New York. At the 1960 San Sebastián International Film Festival, it won the Silver Seashell for Sidney Lumet and the Zulueta Prize for Best Actress for Joanne Woodward.
The film is available on videotape and DVD. A two-disc DVD edition by The Criterion Collection was released in April 2010.
A stage production also took place in 2010 at the Arclight Theatre starring Michael Brando, grandson of Marlon Brando, in the lead role. This particular production used the edited film version of the text as opposed to the original play.The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie is a memory play by Tennessee Williams that premiered in 1944 and catapulted Williams from obscurity to fame. The play has strong autobiographical elements, featuring characters based on its author, his histrionic mother, and his mentally fragile sister Laura. In writing the play, Williams drew on an earlier short story, as well as a screenplay he had written under the title of The Gentleman Caller.
The play premiered in Chicago in 1944. After a shaky start it was championed by Chicago critics Ashton Stevens and Claudia Cassidy, whose enthusiasm helped build audiences so the producers could move the play to Broadway where it won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1945. The Glass Menagerie was Williams' first successful play; he went on to become one of America's most highly regarded playwrights.The Glass Menagerie (1950 film)
The Glass Menagerie is a 1950 American drama film directed by Irving Rapper. The screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Peter Berneis is based on the 1944 Williams play of the same title. It was the first of his plays to be adapted for the screen.The Night of the Iguana
The Night of the Iguana is a stage play written by American author Tennessee Williams, based on his 1948 short story. First staged as a one-act play in 1959, Williams developed it into a full-length play over the next two years, staging two different versions in 1959 and 1960, before arriving at the three-act version of the text which premiered on Broadway in 1961. Two film adaptations have been made, including the Academy Award-winning 1964 film directed by John Huston and starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. The other is a 2000 Croatian production.The Rose Tattoo
The Rose Tattoo is a Tennessee Williams play. It opened on Broadway in February 1951, and the film adaptation was released in 1955. It tells the story of an Italian-American widow in Mississippi who has allowed herself to withdraw from the world after her husband's death, and expects her daughter to do the same.The Rose Tattoo (film)
The Rose Tattoo is a 1955 American film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. It was adapted by Williams and Hal Kanter and directed by Daniel Mann, with stars Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Marisa Pavan and Jo Van Fleet. Williams originally wrote the play for Italian Anna Magnani to play on Broadway in 1951, but she rejected the offer because of her difficulty with the English language at the time. By the time of this film adaptation, she was ready.Anna Magnani won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, and it also won
Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography and received five other nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Pavan.Vieux Carré (play)
Vieux Carré is a play by Tennessee Williams. It is an autobiographical play set in New Orleans. Although he began writing it shortly after moving to New Orleans in 1938, it wasn't completed until nearly forty years later. Drawing on his earlier writings, Williams wrote most of the play in 1976; he prepared revisions for its New York premiere in 1977 and for two productions in England in 1978. The revised text was published by New Directions in 1979.