Tennessee Williams, UI Graduate 38BA

Prize Works: A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1955)
Pulitzer Prize: 1948 Drama, 1955 Drama

Tennesse Williams (born 1911) is an American playwright.

Tennessee WilliamsAuthor Biography - Thomas Lanier Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1911, the first son and second child of Cornelius Coffin and Edwina Dakin Williams. His mother, the daughter of a minister, was of genteel upbringing, while his father, a shoe salesman, came from a prestigious Tennessee family which included the state’s first governor and first senator. The family lived for several years in Clarksdale, Mississippi, before moving to St. Louis in 1918. At the age of 16, he encountered his first brush with the publishing world when he won third prize and received $5 for an essay, “Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?,” in Smart Set. A year later, he published “The Vengeance of Nitocris” in Weird Tales. In 1929, he entered the University of Missouri. His success there was dubious, and in 1931 he began work for a St. Louis shoe company. It was six years later when his first play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay, was produced in Memphis, in many respects the true beginning of his literary and stage career.

Building upon the experience he gained with his first production, Williams had two of his plays, Candles to the Sun and The Fugitive Kind, produced by Mummers of St. Louis in 1937. After a brief encounter with enrollment at Washington University, St. Louis, he entered the University of Iowa and graduated in 1938. As the second World War loomed over the horizon, Williams found a bit of fame when he won the Group Theater prize of $100 for American Blues and received a $1,000 grant from the Authors’ League of America in 1939. Battle of Angels was produced in Boston a year later. Near the close of the war in 1944, what many consider to be his finest play, The Glass Menagerie, had a very successful run in Chicago and a year later burst its way onto Broadway. Containing autobiographical elements from both his days in St. Louis as well as from his family’s past in Mississippi, the play won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award as the best play of the season. Williams, at the age of 34, had etched an indelible mark among the public and among his peers.

Following the critical acclaim over The Glass Menagerie, over the next eight years he found homes for A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, A Rose Tattoo, and Camino Real on Broadway. Although his reputation on Broadway continued to zenith, particularly upon receiving his first Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for Streetcar, Williams reached a larger world-wide public in 1950 when The Glass Menagerie and again in 1951 when A Streetcar Named Desire were made into motion pictures. Williams had now achieved a fame few playwrights of his day could equal.

Over the next thirty years, dividing his time between homes in Key West, New Orleans, and New York, his reputation continued to grow and he saw many more of his works produced on Broadway and made into films, including such works as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (for which he earned a second Pulitzer Prize in 1955), Orpheus Descending, and Night of the Iguana. There is little doubt that as a playwright, fiction writer, poet, and essayist, Williams helped transform the contemporary idea of the Southern literature. However, as a Southerner he not only helped to pave the way for other writers, but also helped the South find a strong voice in those auspices where before it had only been heard as a whisper. Williams died on February 24, 1983, at the Hotel Elysée in New York City.

Written by Eric W. Cash, The Mississippi Writers Page
Photo by Yousuf Karsh on the website of the National Gallery of Australia.

Learn More About Tennesse William's Prize Winning Works:

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1955)
by Tennessee Williams

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof CoverBook Description
Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning play has captured both stage and film audiences since its debut in 1954. One of his best-loved and most famous plays, it exposes the lies plaguing the family of a wealthy Southern planter of humble origins.

Browse The Book
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
(Taken from Amazon.com)

Editorial Reviews
View editorial reviews from From School Library Journal, and The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature. Read the reviews >>

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Quotes - Below are some quotes from the play.

BIG DADDY: What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?...There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity...You can smell it. It smells like death.

BRICK: You said it yourself Big Daddy, mendacity is a system we live in.

Listen to a clip from the movie ...
"What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?...
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A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)
by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire CoverBook Description
Published in 1949 by John Lehman. The basis of the 1951 film (winner of three Academy Awards) starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, Williams's play is one of the works by which 20th-century America defines itself. First English edition of this landmark, Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, featuring Williams's riveting creations.

Browse the book: Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
(Taken from Amazon.com)

Editorial Reviews
View editorial reviews from From School Library Journal, and The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature. Read the reviews >>

Read reviews by people who've read the book. Read the reviews >>

Quotes - Below are some quotes from this play.

BLANCHE: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

BLANCHE: Death, is the opposite of desire.

BLANCHE: The first time I laid eyes on him I thought to myself, that man is my executioner!

STANLEY: We've had this date with each other from the beginning!

BLANCHE: I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body! All those deaths! The long parade to the graveyard! Father, Mother! Margaret, that dreadful way!

