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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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by

Jenni Roche

on 8 February 2013

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Transcript of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams Bio Mendacity & Money Alternate Versions --> Thomas Lanier Williams was born on March 26th 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi.

--> In 1919, his family moved to St. Louis, Mississippi. (The Setting of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)

--> Breakthrough in 1945 with 'The Glass Menagerie'. The play ran for 561 performances in New York

--> 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' in 1955. This play won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

--> Depression from 1963 after the death of his boyfriend, Frank Merlo.

--> Died February 25th 1983 from choking on a bottle cap. Themes --> Entrapment & Escape

-->Memory

-->Survival

--> Sexuality --> Mendacity comes from the Latin word 'mendax' meaning deceitful, lying, untruthful.

-->(In)ability to face the truth

-->Desire for independence and fighting for property/inheritance.

--> Importance of money

--> 'All Americans, I'm afraid, have this pathological concern with cash'.
- Letter from Williams to Britneva It's your turn! Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Homosexuality in Context --> Social, governmental and institutional taboos against homosexuality.

--> Late 1940's into the 1950's influence of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his communist and homosexual 'witch hunts'. (aka. McCarthyism)

--> Both Arthur Miller and Langston Hughes suffered under McCarthyism.

-->Homosexuality associated with subversive and non-American behaviour.

--> Up until 1971, the APA (American Psychological Association) listed homosexuality as a mental disturbance. Calling it 'abnormal' and 'maladjusted'

--> Social rejection of homosexuality --> Original Version.

--> Broadway Version

--> Film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 'The play comes closest to being both a work of art and a work of craft... I believe that in Cat I reached beyond myself, in the second act, to a kind of crude eloquence of expression in Big Daddy that I have managed to give no other character of my creation'. - Tennessee Williams, Memoirs. One of Williams favourite plays: Inspiration: Maria Britneva, a Russian actress and lifelong friend of Williams inspired the character of Maggie.

'I think a lot of you has gone into the writing'.
- Tennessee Williams, in a letter to Britneva Reviews Homosexuality in the Play --> The play could be read as Williams' plea for tolerance of the gay lifestyle.

--> Skipper the most clearly gay character in the play, has committed suicide.

-->Kaier Curtin wrote that gay subjects in American drama often commit suicide because of conventions about punishing the non-conformist in American culture and because of the playwright's fear of repercussions from a rejecting public.

--> This statement holds true to Williams, we see it happen in his earlier play 'A Streetcar Named Desire', the character of Allen Gray kills himself when Blanche rejects him and his homosexuality. Homosexuality Contd --> Williams said that he could not write a play without at least one character that he was sexually attracted to. This character being Brick, the ideal American male, both good-looking and athletic.

-->Williams uses Maggie to portray his attraction.

--> Maggie's constant pleas and desires for Brick to sleep with her, repeatedly places the male body under the audience's gaze.

--> Male audience members given the option to either sympathise with Brick (the ideal masculine man, but possibly gay). Or else to sympathise with Maggie (who desires Brick). By doing this Williams puts any conservative male's in the audience in a tricky situation.

--> Big Daddy is representative of the conservative older male in the play, however, it is suggested that he has experimented with his sexuality too. ('I knocked around in my time'). His tolerance is perhaps linked to Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, who were like his surrogate parents. Alternate Versions --> Director Elia Kazan asked Williams to rewrite act three for Broadway.

--> The Film (1958) gets rid of the homosexuality element of the play.

--> This was due to the Production Code Era 1934-1962 (aka Hay's Code). Which introduced censorship guidelines for films.

--> New York Times reviewer wrote that removing the homosexuality from the play meant that there was a 'lack of a logical conflict'. Questions --> What is the central theme in Cat?

--> What is the message: Accept the circumstances or fight them?

--> Many critics have argued that in order to discuss homosexuality Williams should have put a gay character on stage. Is this reasonable criticism? Is it a representational problem that Skipper was not embodied on stage?

Does Williams call into question constructed norms of gender and sexuality in this play? If so, How? 'We never quite penetrate Brick's own facade, know or share his precise feelings... in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof you will believe every word that is unspoke; you may still long for some that seem not to be spoken'
- New York Herald-Tribune

'A delicately wrought exercise in human communications... Mr Williams finest drama. It faces and speaks the truth.
- New York Times

'A standard low-comedy caricature'.
- New Yorker
Full transcript