Differences between the play and the film adaptation of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' concerning censorship and setting

Term Paper, 2009

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0




1. Basic information on the drama

2. Censorship in the film adaptation
2.1. Censorship in Scene One
2.2. Censorship in Scene Two
2.3. Censorship in Scene Three
2.4. Censorship in Scene Four
2.5. Censorship in Scene Five
2.6. Censorship in Scene Six
2.7. Censorship in Scene Seven
2.8. Censorship in Scene Eight
2.9. Censorship in Scene Nine
2.10. Censorship in Scene Ten
2.11. Censorship in Scene Eleven

3. Differences in the settings between the play and the film adaptation
3.1. Differences in Scene One
3.2. Differences in Scene Two
3.3. Differences in Scene Three
3.4. Differences in Scene Four
3.5. Differences in Scene Five
3.6. Differences in Scene Six
3.7. Differences in Scene Seven
3.8. Differences in Scene Eight
3.9. Differences in Scene Nine
3.10. Differences in Scene Ten
3.11. Differences in Scene Eleven

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Basic information on the drama

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play which was written in 1947 by the American playwright Tennessee Williams. In the same year, the play opened on Broadway and closed in 1949. The Broadway production was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. In 1948, Tennessee Williams received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The first film adaptation of the play was produced in 1951 by Charles K. Feldman and was directed by Elia Kazan. It stars Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski and Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell. The screenplay was written by Tennessee Williams himself, but had many revisions to remove references to homosexuality among other things. The film won several awards like an Academy Award for Vivien Leigh as Best Actress in the role of Blanche. There were also other film adaptations of the play produced in 1984 and 1995, an opera adaptation by André Previn in 1995 and a ballet in 1993. The play is about Blanche DuBois, who is on a visit at her sister Stella, who is pregnant, and Stella’s husband Stanley Kowalski. From the beginning on, Stanley does not get on well with Blanche because of her different attitudes and behaviour and Blanche does not get on well with Stanley because of his brutal behaviour and his aggressive contact with Stella. Blanche gets to know Mitch, a friend of Stanley and she tells him that she was once married to a boy, who had shot himself, because she had found out of his affair with another man. Soon, conflicts between Stanley and Blanche rise and Stanley gets to know the truth about Blanche’s reason to come: Belle Reve, the place, where Blanche and Stella used to live when they were young, is lost and afterwards, he also finds out that she had many affairs with men and also with a 17-year-old boy. Blanche’s relationship to Mitch is over and finally, she is raped by Stanley. In the end, Blanche is commited to an institution.[1]

2. Censorship in the film adaptation

The screenplay, written by Williams himself, had originally the same themes and story as in the play, only slightly changed. But the screenplay had to be diminished to accord with the Hollywood Production Code and the National Legion of Decency. Most of the changes were filmed but cut after filming, without the knowledge of the director. There are two versions of the film because in the first version several lines and utterances do not appear because of being cut and censored. In the second version, which was re-released in 1993, some of them are added. So I refer to them as the first and the second version.

The next subitems will show in detail, which changes were made in the play and in the film adaptation and how the play and the film differ from each other.

2.1. Censorship in Scene One

The first utterance, which was changed or rather, here, even left out, is when Stella reminds Blanche that Stanley is Polish. Blanche then compares the Poles to the Irish. In the play, Blanche says that the Poles are “only not so – highbrow”[2]. In the film, this utterance is deleted for discrimination reasons because in the play with this statement, the Poles are rather presented as being stupid.

2.2. Censorship in Scene Two

When Blanche and Stanley are talking about the loss of Belle Reve and the Napoleonic code, Blanche flirts with Stanley and in the play, Stanley says, “If I didn’t know that you was my wife’s sister I’d get ideas about you!”[3] In the first version of the film, this line did not occur because of inappropriateness but was added in the second version.

2.3. Censorship in Scene Three

In the play, Blanche says that Stella and her could not come home because of the poker evening and so they had to go somewhere and drink. Two is her limit and that day she had three. This “confession” of Blanche does not occur in the film because it is not appropriate for a woman to admit that she has drunk too much.

Later in this scene, there is the clash between Stella and Stanley. In the play, it is much more described as it is shown in the film. In the film, we can only hear what could be going on, but we do not see it. Furthermore, when the other men try to hold Stanley off Stella and they put him under the shower, we do not see when Stanley throws them off and out off the bathroom.

The next example of censorship appears, when Stella is upstairs with Eunice and Stanley wants her to come down. Eunice shouts at him that Stella will not come down and in the play, she calls him a “whelp of a polack”[4], but in the film, this abuse is left out.

Then, when Stella finally comes down the stairs, they should come together with “low, animal moans”[5], as it says in the secondary text in the play. But in the film, we do not hear anything when Stella and Stanley come together. This could be left out because these sounds are seen as too intimate to be shown.

2.4. Censorship in Scene Four

The scene starts with Stella, lying in the bed, and Blanche, who accuse her of coming back to her brutal husband. Blanche tells her how she was concerned about her going back. Now, in the play, there is a part, beginning with Stella saying, “[...] I started to rush in after you!”[6] and ending with “He didn’t know what he was doing.”[7], where Stella comes to Stanley’s defence. This part is totally deleted, except for her saying, “He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very, very ashamed of himself.”[8], because it is not morally correct from Stella to protect her husband’s doings.

The next example of censorship is in the next sentence from Stella. In the first version of the film, the following sentence was not being said: “Stanley’s always smashed things. Why, on our wedding night – soon as we came in her – he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place smashing light bulbs with it. [...] I was – sort of – thrilled by it.”[9] It was added in the second version of the film.

