FC: Tennessee Williams | The Life and Works of
1: Megan Hardee Senior Project 2011
2: Every great artist has a past which has helped to define who they are. Tennessee Williams was considered to be one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century. Known for the deep autobiographical connections to his work, Williams was able to capture adoring audiences with his surreal style of writing full of real-life, fundamentally flawed characters. Through research and exploration, here is a collection of pictures, excerpts and commentary about Tennessee Williams, his life and his work.
4: Childhood... | He was born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911 in Columbus Mississippi. His mother, Edwina, was the daughter of an Episcopalian minister and his father, Cornelius, a shoe factory worker. Williams was born just sixteen months after his sister Rose, the sibling he was closest to and who would be featured in many of his future works of fiction. At the age of seven, Tom and his family were uprooted from their quiet suburban lives in Mississippi and moved to the loud city of St. Louis Missouri. At a young age, Williams began writing. He won his first award at the age of 16 with a story called, "Can a Good Wife be a Good Sport." William's dislike for the city life in St. Louis was reflected in his works. In "The Glass Menagerie" the character, Tom, shares the same dislike for the fast-paced, dirty atmosphere of St. Louis. | 1 | 2
5: "I hate brick and concrete and the hissing of garden hoses... I hate streets with demure or sedate little trees and the awful screech of trolley wheels and polite, constrained city voices. I want hills and valleys and lakes and forests around me! I want to lie dreaming and naked in the sun! I want to be free and have freedom all around me. I don't want anything tight or limiting or strained." - Tennessee Williams referring to his life in St. Louis, 8/14/1936 | "You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present becomes the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don't plan for it!" - Amanda to Tom in The Glass Menagerie | 4 | 3 | The Williams' apartment in St. Louis | Edwina Williams with Tom and Laura
6: "I may write about troubled people, but I write from my own tensions. For me, this is a form of therapy. It may be that audiences release their own tensions as a result. I certainly hope so. But in any case, I don't choose my themes or my characters with melodramatic aforethought." | Tennessee and his writing | "Williams began to create myths of modern life; that is, he began to weave the dark images of his personal vision together with certain sociological, psychological, religious, and philosophical contents, in a schematic explication of modern life." | 5 | 6 | "At fourteen he had discovered writing as a kind of escape from the world in which he lived. The neighborhood 'kids'and even his father thought him a sissy and gave him a girl's name." | 7
7: "I think writing is continually a pursuit of a very evasive quarry, and you never quite catch it.." | 8 | "I have never been able to say what was the theme of my play and I don't think I've ever been conscious of writing with a theme in mind... Usually when asked about a theme, I look vague and say, 'It is a play about life...'" | 9 | "It takes guts and plenty of them to be an artist in this un-artistic world. Especially when you aren't even a very good artist. Just an artistic sap." | 10 | "And to me it has been providential to be an artist, a great act of providence that I was able to turn my borderline psychosis into creativity - my sister Rose did not manage this. So I keep writing. I am sometimes pleased with what I do - for me, that's enough.'' | 11
8: Elegy for Rose She is a metal forged by love too volatile, too fiery thin so that her substance will be lost as sudden lightening or as wind And yet the ghost of her remains reflected with the metal gone, a shadow as of shifting leaves at moonrise or at early dawn. A kind of rapture never quite possessed again, however long the heart lays siege upon a ghost recaptured in a web of song. | "[Laura] is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf.'' | 14 | ''You couldn't ask for a sweeter or more benign monarch than Rose, or, in my opinion, one that's more of a lady. After all, high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.'' - Tennessee Williams | Laura and Rose | 13 | 12
9: Tennessee was close to his sister, who was perhaps the greatest influence on him. She was subject to severe nervous attacks and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After various unsuccessful attempts at therapy, her parents eventually allowed a the state hospital to perform a lobotomy in an effort to treat her. When the surgery went poorly, Rose remained incapacitated for the rest of her life. | "Tom's love for Laura needs to be emphasized... not only because it is one part of the final image of the play-the moment of revelation toward which the action tends- but because it shows Williams' interest in the special qualities of those whom the world has hurt. They are the delecate and fragile people , too sensitive to eb abel to withstand the crude and harsh necessities by which life drives us along. They have an extraordinary awareness of hidden, almost mystical, qualities of spiritual beauty; and this openness dooms them to be crushed or perverted by the animal vigor of the world." -Tom Scanlan, Family and Psyche | 15 | 16
10: "In the final tableau of the play, with Tom departed, Amanda hovers protectively over a broken, deeply dispirited Laura, symbolizing what Tennessee Williams saw in his own mother: "Now that we cannot hear the mother's speech, her silliness is gone and she has dignity and tragic beauty." | Laurette Taylor was the actress who originally played Amanda on the stage. Donald Windham recognized that she modeled her performance on her careful observation, "her sideways, suspicious glances at her children when she was displeased; her silences that spoke more than words; her bright obliviousness to the reality before her eyes when she was determined to show that she, at least was agreeable..." | Amanda and Edwina | 17 | 18
11: The Southern Gentlewoman | "[Amanda Wingfield, Blanche DuBois, and Alma Winemiller] live in a world of their own imagination and are unable to cope with a highly competitive, commercial society. Their dreams center on men who were never there." | Tennessee Williams wrote about characters he knew. A reoccurring character was the southern gentlewoman, unable to let go of her past. | 19 | Edwina Dakin, just prior to her marriage
12: "I'm not a typical homosexual. I can identify completely with Blanche - we are both hysterics - with Alma and even with Stanley... If you understand schizophrenia, I am not really a dual creature; but I can understand the tenderness of women and the lust and libido of the male..." | Tennessee Williams on Sexuality | Throughout his experiences at the hands of anti-gay locals in Key West, Florida, Williams' gardener was murdered, his house ransacked, his dog stolen, and he himself was mugged twice. | 20 | 21
13: "Sexuality is a part of my work, of course, because sexuality is a part of my life and everyone's life. I see no essential difference between the love of two men for each other and the love of a man for a woman; no essential difference, and that's why I've examined both of them." | 22
14: Tennessee Williams in Hollywood | Tennessee Williams wrote several plays for Broadway that were eventually turned into Hollywood movies. Knowing how successful his plays were, it comes as no surprise that Williams was just as successful on the big screen. | "Williams' deployment of fluid scenes and his 'careful orchestration of sound-music as well as effects' are more closely aligned 'to a cinematic vision of reality than to the [stage] expressionism of the post WWI period."
15: "Between 1940 and 1945 he lived on grants (donated money) from the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, on income scraped together from an attempt to write film scripts in Hollywood, and on wages as a waiter-entertainer in Greenwich Village in New York City." | "inner torments are seldom projected with such sensitivity and clarity on the screen" (Streetcar Named Desire) | "[The Glass Menagerie film} is the most awful travesty of the play I've ever seen... horribly mangled by the people who did the film-script"
16: Bibliography: | 1-Williams, Tennessee, and Margaret Bradham. Thornton. Introduction. Notebooks. New Haven [Conn.: Yale UP, 2006. X. Print. 2- "Award-Winning Playwright Biographies: Tennessee Williams." The Jason Bennett Actor's Workshop: Acting Classes in New York City. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.