For such an important film, this will be a short set of comments. And, my apologies, no video captures. I accidentally returned the film without finding shots and scenes I liked.
So, I have a general reaction to A Place in the Sun, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and my next film, Rebel Without a Cause. They all try too hard to be social commentary, with “Sun” trying the least hard and succeeding the best as a film. I find this period of film more melodramatic, even though the acting strives to be more natural and honest. I don’t fault the actors, but instead the writers (and directors. Always blame the director*).
I like Streetcar, and I recognize that there were several change from the play. I need to read the play in order to understand Stanley’s motivations toward the end of the film. Maybe Tennesee Williams doesn’t provide enough of answer to “why would he do that?”, but I’m not willing to criticize one of the stage’s finest playwrights without some solid research. Instead, let’s run through the cast.
Marlon Brando Brilliant acting. Dare I admit, though, that I giggled just a little bit when he first spoke. That lispy, reedy voice at first seemed silly. But not for long. What’s compelling about his performance is the tremendous detail. Great jazz musicians only seem to be loosely improvizing; they earn that apparent ease through rigorous technique and practice. Brando’s acting strikes me the same way.
Vivien Leigh Holy cow, I mean, what is there to say? She starts out a little daffy and eerie, and ends up completely daffy and eerie. I think that’s the most impressive part, is how she paces her craziness. Also, high marks to the makeup and lighting personnel. Leigh’s character is obsessed with her youth. At the beginning of the film she appears the age she wants (us) to believe she is. By the middle and end, we see her as she is. Very difficult, when the inner/outer age difference is only about ten years.
Kim Hunter My favorite. She has the demanding job of not being as extreme as either Brando or Leigh. Yet she has to match Brando’s power and sexuality (and hoo boy does she), and also reveal an undercurrent of her sister’s loopiness. Brava.
Karl Malden I’m familiar with Mr. Malden as the tough guy, later in his career. In this film, he shows a great ability to be sincere, almost meek, and yet not a pushover. Like all the other characters, I didn’t like him very much by the end. But I did like him the most.
* This is a little dig at my dad, who is a stage director for opera and musical theater. I feel safe since I think he’d agree with me. Except maybe, in film, he’d say “Well, either the director or the producers. Those producers are always getting in the way. Or the studio.”