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Blanche DuBois

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Blanche DuBois
Jessica Tandy (left, with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) created the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and received a Tony Award
First appearanceA Streetcar Named Desire
Created byTennessee Williams
Portrayed byGillian Anderson
Tallulah Bankhead
Cate Blanchett
Blythe Danner
Gretchen Egolf
Renée Fleming
Uta Hagen
Rosemary Harris
Isabelle Huppert
Yvonne Kenny
Maria Kraakman
Jessica Lange
Vivien Leigh
Lois Nettleton
Carrie Nye
Angelica Page
Geraldine Page
Nicole Ari Parker
Maxine Peake
Natasha Richardson
Amy Ryan
Jessica Tandy
Rachel Weisz
In-universe information
OccupationHigh school English teacher
FamilyStella DuBois (sister)
Stanley Kowalski (brother-in-law)
SpouseAllan Grey (deceased)
RelativesJessie (cousin, deceased)

Blanche DuBois (married name Grey) is a fictional character in Tennessee Williams' 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Streetcar Named Desire. The character was written for Tallulah Bankhead and made popular to later audiences with Elia Kazan's 1951 film adaptation of Williams' play; A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.

Character overview[edit]

Blanche DuBois is described as an aging Southern belle who lives in a state of perpetual panic about her fading beauty and concerns about how others perceive her looks. She has an obsession with staying out of direct light, and even covers a light bulb with a paper lantern. She is desperate for attention and has a history of sexual promiscuity. She was formerly a teacher, who was fired for having an affair with one of her teenaged students.[1][2] Williams saw her as being 30 years of age.[3]

Michael Kahn, former head of Julliard's drama program and an acquaintance of Williams, described Blanche as "a moth that is fluttering too near the flame," "searching for safety."[2]


Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire

Blanche DuBois has been portrayed several times on stage and on screen. According to Kahn, "Every Blanche who played it that Tennessee saw, he would tell them that they were his favorite Blanche. Because each actress brought something different to the role than somebody else, and I think he liked that."[2]

Jessica Tandy received a Tony Award for her performance as Blanche in the original Broadway production. Uta Hagen took over the role of Blanche for the national tour, which was directed by Harold Clurman.[citation needed]

Blanche was also portrayed by Vivien Leigh in the London stage production, which was directed by her then-husband Laurence Olivier, She reprised the role in the 1951 film adaptation. The film was directed by Elia Kazan, and Leigh won her second Academy Award for this performance.[citation needed]

Tallulah Bankhead portrayed the role in 1956. Bankhead, a close friend of Williams, had been the inspiration for the role, and he wanted her to star in it. However, she was initially uninterested and the producer thought she would overpower the character's fragility. When she played the role in 1956, some critics agreed she was too strong in it, but Williams personally felt that she gave a "heroic" portrayal of the role.[4]

Geraldine Page portrayed the role in 1976 at the once celebrated Academy Festival Theatre in Lake Forest, Illinois[5] The production was directed by Jack Gelber who had been enlisted by Page's husband Rip Torn (who played Stanley) to helm the revival. The production was applauded for having the "savvy that gives the performers full stretch." According to one review, "This is not the Blanche of butterfly wings. This is gossamer with guts."[6]

Blanche has also been portrayed onstage by Kim Stanley, Ann-Margret, Arletty, Blythe Danner, Cate Blanchett, Claire Bloom, Faye Dunaway, Lois Nettleton, Jessica Lange (who reprised the role in the 1995 television adaptation), Marin Mazzie, Natasha Richardson, Laila Robins, Rosemary Harris, Rachel Weisz, Amanda Drew, Nicole Ari Parker,[7] Isabelle Huppert,[8] Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson,[9] Maxine Peake and Angelica Page.[10]

Etymology and inspiration[edit]

The character is reputedly named after theatre critic Blanche Marvin, a former actress and friend of Williams.[11] Some critics believe that Blanche DuBois was inspired by Williams' mother.[12]


  1. ^ "Dirty Old Women". NYMag.com. May 18, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Blanche DuBois: Chasing Magic, Fleeing the Dark". NPR. March 15, 2008. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "How old is Blanche DuBois?". Tampa Bay Times. September 16, 2011. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  4. ^ Williams, Tennessee (March 4, 1956). "A Tribute From Tennessee Williams To 'Heroic Tallulah Bankhead'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  5. ^ "BARAT GROUP EKES OUT A NEW SERIES". July 10, 1992.
  6. ^ Kolin, Philip C. (2000). Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire. Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ Brantley, Ben (December 3, 2009). "A Fragile Flower Rooted to the Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  8. ^ "Un tramway" (in French). Les Archives du spectacle. February 4, 2010. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  9. ^ "What's on: A Streetcar Named Desire". Young Vic Theatre. July 23, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  10. ^ Weinreich, Regina (May 25, 2011). "Tennessee Williams Remembered at the 92nd Street Y". HuffPost.
  11. ^ Clark, Nick (July 27, 2014). "Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'". The Independent. Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Ali, Fizzah (2016). "The creation of Tennessee Williams' Blanche Dubois: a biographical psychotic neurotic". Hektoen International. 8.

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