Study Guide

Tennessee Williams Plays & Screenplays

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Plays & Screenplays

After a stay in New Orleans, Williams spent a year in New York working odd jobs as a bellhop, an elevator operator, and a movie theater usher.

Regardless of your opinion on the guy, there's no denying he would've had one crazy LinkedIn profile. 

In 1943, he received some devastating news. In an attempt to cure Rose's worsening schizophrenia, Williams's parents consented to have a lobotomy performed on their daughter. The controversial surgery, in which the frontal lobes of the brain are sliced in an effort to relieve the symptoms of mental illness, was relatively new and was often performed crudely and incorrectly. 

After the procedure was done, the worst of Rose's symptoms disappeared, but so did most of her personality. She remained in a dreamy, half-conscious state for the rest of her life. Williams never forgave his parents for allowing Rose to have the operation.

By this time, Williams had found an agent named Audrey Wood, who nurtured him throughout his career. She found Williams a job as a screenwriter for the Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie studios.

Wow. Audrey got things done. Maybe we should be writing a biography about her instead...

Williams moved to Los Angeles to start work on a script for MGM about a troubled Southern family. The studio rejected his script but allowed him to keep the rights to the story. He decided to adapt it into a stage play. And so, on December 26th, 1944, The Glass Menagerie premiered in Chicago to outstanding reviews.

The play is the most autobiographical of all of Williams's works. It centers on the Wingfield family, with its overbearing Southern mother, Amanda, mentally fragile daughter, Laura, and angry, suffocated son, Tom. 

Sound familiar?

For Williams, being able to write freed him from the dysfunction that plagued his own family. "To me it has been providential to be an artist, a great act of providence that I was able to turn my borderline psychosis into creativity," Williams told an interviewer years later. "My sister Rose did not manage this."

For what it's worth, we think the only accident of nature here is the fact Awesome Agent Audrey didn't get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Audrey Wood: the real MVP of this story. 

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