I went with my good friend to check out the first installment in the BFI Southbank’s latest film season, which claims to be ‘a once-in-a-generation programme that offers audiences a unique journey through some of Tennessee William’s most powerful and dramatic screenplays…’
I must admit that this film really did live up to my expectations. Released in 1950, this is the first film version of Williams’ play (though it was originally written as a screenplay for MGM, to whom Williams was contracted).
The film tells the story of a faded, aging Southern belle, her shy, crippled daughter and her “selfish dreamer” of a son. The film more or less sticks to the original story, except (apparently) opting for a more Hollywood ending.
It’s a great bit of writing, wonderfully directed by Irving Rapper and some stunning acting from Jane Wyman, Kirk Douglas (my personal favourite), Gertrude Lawrence & Arthur Kennedy.
So, if you want to taste a bit of 1950’s culture, or understand the strains of a financial crisis on a single parent family (relevant!), or experience the torment and humour of an often pushy, sometimes crazed yet well meaning mother. If you want to get a spoonful of that 50’s charm that we seem to have lost in this uncivilised age, you should most definitely give this film a watch. Especially if you see it going for 50p in your local charity shop.