A penetrating consideration of Tennessee Williams's most enduring character--Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire--written by the co-author of The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and Furious Love.
Ever since Jessica Tandy glided onto the stage in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1947, Blanche DuBois has fascinated generations of audiences worldwide and secured a place in the history of literature, theater, and film. One of Williams's greatest creations, Blanche has bedazzled, amused, and broken the hearts of generations of audiences. Before the Covid pandemic, the stage classic was performed somewhere in the world every hour. It has been adapted into a ballet and an opera, and it was satirized in an episode of The Simpsons. The final twelve words Blanche utters at the play's end--"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers"--have taken on a life of their own. Endlessly fascinating, this indelible figment of one of America's greatest midcentury playwrights garners nearly universal interest--but why?
In Blanche, Nancy Schoenberger searches for the answer. An exploration of the cultural impact of Blanche DuBois, Schoenberger's absorbing study examines Tennessee Williams's most enduring creation through the performances of seven brilliant actresses who have taken on the role--Jessica Tandy, Vivien Leigh, Ann-Margret, Jessica Lange, Patricia Clarkson, Cate Blanchett, and Jemier Jackson--as well as the influence of the playwright's tragic sister, Rose Williams, the person he was most haunted and inspired by. In examining various Blanches from throughout the decades and their critical reception, Schoenberger analyzes how our perception and understanding of this mesmerizing figure has altered and deepened over time. Exploring themes of womanhood, sexuality, mental illness, and the idealized South, Blanche is an engrossing cultural history of a rich and complex character that sheds light on who we are.