- Tennessee Williams
name = Tennessee Williams
caption = Williams in 1965.
birthdate = birth date|1911|3|26|mf=y
birthplace = Colombus,
deathdate = death date and age|1983|2|24|1911|3|26|mf=y
deathplace = New York, New York
occupation = Playwright
period = 1930-1983
Anton Chekhov, D. H. Lawrence, August Strindberg, Hart Crane
Stephen Chbosky[Beisch, Ann. [http://www.layouth.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Issue&action=IssueArticle&aid=1393&nid=19 "Interview with Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower"] , LA Youth, November-December 2001. Retrieved on 2007- 07-10.]
Thomas Lanier Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983), better known as Tennessee Williams, was a major American playwright who received many of the top theatrical awards. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to "Tennessee," the state of his father's birth. He won the
Pulitzer Prize for Dramafor "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1948 and for " Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 1955. In addition, " The Glass Menagerie" (1945) and " The Night of the Iguana" (1961) received New York Drama Critics' CircleAwards. His 1952 play " The Rose Tattoo" received the Tony Awardfor best play.
He was born in
Columbus, Mississippi, in the home of his maternal grandfather, the local Episcopal rector. The home is now the Mississippi Welcome Center and tourist office for the city. Williams' middle name, Lanier, indicates his family's Virginia connections to the artistic family from England.
By the time Thomas was three, the family had moved to
Clarksdale, Mississippi. At five, he was diagnosed with a paralytic disease. It caused his legs to be paralyzed for nearly two years but his mother encouraged him to make up stories and read. She gave him a typewriter when he was 13.Fact|date=February 2007
His father Cornelius Williams was a traveling salesman who became increasingly abusive as his children grew older. The father often favored Tennessee's brother Dakin, perhaps because of Tennessee's illness and extended weakness and convalescence as a child. Tennessee's mother Edwina Dakin Williams had aspirations as a genteel southern lady and was smothering. She may have had a mood disorder.
In 1918, when Williams was seven, the family moved again, this time to
St. Louis, Missouri. In 1927, at 16, Williams won third prize (five dollars) for an essay published in " Smart Set" entitled, "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?" A year later, he published "The Vengeance of Nitocris" in "Weird Tales".
In the early 1930s Williams attended the
University of Missouri, where he joined Alpha Tau Omegafraternity. His fraternity brothers dubbed him "Tennessee" for his rich southern drawl. In the late 1930s, Williams transferred to Washington Universityin St. Louis, Missourifor a year, and finally earned a degree from the University of Iowain 1938. By then, Williams had written "Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay!". This work was first performed in 1935 at 1780 Glenview in Memphis.
Tennessee Williams found inspiration in his problematic family for much of his writing.
Williams lived for a time in the
French Quarterof New Orleans, Louisiana. He moved there in 1939 to write for the WPA. He first lived at 722 Toulouse Street, the setting of his 1977 play Vieux Carré. The building is part of [http://www.hnoc.org/visit/buildings_louisadams.php The Historic New Orleans Collection] . He began writing "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947) while living at 632 St. Peter Street. He finished it later in Key West, Florida, where he moved in the 1940s.
Tennessee was close to his sister Rose, a slim beauty who was diagnosed with
schizophreniaat a young age. As was common then, Rose was institutionalized and spent most of her adult life in mental hospitals. When therapies were unsuccessful, she showed more paranoid tendencies. In an effort to treat her, Rose's parents authorized a prefrontal lobotomy, a drastic treatment that was thought to help some mental patients who suffered extreme agitation. Performed in 1937 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the operation made Rose incapacitated for the rest of her life.
Williams never forgave his parents. Her surgery may have contributed to his
alcoholismand his dependence on various combinations of amphetaminesand barbituratesoften prescribed by Dr. Max (Feelgood) Jacobson. ["The Kindess of Strangers", Spoto] They may have shared a genetic vulnerability, as Williams also suffered from depression.
Williams' relationship with Frank Merlo, a second generation Sicilian American who had served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, lasted from 1947 until Merlo's death from cancer in 1961. With that stability, Williams created his most enduring works. Merlo provided balance to many of Williams' frequent bouts with depression [Jeste ND, Palmer BW, Jeste DV. Tennessee Williams. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2004 Jul-Aug;12(4):370-5. PMID: 15249274 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed&cmd=search&term=15249274] ] and the fear that, like his sister Rose, he would go insane.
Tennessee Williams died at the age of 72 after he choked on an eyedrop bottle cap in his room at the
Hotel Elyseein New York. He would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/31/specials/williams-choked.html Suzanne Daley (27.2.1983). Williams Choked on a Bottle Cap.] " The New York Times" (engl.; abgerufen 27. Mai 2007)] His brother Dakin and some friends believed he was murdered. The police report, however, suggested his use of drugs and alcohol contributed to his death. Many prescription drugs were found in the room. Williams' gag response may have been diminished by the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Williams' funeral took place on Saturday March 3, 1983 at St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church in New York City. Williams' body was interred in the
Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. Williams had long told his friends he wanted to be buried at sea at approximately the same place as the poet Hart Crane, as he considered Crane to be one of his most significant influences.
