Wish American playwright Tennessee Williams a happy birthday this week. Born on March 26, 1911, Williams spent much of his youth in Missouri and went on to win two Pultizer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics’ Circle awards for his plays.
Best known for his drama, Williams won his Pulitzer Prizes for the plays, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out, Plays – a massive two-volume collection of his dramatic writing from 1937-1980.
Williams also wrote several books of short stories and two novels. Grab Collected Stories to peruse over fifty of his stories, some of which are original studies for his plays. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, his first novel written in 1950, depicts an aging actress in Italy.
For a tell-all about the life of Tennessee Williams, pick up his Memoirs. Published in 1975, Williams writes about his childhood in Missouri, his addictions, his celebrity friends, his love life, and more. Or you might like Williams’s Notebooks, edited and annotated by Margaret Bradham Thorton, which reproduces his journals from 1936 to 1981.
If biographies are more your style, check out The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto. This critical biography provides an accessible and readable account of Williams’s work and life.
Films based on his work
Many of Tennessee Williams’s plays have been made into films. Witness the power of his drama in these movies:
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh
- Baby Doll (1956) starring Karl Malden and Carroll Baker
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor
- Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn
- This Property is Condemned (1966) starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford
- The Glass Menagerie (1973) starring Katharine Hepburn
- The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003) starring Helen Mirren
Angela Kille is a librarian at the Kansas City Public Library.