A series of letters between Elia Kazan and William Tennessee – Jason Li 10L

Elia Kazan
New York
October 19, 1950

William Tennessee
235 E. 56th Street
New York, NY

Dear William Tennessee,

I just wanted to thank you for granting me permission to adapt your masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire into film. I have decided to cast the original cast of the play for my film except I will replace Jessica Tandy with Vivien Leigh for Blanche Dubois. I think she will be more suited for the role owing to her acting experience.

I am writing to inform you on the changes to the original script I am forced to make. As you may know the Hays Code confines what I am allowed to show on film so several changes will have to be made. The most obvious changes that will have to be made are Allan’s mental state, the ending and the rape of Blanche.

My film will have Stella leave Stanley and never return as punishment for Stanley’s actions which should be accepted by the Christian community. Allan will no longer be what he is in your play but Vivien will say that she found him disgusting because he wrote poems and causing his suicide. Blanche will also never be raped by Stanley but he will still have her sent to a mental institution.

I regret having to make these changes to the script but they are necessary. Without them the movie will never be approved and the Catholic Legion of Decency would definitely condemn the film and I may lose money.

Yours Sincerely,
Elia Kazan

Tennessee Williams
235 E. 56th Street
New York, NY
October 26, 1950

Elia Kazan
New York

Dear Elia Kazan,

Thank you for informing me about the changes you intend to make to my original play. The changes you propose are
absurd. None of your changes can make it into your film. I wrote this play to raise questions about society and should have a large impact. It can’t be reduced to a soap opera.

Stella returning to Stanley even after he rapes and has Blanche sent to a mental institution is meant to highlight her dependence on him. This is intended to ask the audience if women in our society really depend on the men and also raise awareness to unpunished crime. Your proposal to make Stella leave Stanley forever in the film is out of the question. An ending like that would render the story meaningless. I am also aware that Allan may not be accepted by the public because of his desires but to have him suicide for writing poems is nonsense. What could Blanche find disgusting about poetry? If anything she would be impressed.

A Streetcar Named Desire cannot have a different storyline and Blanche being raped is especially important. It is one of the events in the play that absolutely has to happen for the story to make any sense. I wanted to reveal that the forces behind our society are complicated and it is frightening how much the women seem to depend on the men. It seems as if what motivates our society is money or sexual satisfaction when it should be compassion or something less selfish. I spent countless hours writing a play with deep concepts and you want to reduce it to a something without any meaning?

Mr. Kazan my play cannot possibly have a different narrative. I implore you, create a film based on my original play and give audiences a strong message. Don’t reduce my play to just another movie held back by production codes and the audiences.

Yours Sincerely,
William Tennessee

Elia Kazan
New York
February 12, 1951

William Tennessee
235 E. 56th Street
New York, NY

Dear William Tennessee,

Thank you for your previous letter. I read it before filming the movie and I am sorry but I could not film the original script. Your suggestion that I do not change anything would have caused me to lose my career and likely be in debt for the rest of my life.

The film is now in the editing process and I have gone ahead with Stella leaving her husband forever and not mentioning Allan true nature but rather have Blanche find him disgusting for writing poems. You may be glad to hear that I have not removed the rape of Blanche but it will be suggested with Stanley carrying her off into another room.

I hope that you understand that I had no choice other than to go ahead with the changes. If I had filmed your original play the Legion of Decency would definitely give it a ‘C’ rating so no Christian will ever watch the film. Then how would I have fed my children let alone continue making films if I go bankrupt.

Yours Sincerely,
Elia Kazan

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The Legion of Decency Must Go- Jason Li 10L

An opinion piece for the New York Times set in 1951 and shortly after the release of A Streetcar Named Desire.

SEP. 27. 1951

The film adaptation of William Tennessee’s A Streetcar Named Desire has recently come out and is nothing short of disappointing. Anybody who has ever seen William Tennessee’s play will notice differences between the two versions. I too along with almost everybody in the theatre was surprised at how much was changed. As a film director it was glaringly obvious as to how the film was heavily cut. Dialogue felt out of place and it didn’t even feel like the same play. Censorship is dangerous and can destroy creativity and art.

The censorship of A Streetcar Named Desire was obviously due to The Catholic Legion of Decency. People go unpunished for crime all the time and yet The Catholic Legion of Decency attempts to censor films which go against their own narrow beliefs such as unpunished crime and threaten movie producers with condemnation of their films. Not only is censorship unnecessary it is only used for personal gain and is highly exploitable. The Catholic Legion of Decency believe that many great films such as The Dolly Sisters, West of the Divide and now A Streetcar Named Desire are unacceptable  and are either condemned or forced to make heavy cuts.

The Hays Code and Catholic Legion of Decency forced A Streetcar Named Desire into completely changing the ending and cutting out many lines of dialogue. This destroyed all the impact and creative ideas of the original play. Instead of Stella returning to her husband Stanley and raising questions about if we are so dependent on males in our society Stella leaves him never to return and the ending becomes cliché and ordinary. Music played when Stella walks down a staircase was also changed from sensuous to mournful. This is a shocking change as the meaning of the scene becomes completely different. Stella being portrayed as strongly attracted to Stanley in the original now makes her appear sad which is wrong. Instead of respecting the creative thoughts, ideas and music behind the original play they paid no respect to the creator’s thoughts and simply forced producers to censor the film heavily against their free will; something that Christians believe to be of utmost importance. I wonder why their God does not interfere with a criminal’s free will but can’t allow film directors to film what they want.

