TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (2)
|Also Known As:||Thomas Lanier Williams||Died:||February 25, 1983|
|Born:||May 26, 1911||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Columbus, Mississippi, USA||Profession:||playwright, screenwriter, actor, cinema usher, factory worker|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
conciliation between Brick (Newman) and Big Daddy (Burl Ives). It did, however, earn Academy Award nominations for Newman, Taylor and Best Picture.Following the major success of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Williamsâ¿¿ work began to take on a darker tone, largely due to a number of personal travails that included recurrent bouts with depression. The 1956 film succes de scandale, "Baby Doll," triggered censorship battles around the world, but brought Williams a second Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay â¿¿ his first having come for the "Streetcar" script. Holding his mirror up to reflect the world's cruelty in "Orpheus Descending" (1957), Williams created a Southern states' atmosphere of racial hatred and lynch law, in which the only wholly sympathetic characters are two half-mad women with no real ability to live in the real world. With "Suddenly Last Summer" (1957), arguably his most sinister play, he continued to employ bleak imagery, presenting an offstage murder of a poet by a flock of half-grown boys and depicting its one good character on the edge of madness. Following the Tony-nominated "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1959) and the drug-induced "Period of Adjustment" (1960), Williams wrote his final...
conciliation between Brick (Newman) and Big Daddy (Burl Ives). It did, however, earn Academy Award nominations for Newman, Taylor and Best Picture.
Following the major success of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Williamsâ¿¿ work began to take on a darker tone, largely due to a number of personal travails that included recurrent bouts with depression. The 1956 film succes de scandale, "Baby Doll," triggered censorship battles around the world, but brought Williams a second Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay â¿¿ his first having come for the "Streetcar" script. Holding his mirror up to reflect the world's cruelty in "Orpheus Descending" (1957), Williams created a Southern states' atmosphere of racial hatred and lynch law, in which the only wholly sympathetic characters are two half-mad women with no real ability to live in the real world. With "Suddenly Last Summer" (1957), arguably his most sinister play, he continued to employ bleak imagery, presenting an offstage murder of a poet by a flock of half-grown boys and depicting its one good character on the edge of madness. Following the Tony-nominated "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1959) and the drug-induced "Period of Adjustment" (1960), Williams wrote his final major success "The Night of the Iguana" (1961), which depicted an ex-minister with a fractured mind who becomes a tour guide in Mexico, where he meets and falls for a beautiful artist. The play was adapted for the screen in 1964 by director John Huston, with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner in the leads.
In 1963, Williams â¿¿ who had long been accepting of his own homosexuality â¿¿ was dealt a devastating blow when his longtime companion, Frank Merlo, died from inoperable lung cancer. Already an alcoholic and drug abuser, which was brought on by his bouts with depression, Williams sank further into his hole and watches the bottom fall out of his career. Nonetheless, the indefatigable craftsman wrote almost daily despite his increased dependence on alcohol and prescription medications. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Williams saw many failures, including "The Mutilated" (1965), "In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel" (1969) and "Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis?" (1969). He did, however, experience one last stage success with the off-Broadway production of "Small Craft Warnings" (1972), which also featured his acting debut, only to see further diminishing of his talents with "Out Cry" (1973) and "This Is (An Experiment)" (1976). Though his fiction and poetry never particularly caught the public's fancy, he published more of it as his fortunes waned in the theater. His Memoirs (1975) also struck a discordant note for its formlessness and lack of commentary on his dramaturgy. After the failure of "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" (1980), his last play to debut on Broadway in his lifetime, Williams showed glimmers of his former self with "A House Not Meant to Stand" (1982), his last written play. Though not nearly as fragile as his sister Rose, Williams lived apart from the world and died in his New York hotel suite on Feb. 25, 1983 after choking on a bottle cap from his eye drops, indicating that drugs and alcohol contributed by suppressing his gag reflex. He was 71. Even at the time of his death, he was one of America's most revered playwrights, regardless of his feelings of isolation, whose reputation only grew in subsequent years.
By Shawn Dwyertine and worked himself nearly to death in the wee hours, eventually suffering a nervous breakdown that forced him to leave his job. His experiences during this time later helped shape the character Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Eventually, Williams recovered and began putting on his plays, starting with "Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay" (1935), which was first staged in Memphis. He went on to produce a pair of one-acts, "Candles to the Sun" (1937) and "The Fugitive Kind" (1937), with the Mummers of St. Louis, before impressing the Group Theater with a collection of one-acts called "American Blues" (1939), which won him a special award and $100. Also that year, Williams picked up a Rockefeller playwriting grant worth an additional $1,000.