Listen to a clip from A Streetcar Named Desire
"Hey Stella!!!!"
(122K)
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Bibliography - Tennessee William

Plays (chronological order)

Beauty Is the Word (1930)
Cairo! Shanghai! Bombay! (1935)
Candles to the Sun (1936)
The Magic Tower (1936)
Fugitive Kind (1937)
Spring Storm (1937)
Summer at the Lake (1937)
The Palooka (1937)
The Fat Man's Wife (1938)
Not about Nightingales (1938)
Adam and Eve on a Ferry (1939)
Battle of Angels (1940)
The Long Goodbye (1940)
Auto Da Fé (1941)
The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (1941)
At Liberty (1942)
The Pink Room (1943)
The Gentleman Callers (Screenplay) (1944)
The Glass Menagerie (1944)
You Touched Me (1945)
Moony's Kid Don't Cry (1946)
This Property is Condemned (1946)
Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton (1946)
Portait of a Madonna (1946)
The Last of My Solid Gold Watches (1947)
Stairs to the Roof (1947)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) *Pulitzer Prize Winner
Summer and Smoke (1948)
I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix (1951)
The Rose Tattoo (1951)
Camino Real (1953)
Hello from Bertha (1954)
Lord Byron's Love Letter (1955) - libretto
Three Players of a Summer Game (1955)
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955) *Pulitzer Prize Winner
The Dark Room (1956)
The Case of the Crushed Petunias (1956)
Baby Doll (1956) - original screenplay
Orpheus Descending (1957)
Suddenly, Last Summer (1958)
A Perfect Anaysis Given by a Parrot (1958)
Garden District (1958)
Something Unspoken (1958)
Sweet Bird of Youth (1959)
The Purification (1959)
And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens (1959)
The Purification (1959)
Period of Adjustment (1960)
The Night of the Iguana (1961)
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963)
The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1964)
Grand (1964)
Slapstick Tragedy (The Mutilated and The Gnädiges Fräulein) (1966)
The Mutilated (1967)
Kingdom of Earth / Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968)
Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws (1969)
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969)
Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis? (1969)
I Can't Imagine Tomorrow (1970)
The Frosted Glass Coffin (1970)
Out Cry (1973)
Small Craft Warnings (1972)
The Two-Character Play (1973)
The Red Devil Battery Sign (1975)
Demolition Downtown (1976)
This Is (An Entertainment) (1976)
Vieux Carré (1977)
Tiger Tail (1978)
Kirche, Kŭche und Kinder (1979)
Creve Coeur (1979)
Lifeboat Drill (1979)
Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980)
The Chalky White Substance (1980)
This is Peaceable Kingdom/Good Luck God
Steps Must be Gentle (1980)
The Notebook of Trigorin (1980)
Something Cloudy, Something Clear (1981)
A House Not Meant to Stand (1982)
The One Exception (1983)

Novels

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950)
Moise and the World of Reason (1975)
The Bag People

Short Stories

Hard Candy: a Book of Stories (1959)
Three Players of a Summer Game and Other Stories (1960)
The Knightly Quest: a Novella and Four Short Stories (1966)
One Arm and Other Stories (1967)
Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed: a Book of Stories (1974)
It Happened the day the Sun Rose, and Other Stories (1981)

Poetry

In the Winter of Cities: Poems (1956)
Androgyne, Mon Amour: Poems (1977)

External Links On Tennessee Williams

Booksfactory article

A photograph of Tennessee Williams by Yousuf Karsh on the website of the National Gallery of Australia.

1985 audio interview with Dotson Raider, friend and biographer of Tennessee Williams. Interview by Don Swaim of CBS Radio - RealAudio

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, New Orleans - Literary Festival

For Further Reading

Tennessee Williams by Philip C. Kolin (1998); The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto (1997); Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams by Lyle Leverich (1995); Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan by B. Murphy (1992); The Faces of Eve by G.R. Kataria (1992); A Streetcar Named Desire by T.P. Adler (1990); Tennessee Williams. A Study of the Short Fiction by D.P. Vannatta (1988); Tennessee Williams, ed. by H. Bloom (1987); Tennessee Williams by R. Boxill (1987); Tennessee Williams's Plays by J.J. Thompson (1987); Tennessee Williams by H. Rasky (1986); Conversations with Tennessee Williams, ed. by A.J. Devlin (1986); The Kindness of Strangers by D. Spoto (1985); The Glass Menagerie by R.B. Parker (1983); Tennessee Williams by F.H. Londré (1979); Tennessee Williams and Film by M. Yacowar (1977); Tennessee Williams by B. Nelson (1961)