Hollywood's Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America

Hollywood's Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America

Hollywood's Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America

Hollywood's Tennessee: The Williams Films and Postwar America

Synopsis

No American dramatist has had more plays adapted than Tennessee Williams, and few modern dramatists have witnessed as much controversy during the adaptation process. His Hollywood legacy, captured in such screen adaptations as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Suddenly, Last Summer, reflects the sea change in American culture in the mid-twentieth century. Placing this body of work within relevant contexts ranging from gender and sexuality to censorship, modernism, art cinema, and the Southern Renaissance, Hollywood's Tennessee draws on rarely examined archival research to recast Williams's significance. Providing not only cultural context, the authors also bring to light the details of the arduous screenwriting process Williams experienced, with special emphasis on the Production Code Administration the powerful censorship office that drew high-profile criticism during the 1950s and Williams's innovative efforts to bend the code. Going well beyond the scripts themselves, Hollywood's Tennessee showcases findings culled from poster and billboard art, pressbooks, and other production and advertising material. The result is a sweeping account of how Williams's adapted plays were crafted, marketed, and received, as well as the lasting implications of this history for commercial filmmakers and their audiences.

Excerpt

The main focus of this book is not Tennessee Williams the dramatist, poet, essayist, and fiction writer—that figure so well known to literary history. Beyond rehearsing some familiar facts about Williams for the reader’s benefit, we have little information or comment to add about his dramatic career, his personal life, his undisputed place within the pantheon of great American writers, and his connections, multifarious and intriguing, with the traditions of twentieth-century dramatic literature. Instead, our concern here is only with the fifteen Hollywood films made from various Williams properties (all commercially produced plays except for one novella) during roughly two decades of the early postwar era, from 1950 to 1968. Our aim is not to offer a comprehensive treatment of these adaptations, whose production histories are in many cases immensely complex, because such a volume would be impractically large. Considerable information on the Williams films is contained in two earlier books, which continue to be valuable sources, and there has been no reason to repeat it here. Also for reasons of space, the Williams films produced since the 1970s, a steadily increasing body of texts, figure here only in an appendix intended as a reference for the interested reader. These later films testify to the still-growing popularity of a playwright who, at the time of his death, had seen his star fall for almost two decades. the later adaptations will soon merit a book-length treatment of their own. Space limitations also preclude our treating much of the interesting, but critically irrelevant, material we have discovered in our research, such as back-lot gossip, amusing anecdotes, and surpris-

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