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Today is a day a star was born.  I know that sounds like so much hyperbole, but in many ways it is true.  It was 63 years ago today that Broadway saw the opening of what is arguably Tennessee Williams’ greatest work, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

And it was that opening that truly introduced the world to the powerful talent that was Marlon Brando.

As anyone who reads this blog is aware, I am a fan of the theatrical experience on both stage and screen.  And, while I love attending the cinema these days, I truly believe that the talent on display now (with a few very notable exceptions) pales in comparison to the Hollywood of the ’30’s and ’40’s.  When I am asked my favorite film of all time it is often assumed I will name one of the classics of my generation.  But, for me, nothing will ever top Humphrey Bogart’s turn as Rick in “Casablanca.”

It is this appreciation of old films that drew me to Brando initially.  Seeing such classic performances as “On The Waterfront” and his reprisal of the his Broadway role in “A Streetcar Named Desire” laid the foundation for grabbing everything from his Oscar-winning turn as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” to the disturbing portrayal of H.G. Wells’ titular character in the forgettable “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”

The stage production of “Streetcar” made Brando.  The shocking brutality and sexuality of the play was unheard of in the ’40’s.  But, the power of Williams’ script performed by a young Brando made the play an incredible success, winning awards for nearly everyone involved including a Pulitzer for Williams.

“Streetcar” has had a rippling effect ever since that first performance.  It changed the theatrical landscape and raised the bar for those that followed.  Careers were established or strengthened.  Expectations and boundaries were shattered.  And Marlon Brando led the charge into a new era of theatrical greatness on both stage and screen.

No wonder the applause that first night went on for 30 minutes.


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