FIVE O'CLOCK ANGEL: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just by Tennessee Williams

FIVE O'CLOCK ANGEL: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thirty-plus years of correspondence between Tennessee Williams and his best friend, confidante, and critic Maria St. Just. St. Just, who at first did not appreciate it, was the spiritual model for Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She and Williams met at a London cocktail party given by John Gielgud at which she befriended a shy young man sitting off by himself and wearing one red sock and one blue sock. A chat followed about Williams and Maria being raised by their grandmothers, then a correspondence began. Then when her grandmother died unexpectedly, just as Maria was coming to see her at five o'clock, Williams began calling Maria ""the Five O'Clock Angel"" and the nickname stuck--always with a sentimental overtone. A rising young actress, Maria kept Williams' letters, though hers to him largely are lost. The book does have patches of two-way correspondence, along with a scattering of letters from theater folk that relate to his plays. Despite the time-span covered, which goes to Williams' death (recently revealed to be a suicide), the letters do not make up a biography, although we are aware of most of Williams' movements for 30 years. Emotionally, they chart his high spirits at the time of The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, and then a long and suddenly steep decline, with hospitalizations for nervous breakdowns and drug problems. And of course many famed people pop up, with smart lines to deliver: Gielgud, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Elia Kazan, and many brilliant actors. Despite all this (and 100 photographs, not seen), the gathering is a bore, aside from some pungent remarks and the occasional ideas about his characters that Williams spells out. A warmly intended work with ten or twenty strong pages, plus the undeniable spell of Williams' career in its tragic arc. Not, however, absolutely necessary.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf