Big On The Drugs, A Bit Thin On The Plays
(3 out of 5 stars)
"On this A & E video bio of Tennessee Williams, there's plenty of talk of his drinking and drug-taking and sleeping around. There's not much on the plays, just snippets of the highly salacious trailers (of the movies made from them), and almost no analysis. Few clips of Tennessee's wonderful interviews are included, except a snippet of the Davis Frost show when he walks on drunk and a few others.Interviews with the playwights' brother Dakin, biographers Lyle Leverich and Donald Spoto, old friend and minor writer Donald Windham, actor Eli Wallach, actress Kim Hunter and a few others appear and try their best, but aren't allowed to say very much. Williams later-life problems are put down to drinking, and no mention is made of the tremendous pounding he took from the anti-gay press of his day, even at the top of his success in the fifties. Only Kim Hunter is allowed to say at the end of the tape that, since Tennessee's death, his later plays which were so roundly denounced in the American press (but not the European) are now finally getting their due.There was a wonderful documentary that PBS put out a few years ago on its American Masters series that dealt with all these issues: the plays, the success, the hostility, and included interviews with admiring fellow-writers (Gore Vidal, Edward Albee) and actors who were allowed to say more about the plays (including Hunter again); A & E's bio is a rather superficial work by comparison. PBS should issue their bio as a tape/DVD; every Williams fan would buy it!"
Well-done bio of Thomas Lanier ('Tennessee') Williams
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 01/06/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm familiar with many of the film adaptations of Tennessee Williams' works and recently saw BABY DOLL (1956) (didn't care for it), his only actual screenplay, but knew little of this playwright/poet's life.
For example, until A&E's TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: WOUNDED GENIUS, I wasn't aware that THE GLASS MENAGERIE was a screenplay rejected in 1941 by MGM that Williams turned into his first Broadway success or that "Menagerie" and SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER were based in part on Tennessee's family life.
In "Suddenly," young Catherine Holly's Aunt Violet wants to have her lobotomized to keep the girl from telling anyone how and especially WHY Violet's son died. In real life, Tennessee's mother forced his beloved older sister Rose to undergo this mind-altering surgery. For the rest of her institutionalized life Rose was in the writer's opinion, "tranquil" and very much a zombie.
In this 48-minute documentary, a rare audio recording is heard of Marlon Brando in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. There's also a stage soundbite of "Glass Menagerie." Brief excerpts of films are shown, but the focus here is on the "wounded genius" himself, thus discussion of personal excesses and destructive behaviors are unavoidable.
We see one famous clip where Williams, who's just been released from rehab, appears quite drunk in a David Frost interview. He even declares his sobriety in a slurry, fey manner. It's a tragic moment, as was the author's death at age 71 from choking on an eyedrop bottle cap. Tennessee's younger brother Dakin insists he was murdered, which seems unlikely. Alcohol and barbiturates were found in the room, besides Mr. Williams wasn't exactly a young man on that sad day in 1983.
It's noted as a postscript that all of Tennessee Williams' later plays which either bombed were skewered by critics have in recent years been reassessed. Most are believed to not be as wanting, vague or vapid as originally thought."