THEATRICAL THROWBACK THURSDAY: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Wins The Drama Critics' Award
In honor of awards season heating up, today we are turning back the hands of time to 1947 to one of the most revered and revived plays of all time, Tennessee Williams's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.
I Want Magic
Running from December 1947 through December 1949, when the original cast took the hit show out on the road, the premiere Broadway production of the searing New Orleans-set Tennessee Williams drama A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE played at Ethel Barrymore Theater, originally produced by Irene Mayer Selznick. The original production famously starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, under the direction of Elia Kazan, with Brando and Tandy making major marks in early roles in what would eventually be legendary stage and screen careers. At the time, the play was an instant hit despite its frank depiction of sexuality and risque themes, reportedly met with a half-hour standing ovation following its premiere performance in New York City following a brief out of town tryout in New Haven, Connecticut.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE received numerous 1948 Tony Award nominations, with Tandy taking home Best Actress (in a three-way tie, no less), and it won not only the Pulitzer Prize For Drama in 1948 but also received the highly prized Drama Critics' Award that year, as well - an award which has since been renamed The New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, but is still very much in existence all these years later.
At the time, the Drama Critics' Award committee was comprised of numerous familiar names from many recognizable publications, including: Kelcey Allen (Women's Wear Daily); Brooks Atkinson (New York Times); Howard Barnes (New York Herald Tribune); John Mason Brown (Saturday Review); John Chapman (New York Daily News); Robert Coleman (New York Mirror); Richard Cooke (Wall Street Journal); George Freedley (New York Morning Telegraph); Robert Garland (New York Journal-American); John Gassner; Wolcott Gibbs (New Yorker); Rosamond Gilder (Theatre Arts Months); William Hawkins (New York World-Telegram); Louis Kronenberger (Time); Joseph Wood Krutch (The Nation); Ward Morehouse (New York Sun); George Jean Nathan (New York Journal-American); Kappo Phelan (Commonweal); Irwin Shaw (The New Republic); Joseph Shipley (New Leader); Richard Watts, Jr. (New York Post) and Tom Wenning (Newsweek).
In honor of the big win for Best Play, the core quartet of players in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE convened to record a special radio adaptation of the play, which was presented on WWOR in 1948.
"On this program you will hear several scenes from this prize-winning production, with Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Karl Malden performing the roles they created on Broadway," the broadcast boasted, which also showcased a brief interview with Irene Selznick. John Mason Brown presented the Best Play award to Selznick and Kazan during the broadcast - the latter of whom stood in for Williams, who was unavailable to attend the broadcast presentation.
So, now, go back more than 60 years and sample a piece of true Broadway - and, furthermore, American - history via this endlessly enjoyable time capsule clip for the ages.
What makes A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE as potent and powerful today, nearly 70 years after its debut? Is it the compelling poetry of the language employed by Williams? The rich and dramatic storyline? The incredible performance opportunities for the actors within it? Whatever the reason, the word that immediately leaps to mind when discussing and dissecting the play is famously featured in the play itself - magic.