Tennessee Williams

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Thomas Lanier Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983), better known by the pseudonym Tennessee Williams, was a major American playwright and one of the prominent playwrights of the twentieth century. The name "Tennessee" was a name given to him by college friends because of his southern accent and his father's background in Tennessee. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. In addition to those two plays, The Glass Menagerie in 1945 and The Night of the Iguana in 1961 received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards. His 1952 play The Rose Tattoo (dedicated to his boyfriend, Frank Merlo), received the Tony Award for best play.

Biography

He was born in Columbus, Mississippi, in the home of his maternal grandfather, the local Episcopal rector. His father, Cornelius Williams, was a traveling salesman. The family moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, by the time Thomas was three. In 1918, the family moved again to St. Louis, where he graduated from University City Senior High School.

In 1927, at the age of 16, Williams won third prize (five dollars) for an essay published in Smart Set entitled, "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?" A year later, he published "The Vengeance of Nitocris" in Weird Tales.

In the early 1930s Williams attended the University of Missouri–Columbia where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. It was there that his fraternity brothers dubbed him Tennessee for his rich southern drawl. In the late 1930s Williams transferred to Washington University for a year, eventually taking a degree from the University of Iowa in 1938. Williams moved to New Orleans, LA in 1939.

Tennessee Williams died at the age of 71 after he choked on a bottle cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. However, some, including his brother Dakin, believe he was murdered. In contrast, the police report from his death seems to indicate that drugs were involved; many prescription drugs were found in the room, and the lack of an adequate gag response that would have released the bottle cap from his throat may have been due to drug and alcohol influence.

Williams was interred in the Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, despite his stated desire to be buried at sea at approximately the same place as the poet Hart Crane, whom he considered one of his most significant influences.

In 1989, Williams was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Bibliography

Plays

Apprentice Plays

  • Candles to the Sun (1936)
  • Fugitive Kind (1937)
  • Spring Storm (1937)
  • Not about Nightingales (1938)
  • Battle of Angels (1940, rewritten in 1957 as Orpheus Descending)
  • You Touched Me (1945)
  • Stairs to the Roof (1947)

Major Plays

  • The Glass Menagerie (1944)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)
  • Summer and Smoke (1948, reworked in 1964 as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale)
  • The Rose Tattoo (1951)
  • Camino Real (1953)
  • Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
  • Sweet Bird of Youth (1959)
  • Period of Adjustment (1960)
  • The Night of the Iguana (1961)

Later Plays

  • The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963)
  • Kingdom of Earth (1968, also called The Seven Descents of Myrtle)
  • In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969)
  • Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis? (1969)
  • Small Craft Warnings (1972)
  • The Two-Character Play (1973, also called Out Cry)
  • The Red Devil Battery Sign (1975)
  • This Is (An Entertainment) (1976)
  • Vieux Carré (1977)
  • Creve Coeur (1979, also called A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur)
  • Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980)
  • The Notebook of Trigorin (1980 adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull)
  • Something Cloudy, Something Clear (1981)
  • A House Not Meant to Stand (1982)

Novels

  • The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950)
  • Moise and the World of Reason (1975)
  • The Bag People (1982)

Short Stories

  • The Vengeance of Nitocris (1928)
  • The Field of Blue Children (1939)
  • Hard Candy: a Book of Stories (1959)
  • Three Players of a Summer Game and Other Stories (1960)
  • The Knightly Quest: a Novella and Four Short Stories (1966)
  • One Arm and Other Stories (1967)
  • Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed: a Book of Stories (1974)
  • Tent Worms (1980)
  • It Happened the day the Sun Rose, and Other Stories (1981)

Other Works

  • Baby Doll (1956, screenplay; adapted for the stage in 1978 as Tiger Tail)
  • In the Winter of Cities (1956, poetry)
  • Memoirs (1975, autobiography)
  • Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977, poetry)

One-Act Plays

  • Beauty Is the Word (1930)
  • Cairo! Shanghai! Bombay! (1935)
  • The Magic Tower (1936)
  • Summer at the Lake (1937)
  • The Palooka (1937)
  • The Fat Man's Wife (1938)
  • Adam and Eve on a Ferry (1939)
  • The Parade, or Approaching the End of a Summer (1940)
  • The Long Goodbye (1940)
  • Auto Da Fé (1941)
  • The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (1941)
  • At Liberty (1942)
  • The Strangest Kind of Romance (1942)
  • Moony's Kid Don't Cry (1946)
  • This Property is Condemned (1946)
  • 27 Wagons Full of Cotton (1946)
  • Portrait of a Madonna (1946)
  • The Last of My Solid Gold Watches (1947)
  • I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix (1951)
  • Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen (1953)
  • Hello from Bertha (1954)
  • Lord Byron's Love Letter (1955, libretto)
  • The Dark Room (1956)
  • The Case of the Crushed Petunias (1956)
  • A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot (1958)
  • Garden District (1958 double bill of one-acts)
    • Suddenly, Last Summer
    • Something Unspoken
  • The Purification (1959)
  • And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens (1959)
  • Grand (1964)
  • Slapstick Tragedy (1966 double bill of one-acts)
    • The Mutilated
    • The Gnädiges Fräulein
  • Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws (1969)
  • I Can't Imagine Tomorrow (1970)
  • The Frosted Glass Coffin (1970)
  • The Demolition Downtown (1976)
  • Kirche, Kŭche und Kinder (1979)
  • Lifeboat Drill (1979)
  • The Chalky White Substance (1980)
  • This Is Peaceable Kingdom or Good Luck God (1980)
  • Steps Must be Gentle (1980)
  • The One Exception (1983)

Sources