- NAME: Tennessee Williams
- OCCUPATION: Playwright
- BIRTH DATE: March 26, 1911
- DEATH DATE: February 25, 1983
- EDUCATION: Soldan High School, University City High School, University of Missouri, University of Iowa
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Columbus, Mississippi
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York City, New York
- Originally: Thomas Lanier Williams III
- Full Name: Tennessee Williams
Best Known For
Tennessee Williams was an American writer, whose signature works include A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie.
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Tennessee Williams was an American writer from the South. Many of his characters were based on his own family and life. His first real success was the play The Glass Menagerie in 1944. His next work, A Streetcar Named Desire, won him a Pulitzer Prize. Later in life, he was insecure that he could not duplicate his early success and used sleeping pills and liquor to quiet his restless mind.
"All good art is an indiscretion."
Playwright Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second of Cornelius and Edwina Williams' three children. Raised predominantly by his mother, Williams had a complicated relationship with his father, a demanding salesman who preferred work instead of parenting.
Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.
His parent's marriage certainly didn't help. Often strained, the Williams home could be a tense place to live. "It was just a wrong marriage," Williams later wrote. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright's art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
In 1929, Williams enrolled at the University of Missouri to study journalism. But he was soon withdrawn from the school by his father, who became incensed when he learned that his son's girlfriend was also attending the university.
Deeply despondent, Williams retreated home, and at his father's urging took a job as a sales clerk with a shoe company. The future playwright hated the position, and again he turned to his writing, crafting poems and stories after work. Eventually, however, the depression took its toll and Williams suffered a nervous breakdown.
After recuperating in Memphis, Williams returned to St. Louis and where he connected with several poets studying at Washington University. In 1937 returned to college, enrolling at the University of Iowa. He graduated the following year.
When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
He proved to be a prolific writer and one of his plays, earned him $100 from the Group Theater writing contest. More importantly, it landed him an agent, Audrey Wood, who would become his friend and adviser.
In 1940 Williams' play, Battle of Angels, debuted in Boston. It quickly flopped, but the hardworking Williams revised it and brought it back as Orpheus Descending, which later was made into the movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani.
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