Everything you ever wanted to know about a masterpiece.

WHEN BLANCHE MET BRANDO

THE SCANDALOUS STORY OF “A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE”

Opinionated, revealing, constantly entertaining account of the birth and growth of Tennessee Williams’s most famous play.

In the form we now know it, A Streetcar Named Desire, suggests Staggs (Close Up on Sunset Boulevard, 2002), blends Katherine Anne Porteresque Southern gothic, Samuel Beckettian nihilism and Cole Porterish camp. In a feverish moment, he deems it “a root canal on the soul,” but elsewhere lauds its sexual-comedic moments. Staggs neatly deconstructs the evolution of the genre-hopping play, observing its manic center’s transformation from Blanche Shannon of Chicago to Blanche DuBois of New Orleans, and charting the many changes Williams made to the script over a decade as a result not only of second and third thoughts but also, later, of audience reactions, director Elia Kazan’s suggestions and the meddling of censors and studio executives. The play came to life when, in 1947, a scarcely known actor named Marlon Brando was signed for the part of Stanley Kowalski (who, in earlier drafts of the play, had been first Irish, then Italian). Brando’s performances gave birth to method acting, whose theory, Staggs writes, had been well established but whose practice seems mostly to have consisted of other actors’ imitating Brando’s halting, hulking presentation. Staggs is less enthusiastic about the Blanche of the two-year New York theatrical run, Jessica Tandy, second-guessing Kazan six decades after the fact. (Williams, he writes, wanted Greta Garbo for the role.) Staggs then follows the twists and turns the play took to get to the screen, now with the appropriately disturbed Vivien Leigh as Blanche; it’s an unhappy story, even though the film made Academy Award history: “It was . . . the first time that three actors from the same film won Oscars.” Adds Staggs, after reconstructing a dozen scenes that the censors slashed, that story is also made a little happier by the fact that a director’s cut is now available, giving audiences a chance to get a better sense of Williams’s and Kazan’s intentions—to say nothing of the young Brando’s power.

Everything you ever wanted to know about a masterpiece.

Pub Date: June 14, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-32164-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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