Blanche DuBois is one of the greatest female characters in American theater history. Introduced to audiences in the 1947 Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire, she confounded and challenged performers and audiences for 75 years.
Blanche: The Life and Times of Tennessee William’s Greatest Creation, by Nancy Schoenberger, was published earlier this month. The book is a biography on two levels. It tells the story of Williams’s life and how his turbulent childhood played a part in his later writing career. It also explores how the character morphed over the years, her impression of the actors who played her, and their approach to the role. Among the actors are Jessica Tandy (who originated the role on stage), Vivien Leigh (who took over from Tandy for the 1951 film adaptation), Patricia Clarkson, and Cate Blanchett.
This is one of my favorite plays of all time. It has one of the most breathtaking and complicated/unconventional love triangles in all of fiction (regardless of format). The revelations into Blanche’s 0rigins make sense, once you understand where Tennessee came from.
I loved the interviews with the actors, the widened understanding of who she is (and why the way she is), and how that image has evolved over time. One of the things that I only appreciate after finishing the story is how ahead of his time Williams was. When segregation was still the law of the land, he was more than eager to see an all-black production of the play.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Blanche: The Life and Times of Tennesee Williams’s Greatest Creation is available wherever books are sold.
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