The 1951 Smackdown supporting actress arrives at the end of the month, bringing with her a revisit to Tennessee Williams’ first adaptation to catch the Academy’s eye. by Elia Kazan A tram called Désir marked the beginning of a period when Hollywood never tired of the American playwright, bringing most of his famous texts to the screen in major studio productions that attracted the creme de la creme of filmmakers and actors. These projects were incredibly captivating for the latter, with their guarantee of juicy roles likely to receive critical acclaim. In just fourteen years, 19 performances have been nominated for Oscars and five won.
Let’s explore the list of AMPAS-approved Williams adaptations, find out where to watch them, and share some Oscar trivia along the way…
A TRAM NAMED DESIRE (1951)
- Best Picture -Charles K. Feldman
- Best Director – Elia Kazan
- ★ Best Actress – Vivien Leigh
- Best actor –Marlon Brando
- ★ Best Supporting Actress –Kim Hunter
- ★ Best Supporting Actor -Karl Malden
- Best Writing, Screenplay –Tennessee Williams
- Best Cinematography, Black and White – Harry Stradling Sr.
- ★ Best Art Direction Decoration, Black and White –Richard Day and George James Hopkins
- Best Costume Design, Black and White –Lucina Ballard
- Best Music, Score for a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Alex North
- Best Sound, Recording –Nathan Levinson
A tram called Désir is streaming on HBO Max. It is also available for rent on most platforms.
THE ROSE TATTOO (1955)
- Best Picture – Hal B. Wallis
- ★ Best Actress –Anna Magnani
- Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Pavan
- Best Film Editing –Warren Low
- ★ Best Cinematography, Black and White –James Wong Howe
- Best Art Direction Decoration, Black and White – Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen, Sam Comer & Arthur Krams*winner*
- Best Costume Design, Black and White – Edith Head
- Best Music, Composition of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Alex North
rose tattoo is available on Apple, iTunes, Redbox and AMC On Demand.
- Best Actress –Carroll Baker
- Best Supporting Actress – Mildred Dunnock
- Best Adapted Screenplay –Tennessee Williams
- Best Cinematography, Black and White –Boris Kaufmann
Doll is available for rent on Amazon, Google Player and Youtube.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958)
- Best Picture –Lawrence Weingarten
- Best Director –Richard Brooks
- Best Actress – Elizabeth Taylor
- Best actor –Paul Newmann
- Best Adapted Screenplay –Richard Brooks and James Poe
- Best Cinematography, Color –William H. Daniels
Cat on a hot tin roof is available for rent on Amazon, Google Player and Youtube.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959)
Suddenly last summer is available for rent on Amazon, Google Player and Youtube.
THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. PIERRE (1961)
- Best Supporting Actress –Lotte Lenya
Mrs. Stone’s Roman Source is available for rent on Amazon, Google Player, Youtube and Vudu
SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961)
- Best Actress – Geraldine Page
- Best Supporting Actress – Una Merkel
- Best Art Direction – Decoration, Color – Hal Pereira, Walter H. Tyler, Sam Comer and Arthur Krams
- Best Music, Composition of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture –Elmer Bernstein
summer and smoke is streaming on Kanopy.
ADJUSTMENT PERIOD (1962)
- Best Art Direction Decoration, Black and White –George W. Davis, Edward C. Carfagno, Henry Grace and Richard Pfefferle
Adjustment period is streaming on HBO Max.
SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1962)
- Best Actress – Geraldine Page
- Best Supporting Actress – Shirley Knight
- ★ Best Supporting Actor –Ed Begley
Sweet bird of youth is available for rent on various platforms like Amazon, Google Player and Youtube.
THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964)
- Best Supporting Actress – Grayson Hall
- Best Cinematography, Black and White –Gabriel Figueroa
- Best Art Direction Decoration, Black and White –Stephen B. Grimes
- ★ Best Costume Design, Black and White – Dorothee Jeakins
The night of the iguana is available on various platforms like Amazon, Google Player and Youtube.
Tennessee Williams himself was nominated twice for his screenplays, but naturally the most popular categories for these films were the acting categories. That, and the art direction, surprisingly enough.
WHICH TENNESSEE WILLIAMS FILMS HAVE BEEN IGNORED?
Another point of interest is to note which films did not have any Love at the Oscars despite being eligible. For example, the Academy doesn’t seem to like Glass factory at all.
In 1950, Irving Rapper directed Williams’ first stage-to-screen adaptation. Despite good reviews and an extremely promising poster, no one got any nominations. Although I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the next year Tram, it’s still an acting showcase in which theater goddess Gertrude Lawrence delivers one of her rare big-screen performances and Kirk Douglas surprises as Jim O’Connor. Despite a silly happy ending, this mishandled adaptation deserved a pair of nods to Kirk Douglas and Sound Design.
Decades later, Paul Newman directed a version of The Glass Menagerie in 1987. It’s a much more faithful rendition of Williams’ early hit and features what could very well be the definitive portrayal of Laura Wingfield. Nick Taylor was right when he wrote about Karen Allen’s amazing, Oscar-worthy tour de force.
Other unannounced Williams adaptations include Sydney Pollack This property is condemned with Natalie Wood in a Golden Globe-nominated star turn. Joseph Losey Boom! was a frazzled disaster, but the minimalist sets and opulent costumes were worth considering. Elizabeth Taylor’s outfits in this film are pure drag excellence designed by Karl Lagerfeld with Bulgari jewelry on top. In 1970, Sidney Lumet adapts Tennessee Williams The Seven Descents of Myrtle in The last of the mobile hot shots with a screenplay by Gore Vidal. Then, long after Hollywood’s Williams mania had died down, Jodie Markell shot one of the writer’s unproduced lines with 2008 The loss of a teardrop diamond.
The strangest case of a Tennessee Williams snubbed film is Lumet’s first foray into the playwright’s Southern fantasies. Released in 1960, The fugitive kind has a veritable assortment of beloved AMPAS actors in its cast, with Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward and Maureen Stapleton giving it their all. Sometimes hammered, often beautiful in their despair, these performers form an astonishing quartet. Additionally, the film also features excellent set design, which, as we’ve seen, was a category where these theatrical adaptations routinely triumphed. Sure, The fugitive kind isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s better than some of the Oscar-nominated titles — Looking at you, summer and smoke!
Have you seen these movies? What are your favourites?