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Arts and Theater 1

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Black Tie International:
Tennessee Williams on Screen and Stage

“Tennessee Williams on Screen and Stage”

Photos & Story By: Fiddle Viracola


Ellen Burstyn, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson

Ellen Burstyn, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson


Ellen Burstyn, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jodie Markle

Ellen Burstyn, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jodie Markell


Charles Isherwood, NY Times Drama Critic

Charles Isherwood, NY Times Theatre Critic



Rochelle Slovin, Director of The Museum of the Moving Image at the Times Center presented “Tennessee Williams on Screen and Stage” Charles Schwartz, its chief curator, spoke then called Anne Jackson to the stage.


The event began. Charles Isherwood theatre critic for The New York Times moderated conversation by legendary actors Eli Wallach, Elaine Stritch, Ellen Burstyn, with Jodi Markell and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Their stories and reverence for the greatest American playwright of his time, interspersed with film scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando, Vivienne Leigh,} Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor) Baby Doll (Eli Wallach, Carol Baker, based on 27 Wagons Full of Cotton) and The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond an original rediscovered screenplay directed by Jodie Markell starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Ellen Burstyn.

Tennessee, (born Thomas Lanier Williams) a short man with a southern drawl and inside giggle loved actors. He’d come backstage after a performance: “You were the greatest Eloi, The greatest Eunice, etc. No matter how small the part the actor was acknowledged.


Elaine Stritch said in 1947 when in Philadelphia in  Angel in the Wings and friendly (for ten minutes) with Marlon Brando, there pre -Broadway in ” A Streetcar Named Desire found they had different matinee times  She went to his theatre. Sold Out, its sign read. A man talking to the box office came over. ”Are you an actress?” “Yes.” The man took her by the hand to the company manager. “Put a seat in the aisle today. She is the new understudy for Stella.” That man was Tennessee Williams and they remained friends for years.


 Wonderful anecdotes continued. Eli Wallach (turned 94 last week) added “Cardinal Spellman and the Catholic Church banned the film Baby Doll directed by Elia Kazan (as “Revolting, deplorable, morally repellant, and offensive to Christian standards of decency”) It sold out for months.”


Remembrances continued by Tony and Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn. Effects of his artistry on their lives by Jodie Markell and Bryce Dallas Howard delighted all.


Even by the teaspoon Tennessee Williams is a feast. His poetic language shimmers in the text of his great body of work: plays, poems, a memoir, short stories, films and a novel. He wrote “Because I found life unsatisfactory.”  And”I can’t expose a human weakness unless I know it through having it myself.” His talked like his writing; his text universal; sensitive to character and known desperation.

He was awarded four Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His legacy remains a presence around the world.

Here, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Sydney Theatre Company’s A Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett, reigns. It’s the U.S. directorial debut of Liv Ullmann. The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond film will be released by Mark Urman of Paladin. etc.

Thank you, Tennessee. “Flora has to be funny and never yell as a landlady.” I’ll remember.  How right you were: “Sometimes, there’s God so quickly.”



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