Tennessee Williams left his literary rights to
Sewanee, The University of the Southin honor of his grandfather, Walter Dakin, an alumnus of the university. It is located in Sewanee, Tennessee. The funds support a creative writing program. When his sister Rose died after many years in a mental institution, she bequeathed over 50 million dollars from her part of the Williams estate to Sewanee, The University of the Southas well.
In 1989, the City of St. Louis inducted Tennessee Williams into its
St. Louis Walk of Fame.
The "mad heroine" theme that appeared in many of his plays seemed clearly influenced by the life of Williams' sister Rose.Fact|date=February 2007Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in "
The Glass Menagerie" was understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBoisin "A Streetcar Named Desire" is also based on her, as well as Williams himself. When Williams wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire", he believed he was going to die and that this play would be his swan song.Fact|date=August 2008
Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" was generally seen to represent Williams' mother. Characters such as Tom Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" and Sebastian in "Suddenly, Last Summer" were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy operation as a motif in "
Suddenly, Last Summer".
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar named Desire" both included references to elements of Williams' life such as homosexuality, mental instability and alcoholism.
Williams wrote "The Parade, or Approaching the End of a Summer" when he was 29 and worked on it through his life. It seemed an autobiographical depiction of an early romance in
Provincetown, Massachusetts. This play was produced for the first time on October 1, 2006 in Provincetown by the Shakespeare on the Capeproduction company, as part of the First Annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival.
Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis?" and "The Parade, or Approaching the End of a Summer" were among several works published by New Directionsin the spring of 2008.The collection of experimental plays was titled " The Traveling Companion and Other Plays".
Williams' last play
A House Not Meant to Standis a gothic comedy published in 2008 by New Directionswith a foreword by Gregory Mosher and an introduction by Thomas Keith. Williams called his last play a "Southern gothic spook sonata."
hort stories by Tennessee Williams
The Vengeance of Nitocris" (1928)
The Field of Blue Children" (1939)
The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin" (1951)
* "" (1954)
Three Players of a Summer Game and Other Stories" (1960)
* "" (1966)
One Arm and Other Stories" (1967)
* "" (1974)
Tent Worms" (1980)
It Happened the day the Sun Rose, and Other Stories" (1981)
One-Act Collections by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams wrote over 70 one-act plays during his lifetime. The one-acts explored many of the same themes that dominated his longer works. Williams' major collections are published by
New Directionsin New York City.
Mister Paradise and Other One-Act Plays
Dragon Country: a book of one-act plays
The Traveling Companion and Other Plays
27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Plays
The Theatre of Tennessee Williams, Volume VI
The Theatre of Tennessee Williams, Volume VII
* Gussow, Mel and Holditch, Kenneth, eds. "Tennessee Williams, Plays 1937-1955" (
Library of America, 2000) ISBN 978-1-88301186-4.
* Gussow, Mel and Holditch, Kenneth, eds. "Tennessee Williams, Plays 1957-1980" (
Library of America, 2000) ISBN 978-1-88301187-1.
*Williams' work has had a great influence on the British band
The The: for example, "Sweet Bird of Truth" is a track on their album "Infected"; the track "August and September" on the album " Mind Bomb" starts with the lines "Suddenly last summer/I started going out of my head."
Gore Vidalrefers to Williams as the "Glorious Bird" when he met him in Rome after World War II. He noted the image of "the bird is everywhere in his work" [cite book|author=Vidal, Gore |title=Palimpsest |publisher=Random House, New York (1995)]
*The rock band
Manic Street Preachersreferred to Williams in a song called "Tennessee," included in their debut album " Generation Terrorists".
*The American indie rock band The National refer to William's
Cat on a Hot Tin Roofin their song "City Middle" on their album "Alligator", in the following excerpt::"I think I'm like Tennessee Williams:I wait for the click:I wait, but it doesn't kick in"
*Contemporary rock band
The Strokespresumably refer to Williams in the opening song to their 2003 album "Room on Fire":
:"Oh, Tennessee, what did you write?:I come together in the middle of the night."
*Country music singer
Don Williamsreferred to Williams in his 1980 hit, "Good Ole Boys Like Me," penned by Bob McDill:
:"I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees:And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me:Hank and Tennessee:I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be"
*The eighth episode of the
HBOdrama series " The Sopranos" is entitled " The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti." The title refers to the character Christopher Moltisanti's struggles with his aspirations as a screenwriter. At one point during the episode, Christopher's girlfriend Adriana La Cervarefers to him as "my Tennessee William [sic] ."
