Tennessee Williams (1911-83) was arguably the greatest American playwright of the 20th century. Yet Williams also exerted a profound influence on American cinema. Film adaptations of his plays, with their controversial explorations of family, class and sexuality, pushed the boundaries of topics that could be addressed on screen.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26, Washington University in St. Louis will pay homage to this former student — who spent his formative years in St. Louis — with a free screening, in 35mm, of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
“The film adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ works made theater accessible to mass audiences across the country,” said Richard Chapman, senior lecturer in Film & Media Studies in Arts & Sciences.
“People who couldn’t attend Broadway or major city productions could now experience Williams’ art in the hinterlands — on the big screen, featuring stars like Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor — in film adaptations that were faithful to the source material.
“The resulting popularization of ‘theater-to-film’ became a magnet for major directors like Elia Kazan,” Chapman said, “and thrust Williams’ stage work into the glamorous arena of Hollywood.”
Presented by Film & Media Studies and the Washington University Libraries, the screening takes place in Brown Hall, Room 100, and comes as part of the university’s Tennessee Williams Birthday Bash. A birthday reception, attended by the playwright’s niece, Francesca Williams, will immediately follow in Brown Lounge.
Both the screening and the reception are free and open to the public. For more information, visit fms.artsci.wustl.edu.