Costume Designer: Lucinda Ballard, Nominated Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (24th Academy Awards)
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, it’s voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
“The Broken Tower” by Hart Crane
Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.
He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.
Look at these feathers and furs that she come here to preen herself in! What’s this here? A solid-gold dress, I believe! And this one! What is these here? Fox-pieces! Genuine fox fur-pieces, a half a mile long! Where· are your fox-pieces, Stella? Bushy snow-white ones, no less!
Pearls! Ropes of them! What is this sister of yours, a deep-sea diver? Bracelets of solid gold, too! Where are your pearls and gold bracelets?
Compliments to women about their looks. I’ve never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.
The poker players–Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo-wear colored shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors.
“And if God choose,
I shall but love thee better-after-death!”
Why, that’s from my favorite sonnet by Mrs. Browning!
I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.
I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft-soft people have got to shimmer and g1ow-they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly’ wings, and put a paper lantern over the light …it isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I-I’m fading now! I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick.
I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!
She has dragged her wardrobe trunk into the center of the bedroom. It hangs open with flowery dresses thrown across it. As the drinking and packing went on, a mood of hysterical exhilaration came into her and -she has decked herself out in a somewhat soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown and a pair of scuffed silver slippers with brilliants set in their heels. Now she is placing the rhinestone tiara on her head before the mirror of the dressing-table and murmuring excitedly as if to a ‘group of spectral admirers.
Well, it’s a red letter night for us both. You having an oil millionaire and me having a baby.
A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding, can enrich a man’s life – immeasurably! I have those things to offer, and this doesn’t take them away. Physical beauty is passing. A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit and tenderness of the heart-and I have all of those things-aren’t taken away, but grow! Increase with the years! How strange that I should be called a destitute woman! When I have all of these treasures locked in my heart. I think of myself as a very, very rich woman! But I have been foolish-casting my pearls before swine!
He takes off his hat and now he becomes personalized. The unhuman quality goes. His voice is gentle and reassuring as he crosses to Blanche and crouches in front of her. As he speaks her name, her terror subsides a little. The lurid reflections fade from the walls, the inhuman cries and noises die out and her own hoarse crying is calmed.
Whoever you are-I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
’In this dark march toward whatever it is we’re approaching,’ Blanche raises the flag of magic against the crushing disappointment of reality in her “worn-out Mardi Gras outfit” and the costumes are absolutely brilliant in creating this fantasy world, showing us someone trying to survive the decay and decadence of her own life and not being able to cope with what the world has thrown at her. And that’s how a trunk full of flowery dresses and rhinestone tiaras can help you survive as long as you keep away from the brutes, maybe you’ll be able to not only tell, but also live what ought to be truth. ( And this in no way an endorsement of post truths or a glorification of mental illness)
References and Photos
A Streetcar Named Desire BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS – With an Introduction by the Author, Signet Books (1951)
Elia Kazan, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Norman N. Holland
Best Shot: “A Streetcar Named Desire”
A Madhouse In The Quarter: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE A Madhouse In The Quarter: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
The Furniture: Decorating Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire