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These actors take on the difficult task of bringing two complex, emotional characters onto the silver screen. With spot-on reactions to each others’ theatrical advances, the pair create an experience that is both enjoyable and expressively coherant. Vivian Leigh was cast for the role of Blanch DuBois for various reasons. She was white, slender, beautiful and had already acted in several other films.
Tennessee Williams, the author of the original play, saw Leigh’s performances in plays such as “The School for Scandal” and “Antigone”, and decided that she was perfect for the role.
All that Leigh needed to change was the color of her hair, which was originally black. Leigh does a splendid job of portraying Blanche’s ascending insanity by seamlessly transitioning from melodramatic anguish into her signature faux semblants, or pretense. An example of this is the scene where Blanche sits alone in Stella’s apartment crying until a delivery man comes to the door.
Blanche is then quickly transformed into a mysterious temptress who seduces the young man into kissing her.
Leigh’s uncommon ability to switch from such extreme emotions brings a refreshing distinction to the film. Blanche’s eccentric and offbeat personality requires a talented actress to be be fully realized. Leigh’s acting style works well with the other actors’, and expresses a coherence so profound that one might often forget that she is acting. The role of Harold Mitchell was one that needed to be fulfilled in order for the script to make sense.
Mitch is described as being two hundred and seven pounds, six foot one and having “a massive bone structure”. His physique is an important aspect of his character, thus making it imperative for the actor to meet these conditions to be casted for the role. Karl Malden is tall and bulky, with a large nose and a receding hairline. These traits accenuate Mitch’s awkward demeanor and informs the audience of how lonely he is without him having to say it. Malden also shares Leigh’s ability to transition between emotional extremes. For instance, in the beginning of the scene where Mitch confronts Blanche about her lies, he is silent.
Though after hearing more of her absurd grip on reality, he snaps into an aggressive brute who pins Blanche to the wall. Malden’s on-screen chemistry with Leigh is apparent throughout the film, and is believable the entire time. Vivian Leigh and Karl Malden’s performances perfectly depicted the tragic twosome that is Blanche and Mitch. With Leigh’s seamless transitions of polar-opposite emotions and Malden’s angry yet passsionate fits of rage, the two give what are easily the best performances of the film. From their intriguing introductionto their dreadful departure, no purer chemistry has been captured so passionately.
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