On December 3, 1947, Marlon Brando’s famous cry of “STELLA!” boomed across the stage at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre at the first performance of Tennessee William’s classic play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
Brando played the part of Stanley Kowalski, a working class Polish-American. The play revolves around a violent class with Blanch DuBois, played by Jessica Tandy, who comes to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) who is Stanley’s wife at their home in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Blanch and Stanley immediately hate one another. In a dramatic scene, Stanley rapes Blanc, causing her to lose her fragile grip on sanity, and the play ends with her being led away in a straightjacket.
In 1951, Kazan made the play into a movie. The role of Blanche went to Vivien Leigh and controversy erupted when the Catholic Legion of Decency threatened to condemn the film unless the explicit sexual scenes, including the reaper, were removed. Tennessee Williams refused to take out the rape, so the Legion instead that Stanly be punished onscreen. This resulted in the movie ending with Stella leaving Stanley. “STELLA!”
“A Streetcar Named Desire earned 12 Oscar nominations, including acting nods for each of its four leads. The movie won for Best Art Direction, and Leigh, Hunter and Malden all took home awards; Brando lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.”