By Steve Daly
Updated May 09, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Credit: The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone: Warner Bros./Photofest

Tennessee Williams Film Collection

type
  • Movie

As anybody who channel-flips cable TV can see, censorship in American entertainment is on the wane. It’s a shock, then, to revisit the profound impact of censorship on several of the adapted Tennessee Williams plays rounded up in the excellent Tennessee Williams Film Collection. The masterpiece here is the director’s cut of 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, in which sweaty brute Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) immortally bellows, ”Hey, Stella!” As a passel of superb supplements explains, Hollywood’s production code demanded that Stanley be punished after he rapes poor, delusional butterfly Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), so his tolerant wife (Kim Hunter) is shown abruptly walking out on him, one of many ludicrous changes from the Pulitzer-winning play. (Unrelated must-see extra: a 23-year-old Brando’s first Hollywood screen test, shot in 1947. Supernaturally sexy.) Director Elia Kazan avoided any major revision battles shooting 1956’s Baby Doll, a delightful comedy of cuckoldry written directly for the screen, but denunciations from Catholic leaders crippled its release. The worst bowdlerizations were foisted on 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, making it very tough to suss out why surly Brick (Paul Newman) wouldn’t want to ravish his wife, Maggie (a stunning Elizabeth Taylor). But by the early ’60s, restrictions were easing. Despite other forced omissions, Sweet Bird of Youth gets away with Newman rolling joints for Geraldine Page, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone makes Warren Beatty’s gigolo life semiexplicit, and The Night of the Iguana even shows defrocked reverend Richard Burton’s manhood blatantly outlined inside a wet pair of briefs. Like this DVD set, it’s a noteworthy package.

Tennessee Williams Film Collection

type
  • Movie
mpaa
  • PG

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