* In an episode of Canadian sitcom "Corner Gas", "Bean There", Wanda suggests that she's a better team player than Hank, who "chokes like Tennessee Williams on a bottle cap."
Elton Johnrefers to Williams on his 1995 album "Made In England" with a lyric in the song "Lies", and again on his autobiographical 2006 album, " The Captain and The Kid" with a lyric in the song " Old '67":
:"I could be great like Tennessee Williams:If I could only hear something that sounds like the truth"
:"Laughin' about how the two of us sound:Like a Tennessee Williams play"
* Pam Tillis references Williams in her song "Maybe It Was Memphis":"Read about you in a Faulkner novel":"Met you once in a Williams play":"Heard about you in a country love song":"Summer night beauty took my breath away."
* In an episode of The Simpsons, Marge stars as Blanche Dubois in a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire.
* In the season finale of "One Tree Hill" season 2, Lucas Scott quotes Tennessee Williams as the episode ends.
* An award-winning stage comedy entitled "The Glass Mendacity" spoofs and combines Williams' three famous plays: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "The Glass Menagerie", and "A Streetcar Named Desire".
*Actress Angelina Jolie has a tattoo on her right forearm that is a Tennessee Williams quote; "A prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages."
Lanier family tree
Virginia Spencer Carr, friend and biographer of Williams
*Gross, Robert F., ed. "Tennessee Williams: A Casebook." Routledge (2002). ISBN 0-8153-3174-6.
* Leverich, Lyle. "Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams". W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (1997). ISBN 0-393-31663-7.
*Saddik, Annette. "The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams' Later Plays" (London: Associated University Presses, 1999).
* Spoto, Donald. "The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams". Da Capo Press (Reprint, 1997). ISBN 0-306-80805-6.
* Williams, Tennessee. "Memoirs". Doubleday (1975). ISBN 0-385-00573-3.
* Williams, Dakin. "His Brother's Keeper: The Life and Murder of Tennessee Williams".
Sewanee, The University of the South
* [http://www.ndpublishing.com/ New Directions Publishing Corporation]
* [http://www.dramatists.com/ Dramatists Play Service, Inc.]
* [http://www.niox.co.uk/education/quotes/search.php?criteria=tennessee Tennessee Williams Quotations] - an interactive quotes database which comprises a lot of quotes from Tennessee Williams.
* [http://www.monologuesearch.com/authors/Tennessee_Williams Monologues by Tennessee Williams] at Monologue Search
* [http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Streetcar.html#streetcar A Streetcar Named Desire: Study Guide]
* [http://www.blogcharm.com/geekygirllit/ Biography, summaries, and quotes from important works like Glass Menagerie and Streetcar]
* [http://sargentportraits.com/professionals/tennessee2.htm Portrait of Tennessee Williams by Margaret Holland Sargent]
* [http://www.booksfactory.com/writers/williams.htm Booksfactory] article.
* [http://www.nga.gov.au/Exhibition/KarshShmith/Detail.cfm?IRN=49399 A photograph of Tennessee Williams] by
Yousuf Karshon the website of the National Gallery of Australia.
* [http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/tenessee-williams.html Williams' Entry] on the St. Louis Walk of Fame
* [http://wiredforbooks.org/dotsonraider/ 1985 audio interview with Dotson Raider, friend and biographer of Tennessee Williams. Interview by Don Swaim of CBS Radio - RealAudio]
* [http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/ Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival]
* [http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0215102/tennesseewilliams.htm Tennessee Williams biography]
* [http://www.berkeleyrep.org/HTML/Season0203/SLS_programnotes.html Berkeley Repertory Theatre: "Suddenly Last Summer"]
* [http://www.americantheatrewing.org/seminars/detail/interpreting_tennessee_williams_04_05/ Interpreting Tennessee Williams] - "Working in the Theatre Seminar" video at American Theatre Wing.org, April 2005
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/neworleans/index.html "American Experience" on PBS] . Tennessee Williams is featured in this documentary about New Orleans first aired February 12, 2007.
* [http://www.hnoc.org/publications/publications-journals.php Tennessee Williams Annual Review] Journal published both electronically and in print by The Historic New Orleans Collection
* [http://home.earthlink.net/%7Efmdscrittore/tennmuse.html "Tennessee and The Roman Muse: Tennessee Williams, his Time in Rome and his Friendship with Anna Magnani"]
* [http://www.familysearch.org/ENG/Search/prf/individual_record.asp?recid=1261052888 FamilySearch: Samuel Taylor Geer's Pedigree Resource File - Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams]
* [http://purl.oclc.org/umarchives/MUM00482/ Tennessee Williams Collection (MUM00482)] owned by the University of Mississippi Department of Archives and Special Collections.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.