Marlon Brando is masterful in this Tennessee Williams story about fragile Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) who comes to New Orleans to stay with her younger sister, Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stella’s brutish husband Stanley Kowalski (Brando) in their cramped, sweltering apartment.
Blanche’s world of make-believe is shattered by Stanley and his revelations about her. Under his resentful bullying, Blanche’s last hopes are brutally destroyed and she retreats into a psychotic state.
The story often creaks, as Williams attempts to contrast the new cultural values with the decaying values of the Old South, but the acting is among the best in American cinema history.
All the performances are near-perfect, and Vivien Leigh as Blanche is absolutely brilliant. She won an Oscar for the portrayal, as did Kim Hunter who played Stella, and Karl Malden who played Blanche’s suitor. Brando was beaten to the Oscar by Humphrey Bogart for African Queen (1951).
The on-location New Orleans photography of Harry Stradling blends vividly with the mood created by the actors.
A 1984 TV movie version starring Ann-Margret and Treat Williams was surprisingly good.