Who Was the Inspiration for Tennessee Williams' Tragic Southern Belle Blanche DuBois?

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28 Jul 2014

Blanche Marvin, a producer, playwright, actress and critic, claims she was the inspiration for the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire, the Telegraph reports.

Blanche DuBois was long considered to be inspired by Willaims' sister Rose, who suffered from mental health problems and eventually underwent a lobotomy.

Marvin told the Telegraph that she met Williams when he was in rehearsal for the Broadway premiere of The Glass Menagerie. The two were introduced by Margo Jones, who was directing the play, which opened in 1945.

"Tennessee fell in love with my name, which was then, Blanche Zohar," Marvin told the Telegraph. "I wasn't his muse, but it was how Tennessee worked. He would take things out of conversation and would transpose it into a play. That was the genius of the man."

"We began to talk and there was a real affinity between us. The two of us ended up crying on each other's shoulders. We got very close," she added.



Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. One of the play's most famous lines — "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers" — is spoken by Blanche DuBois. Marvin claims she inspired that line, saying, "He talked about living in hotel rooms all the time and was unhappy. He said he was always living with strangers. I said, 'I've only known kindness from strangers and so can you.'"

A Streetcar Named Desire premiered on Broadway in December 1947. The play follows fading Southern belle DuBois, who is forced to move in with her sister but finds herself tormented by her bother-in-law. It was adapted into a 1951 film starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.

It has been revived several times, the most recent Broadway production featuring Blair Underwood as Stanley and Nicole Ari Parker as Blanche. A production featuring Gillian Anderson began performances at the Young Vic July 23. It will be broadcast live from the theatre Sept. 16 to cinemas around the U.K. and the world.