Then, Blanche tells her that there is a possibility to get out the marriage with Stanley but in the play, Stella tells her that she is “[...] not in anything [she] want[s] to get out of.”[10] and that “People have got to tolerate each other’s habits [...]”[11] Here, Stella says once more that she forgives Stanley’s doings and so this can not be shown in the film, because in the 1951’s brutality was a not-forgivable thing.

The next sentence, which was censored in the film, is where Stella says that “[...] there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark – that sort of make everything else seem – unimportant.”[12] This utterance was not to be said because it brings something intimate between a man and a woman up, which should not be brought up in public.

Afterwards, Blanche tries to speak plainly to Stella and show her how Stanley behaves. In the play, Blanche describes Stanley amongst others as an “animal”, as “ape-like”, as a “growling creature”[13]. These names do not occur in the film, because they were a too big insult for a human being.

2.5. Censorship in Scene Five

The only thing that was censored in this scene, was in the first version of the film, when Blanche talks to the young man, who is collecting for a newspaper. At the end of the conversation in the play, she says to him that, “I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth!”[14] In the first version of the film, the part “on your mouth” did not occur but it was added in the second version. Also, the next line of Blanche saying, “It would be nice to keep you, but I’ve got to be good – and keep my hands off children.”[15] was cut in the first version but added in the second.

2.6. Censorship in Scene Six

The first part that is censored in the film in this scene, is where Blanche and Mitch are back in the house (in the film, it is some sort of a hut) and they are flirting. Blanche suggests pretending they are in a French café in Paris and she says something in French, but he tells her that he does not understand French. Now, in the film, the following sentences from Blanche in the play are deleted: “Voulez-vous couches avec moi ce soir? Vous ne comprenez pas? Ah, quelle dommage!”[16] The English translation for this would be, “Would you like to sleep with me this evening? You don’t understand? Ah, what a pity!” These sentences are rather intimate and it is not appropriate for a woman like Blanche to say something like this.

Later in the scene, Blanche and Mitch talk about Stanley and Blanche tells him that she thinks that Stanley hates her. Furthermore, in the play, she says that she thought, from the beginning on, that “[Stanley] is my executioner! That man will destroy me [...]”[17] These insults are censored because they are too bad to be said in front of Christians.

Then, Blanche tells Mitch about her marriage and her dead husband. In the play, she tells him in detail that she had found her husband in a room with an older man and it is made clear that her husband was homosexual. After that, they went to a Casino and Blanche told her husband that he disgusted her and then he had commited suicide. In the film, though, Blanche says that her husband had lost every job and in the casino, she told him that he was weak, that she had lost respect for him and then he commited suicide by stucking a revolver into his mouth. According to the Hollywood Production Code, the second principle is that “Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.” Homosexuality was, at that time, no “correct standard of life” and so it had to be censored.

2.7. Censorship in Scene Seven

There is no censorship in Scene Seven.

2.8. Censorship in Scene Eight

On Blanche’s birthday, Blanche, Stella and Stanley start to quarrel again and after smashing some plates, Stanley goes out. When Stella follows him, Stanley reminds her of the good times they had together, before Blanche came. In the play, he reminds her of “[the] nights we had together”[18] and when Blanche will be gone, “we can make noise in the night the way that we used to”[19]. This is removed in the film because these thoughts are too intimate to talk about them in public.

2.9. Censorship in Scene Nine

The first word, which is censored in Scene Nine, is in a sentence of Blanche in a conversation with Mitch, when she says that if telling the truth “is sinful, then let me be damned for it!”[20] In the film, the word “damned” is changed to “punished”. In the whole film, all the words like “damn” and “hell” were removed and changed to accord to the principles of the PCA (Production Code Administration).

Another word, that had to be changed, was the word “intimacy” later in the play. Blanche mentions it, when she admits to Mitch that she had “many intimacies with strangers”[21] and that “intimacies with strangers [were] all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with”[22]. Here, according to the PCA, the word “intimacies” was changed into “meetings” to weaken the significance of the word.

Another interesting detail or rather word that was changed is the word “Sunday”. Blanche says, “On Sunday nights they would go in town to get drunk –“[23]. In the film, Blanche says “Saturday” and this might be because it is inappropriate to get drunk on the Lord’s Day.

Furthermore, Blanche talks about the soldiers that were trained in a camp not far from Belle Reve. On their way home from town, they often called her and in the play, she admits that she had sometimes “slipped outside to answer their calls”[24]. But this is not mentioned in the film because of the inappropriateness of Blanche’s act.

After telling Mitch about her past, he tries to embrace and kiss her and she asks him what he wants. In the play, he answers, “What I been missing all summer.”[25] but in the film, this answer does not occur.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Streetcar_Named_Desire_(1951_film) - (6th January, 09)

[2] Ronald Gottesmann, ed. “A Streetcar Named Desire”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 2 vols. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994. 1815.

[3] Ibid. 1823.

[4] Ibid. 1832.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 1833.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. 1834.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. 1836.

[13] Ibid. 1837.

[14] Ibid. 1842.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. 1844.

[17] Ibid. 1847.

[18] Ibid. 1854.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid. 1858.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid. 1859.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid. 1860.

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Differences between the play and the film adaptation of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' concerning censorship and setting
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Anonymous, 2009, Differences between the play and the film adaptation of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' concerning censorship and setting, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/180882


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