In 1940, Williams staged his first New York production, "The Long Goodbye," a student presentation that was performed at the New Theatre School. Following the failure of "Battle of Angels" (1940) in Boston, which attracted more attention from city censors than audiences, Williams' agent Audrey Wood secured him a screenwriting assignment at MGM, working on the Lana Turner picture, "Marriage Is a Private Affair" (1944). But he instead began work on his own film project, "The Gentleman Caller," an adaptation of his short story, "Portrait of a Girl in Glass," that the studio rejected. Freed from contractual obligation, Williams transformed the script into an intensely autobiographical dream play called "The Glass Menagerie," a heartbreaking look at two women â¿¿ drawn from his neurotic mother and mentally ill sister â¿¿ who are each trapped in worlds of their own creation. The play was first staged in Chicago, where it enjoyed a successful run after nearly being shut down due to a lack of advanced sales; luckily strong critical reviews managed to keep the show open. In 1945, "The Glass Menagerie" was staged on Broadway, where it served as a comeback vehicle for actress Laurette Taylor and vaulted Williams to the front ranks of American playwrights. It went on to earn the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play and secured its status for many critics as being his finest work.
If "The Glass Menagerie" launched Williamsâ¿¿ success, his next play cemented his place in history as one of the great playwrights of the 20th century. After making its debut at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT, "A Streetcar Named Desire" had its original Broadway run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and starred then unknowns Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Jessica Tandy as Blanche Du Bois; rounding out the cast was Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch. Set in the steamy French Quarter of New Orleans, the story focused on Du Bois, a desperate and neurotic woman who clashes with Stellaâ¿¿s brutish husband, Stanley. Proving that his work was no flash in the pan, Williamsâ¿¿ acclaimed play earned the 1948 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. After publishing his first novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950), Williams adapted "The Glass Menagerie" (1950) for the big screen, with Jane Wyman and Kirk Douglas tackling the lead roles. The following year, Williams adapted "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) to the big screen, which starred Marlon Brando reprising his stage role as Stanley Kowalski and Vivian Leigh as Blanche Du Bois. Directed by Elia Kazan, the filmâ¿¿s scene with Stanley calling down for "Stella!" on the streets below became one of classic cinemaâ¿¿s most iconic moments.
Meanwhile, "Summer and Smoke" flopped on Broadway in 1948, though the 1952 revival by director Jose Quintero would put off-Broadway on the map. Meanwhile, Williams found more success with "The Rose Tattoo" (1951), which earned him his only Tony Award. Unfortunately, his next play, "Camino Real" (1953), closed in less than two months on Broadway. The playwright himself fell victim to the tyranny of public opinion, removing some of the more direct, anti-fascist sentiments after the Philadelphia tryout when Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan attacked the play as anti-American. But he returned to Pulitzer Prize-winning glory with "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955), one of his best known and the playwrightâ¿¿s personal favorite. Set in the Deep South, "Cat" focused on a washed-up football player who has taken to drinking after the suicide of his so-called best friend, whom his undyingly devoted wife believes he had a homosexual affair with. His play was turned into a 1958 movie starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, though Williams was disappointed with the studio removing most of the homosexual themes while forcing a re
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
"[I hope] that you will not let the entire season pass without seeing something besides 'Death of a Salesman'. Do you know I got five complete sets of notices of that play, sent me by various well-meaning friends in New York? More than I ever got for any play of my own, including the 'Menagerie' in London ..." --Williams to his friend Maria St. Just, March 5, 1949, in "Five O'Clock Angel", St. Just's collection of letters from Williams.
"I don't feel inclined to write any more about the so-called (s)outhern belle," --Williams to a reporter in London interview, August 1, 1962.
"I have never found the subject of homosexuality a satisfactory theme for a full-length play, despite the fact that it appears as frequently as it does in my short fiction." --Williams in The New York Times, March 4, 1973.
"If I had it all to do over again I'd only write for the movies." --Williams to a reporter at a film festival in August 1982, recalled in Gene Brown's "Show Time".
Companions close complete companion listing
Bibliography close complete biography
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute