The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams - Introduction by Robert Bray

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On December 26, 1944 while the Battle of the Bulges raged on in Belgium, Tennessee Williams paced the floor in the Civic Theatre in Chicago minutes before the first performance of The Glass Menagerie. Williams had a lot on his mind after the failure that was Battle of Angels four years ago and the mediocrity of the final rehearsals. During the four years after Battle of Angels, Williams worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a writer and worked on The Glass Menagerie in the meantime.

Right before Williams had moved to the west coast to work for MGM his sister had undergone a prefrontal lobotomy in his home of St. Louis. While working at MGM Williams kept working on Menagerie on the side and eventually he presented a screen version to MGM. A battle for screen rights ensued and after MGM lost, the play was set to open in Chicago. Right up until opening night there were complications such as Eddie Dowling and others wanting to change the script, but Williams stuck to his guns and everything worked out in his favor. The play was so well received by the Chicago audience that it was set to move to New York’s Playhouse Theatre. Eventually, the Wingfield household was well known throughout the country, especially due to the great performances of Laurette Taylor as Amanda.

Throughout his life, Tennessee Williams had been a habitué of movies and wanted to bring some of those themes into plays. Williams was especially fond of the technique called mise-en-scène where the characters move as little as possible to give them a statuesque appearance. Williams’ romantic lyricism was essentially a rebirth of European expressionism, but it was new and appealing for an American audience.

This play was a welcome change from the others that were being performed at that time. Even today, the play is still popular and draws many famous actresses including Helen Hayes, Jessica Tandy, Katharine Hepburn, and Joanne Woodward to perform it. Why is it that the play has withstood critics...
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