Censorship is another way for people such as the Catholic Legion of Decency to achieve their goals of spreading their beliefs. Much of the censorship of A Streetcar Named Desire was because of contradictions between themes of the play and Christian beliefs. They foolishly believe that unpunished crimes are unacceptable disregarding the fact that these are present in our everyday lives. Much like in many totalitarian regimes the Catholics are using the method of censoring texts and films in an attempt to control what we think. By burning books in Hitler’s Nazi Germany the public were only able to access a limited amount of information. This is a repeat of the same situation. By censoring what they disapprove of the public can slowly be turned to believe their gospel.

The films that we make are being torn apart by people who know nothing of film. Are we really going to sit back, relax and let our precious work be destroyed? Censorship can remove all meaning from our films and we are allowing it.  We are not prisoners and this is not our imprisonment. We are the directors and this is our freedom. The Legion of Decency does not control what we film. We control what we film. We can’t allow the Legion of Decency to sit back and command us. The Legion of Decency must go.

-Jason Li

An Essay into Evil and Love, David Liu

The intensity of love has long been an establishment in poetry: poets may use language and rhythm to twist meaning and to evoke a more personal outcry to the reader. However, on comparison, it becomes prevalent that not all love poems  necessarily convey the same message to readers: love is a subject that is pure, abstract and differing; it is so wide in its ramifications that the poems can fall under extraordinarily different categories. Therefore, although “Havisham” and “The laboratory” both seem at a glance, to be about the ruthlessness of love, and about the corruption of goodwill towards evil,  the protagonists are determined to accomplish their feats of evil in different natures: the unnamed narrator in “Havisham” is deranged, and is severely influenced by her lover’s abandonment, blames him dor leaving her, and consequently seeks the psychological benefits of the wish to kill. However, the woman in “The Laboratory” is more poised, more self-willed to achieve her aims: unlike the other woman, she is still young, determined, jealous of the woman who took her husband away, so that she strives to kill the other woman, and not her husband. Ultimately, it is  the capability of the two women to enforce death from their love of their husbands  that provides the startling difference.

At first, “Havisham” seems to be a mass of contradictions: the narrator aptly switches between different words, which are opposite to each other, so we could observe her undying love towards her lover, even through the hate that has left her bound to her bed over his betrayal: this is expressed, even from the first three words: “Beloved husband bastard”. Quickly, Ann Duffy is bringing us to two completely different points: this continues, as she prays for his death, “so hard I’ve green pebbles for eyes”. Clearly, the narrator is disintegrating, decaying into a being that lacks the will to live: she is still left behind at the moment of her marriage: she still wears the yellowing wedding dress, the good memory completely tainted, but still grasping onto it, still living in the past. But still, the love is shown yet again, as the reader is uncomfortably introduced to what may well be the narrator’s insanity: the narrator states that she sleeps comfortably on some nights, nights in which  she hallucinates, and sees

“the lost body over me,
my fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear
then down till I suddenly bite awake”,

As this excerpt demonstrates, the narrator is still clinging onto the memory of her husband, although she herself also has a powerful desire to kill him, for a “long slow honeymoon” with the corpse. Ann Duffy is implying that love and hatred can sometimes be intertwined; while the narrator wishes her husband’s death, thinking him responsible for her present state, she also, paradoxically, cannot live without him.

In “The Laboratory”, the same fundamental concepts are present: In this more light-hearted poem, Browning expresses the coldness of the narrator, whose husband had left for another woman, underscoring the link between the poems. However, it is also clear that the woman in this poem is less dependent on her husband: she is jealous of the other woman, and wishes her demise, but witnesses the husband as less responsible: he was enticed away from her because she was the more beautiful; the narrator imagines, in a moment of fancy, that the two of them are laughing at her, in a tone of bitterness that implies that she now has no love towards her husband. There are more suggestions in the poem: the narrator takes action, to kill the woman who drives her husband away, instead of contemplating about the husband’ s death: she also wants both the husband and the wife to experience the ramifications of the wife’s death, ensuring that the chemist produces a poison that does not “spare her the pain/to let death be felt and proof remain”, so that the husband, undoubtedly shaken by the death, will “remember her dying face!” That was the entire point of her madness, as suggested by Browning, to condemn the husband’s actions, but to mainly create unimaginable suffering and havoc on the wife, who would undoubtedly die a slow death. It is for that that she reaps her wealth on the chemist, her willingness for human suffering turning into a profound sense of pleasure, as she looks forward to the next time she and her husband meet.

While both texts convey the desire to commit evil, the attitude of the two women are different and profound, not only because the women strive to kill different people involved in the relationship: the woman in “Havisham” desperately grasps on the memory of her husband, from wearing the wedding dress, and derives pleasure from both the wish to kill her husband, and also from his body, from his exterior, since she cannot forgive his soul, and blames him for leaving her, not the other woman: hence, she has no wish to kill the other woman in the poem. Conversely, the woman in “The Laboratory” is much younger, and is under the grasp of vengeance for her husband leaving her: it is, however, unlikely that  she has any emotional feeling remaining: she understands that he left her simply because the other woman was more beautiful, and seeks to punish the other woman for enforcing the husband to leave, but still asks for his suffering.

Love is like a torch, Edward Jin 10M

Love is like a torch,
The more you play,
The worse you burn,
The less you want,
To play

Lance Box, 6C1, 1974

Love is like a torch,
It’s bright, blindingly bright
You have to turn your face away.
But the sight, it’s a wonderful sight
you can’t help but turn back,
You can’t help but look
At the light that you’ve always chased

Edward Jin, 10M, 2015