A Streetcar Named Desire, the Pulitzer-winning masterpiece written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, remains celebrated both in theater and film to this day. LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon took photos on a run of the original Broadway production in December 1947, among them the iconic image of Marlon Brando kneeling before Kim Hunter.
Many years later, it’s still hard to separate Marlon Brando from his theater and movie performances in A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer-winning play. The photo above, taken by LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon during a run of the original Broadway production in December 1947, is a testament to that. The iconic scene of then 23-year-old Brando as Stanley Kowalski kneeling before Kim Hunter as his wife, Stella, has remained one of the most enduring images from the play and film.
While Brando was not the first choice for the role that would eventually be identified with him, he reportedly drove from New York City to Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts to personally audition for Tennessee Williams. His efforts and sensational reading obviously paid off, and legend has it that the playwright knew he had found his Stanley as soon as he saw Brando through the screen door of his house.
With the success of the original Broadway production of Williams’ masterpiece, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden reprised their roles as Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski, and Harold “Mitch” Mitchell respectively for the play’s 1951 film adaptation. Vivien Leigh, who starred as Blanche Dubois in the London production of the play, also reprised her role in the film.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.