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Tennessee Williams’ South

Tennessee Williams’ South is an 80 minute documentary filmed in 1973. It’s comprised of candid interviews with Williams talking mostly about how the south influenced his writing.  The interviews take place in New Orleans and Key West, two southern places he called home.

In between takes, there are dramatizations of scenes from some of his plays, including The Glass Menagerie, Night of the Iguana, Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. With really no introductions, other than being the play TW is talking about right before the scene, those not familiar with his work may not know which play each scene is from.  The most notable are Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois in Streetcar, and Burl Ives reprising his role as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

What really outshines these skits is TW’s reading of poems, mostly his own, and a few monologues from his plays. He appears slightly intoxicated in some parts, and I’m sure he was, but his deep mellow dialect is just soothing to listen to. He does not have that Southern twang, but he easily convinces you that the South runs deep in his blood. He even says the traditional southern dialect evolved from “Blacks” and that he has often thought of himself as black.

Very few biographical elements are shared, but like I said, what is shared is very candid and from TW himself. The scene where he talks about Laura from Glass Menagerie being based on his sister Rose is treated with hesitancy and almost brings him to tears.  TW also briefly discusses his childhood, his family, and various other topics.

Having previously searched YouTube for clips of interviews and such just to get a feel for how he sounded, I found this DVD to be quite wonderful. TW is so humorous and quite the storyteller. I felt an immediate connection to him and would have loved this documentary to have been even longer.

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