Tennessee Williams Biography | American Masters | PBS
He was brilliant and prolific, bringing life and passion to such memorable characters as Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski in his critically acclaimed A Streetcar Named Desire. and like them, he was troubled and self-destructive, an abuser of alcohol and drugs. He received four Theater Critics Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. he was ridiculed by critics and blacklisted by the sorcerous Roman Catholic cardinal, who condemned one of his scripts as “disgusting, deplorable, morally repellent, offensive by Christian standards of decency.” he was tennessee williams, one of the greatest playwrights in american history.
born thomas lanier williams in columbus, mississippi in 1911, tennessee, he was the son of a shoe company executive and a southern belle. Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as happy and carefree. this sense of belonging and comfort was lost, however, when his family moved to the urban setting of st. louis, missouri. It was there that he began to look within and write: “because I found life unsatisfying.” Williams’ early adult years were busy attending college at three different universities, a brief stint working at his father’s shoe company, and a move to New Orleans, which sparked a lifelong love of the city and established the site for a streetcar named desire.
Williams spent several years traveling across the country and trying to write. Its first critical acclaim came in 1944 when The Crystal Menagerie opened in Chicago and went to Broadway. It won a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and, as a film, the New York Film Critics Circle Award. At the height of his career in the late 1940s and 1950s, Williams worked with the leading artists of the day, most notably Elia Kazan, the director of stage and film productions of A Streetcar Named Desire, and the road stage productions. real, cat on a hot tin roof, and sweet bird of youth. Kazan also directed Williams’ film Baby Doll. Like many of his works, Baby Doll was both praised and denounced for its raw subject matter in a direct and realistic manner.
The 1960s were perhaps the most difficult for Williams, as he experienced some of the harshest treatment from the press. in 1961 he wrote the night of the iguana, and in 1963 the milk train no longer stops here. His works, which had long been criticized for openly addressing taboo subjects, were finding more and more detractors. Around this time, Williams’ longtime companion, Frank Merlo, died of cancer. Williams became increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs and although he continued to write, completing a book of stories and another play, he was on a downward spiral. in 1969 he was hospitalized by his brother.
After his discharge from the hospital in the 1970s, Williams wrote plays, memoirs, poems, short stories, and a novel. in 1975 he published memoirs, which detailed his life and discussed his addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as his homosexuality. In 1980 Williams wrote Clothes for a Summer Hotel, based on the life of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald just three years later, Tennessee Williams died in a New York City hotel littered with half-finished bottles of wine and pills. It was in this despair, which Williams had known so closely and about which he had written so honestly, that we can find a great man and an important body of work. His genius was in his honesty and his perseverance in telling his stories.