Tennessee Williams

Literature / Writers Datebook

Brief biography of American playwright, novelist and poet Tennessee Williams. 

American writer Tennessee Williams is famous for the plays A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Glass Menagerie, among others. He is considered one of the best playwrights in the United States since the Second World War.

He wrote powerful and involved dramas that mainly deal sensitively with emotionally damaged people trying to survive in a hostile environment.   

Early Life of Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. His family lived with his grandfather where he was brought up. When he was twelve, the family moved to St. Louis. Tennessee and his sister were not happy and did not adjust to the city life. They were made fun of for their poverty and Southern accents.

When he was 18 years old, he entered the University of Missouri, but the family's lack of funds forced Williams to leave school without graduating. He eventually earned a degree in playwriting after 9 years, when he was 27.

Career as a Playwright

Williams's first play was American Blues, produced in 1939 when he was 28. His breakthrough came with The Glass Menagerie, which ran on Broadway for over a year and won him the first of his four New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards. A Streetcar Named Desire followed, with Blanche du Bois, the star of a Southern belle, whose privileged upbringing deeply conflicted with the harsh realities of life. The play won Tennessee Williams his first Pulitzer Prize. It was made into a memorable movie, as have many of his plays, some of them blockbusters with famous stars in the starring role including Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

Last Years of Williams
Williams was in poor health during the 1960s, caused by a dependence on drink and sleeping pills that led to a breakdown in 1969. He struggled to overcome his addictions. He died on February 25, 1983, aged 71.

Quoted from A Streetcar Named Desire, spoken by Blanche:

"Don't you just love these long, rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?"

Works by Tennessee Williams:

American Blues, 1939
The Glass Menagerie, 1944
Battle of Angels, 1945
A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947
Summer and Smoke, 1948
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, 1950
The Rose Tattoo, 1951
Camino Real, 1953
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1955
Suddenly Last Summer, 1958
Sweet Bird of Youth, 1959
The Night of the Iguana, 1961 

Video Credit:

Tennessee Williams. Public Domain. 

Goring, Rosemary, editor. Larousse Dictionary of Writers. New York: Larousse, 1994
McGovern, Una, editor. Chambers Biographical Dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap, 2002
Ousby, Ian. The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993

Note: This article was originally published at Suite101.com, February 11, 2009.  

(c)  Tel Asiado.  Republished for Inspired Pen Web.  All rights reserved. 

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