For Hicksflicks.com, Nov. 7, 2014

"The Glass Menagerie" (1950, b/w) is the first of several film/TV versions of Tennessee Williams' classic play. It's also his most autobiographical work, the one that shot him to prominence and the first to be recorded on celluloid.

And the free screening tonight (Friday, Nov. 7) in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium on the Brigham Young University campus at 7 p.m. is a rare opportunity, as the film has never been released on home video.

These days "The Glass Menagerie" may be best known among younger audiences as a staple of high school dramatic productions, perhaps second only to "Our Town." But in 1944, the four-character play took Chicago and then Broadway by storm, putting Williams on the map.

This version stars Jane Wyman, Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy and, in a rare film appearance, Broadway star Gertrude Lawrence.


Kirk Douglas and Jane Wyman in the 1950 film of 'The Glass Menagerie.'

Wyman is the fragile, wounded Laura, living in her own little world — as, in their own ways, are her mother and brother. The plot has her delusional mama (Lawrence) nagging her son (Arthur Kennedy) into bringing someone home for dinner as her daughter's first "gentleman caller." The friend (Kirk Douglas) is a charmer but things don't go as mama hoped.

Plot is secondary to character development, though, and the pacing is a bit slow. But the casting of the three younger roles is very good. Unfortunately, Lawrence is over the top and shrill, which is no small problem since her role here is expanded from the stage version.


It must be said that Williams, despite being billed as a co-screenwriter, did not like this film — especially the tacked-on "happy ending" that was often required by Hollywood in those days.

But Wyman, Douglas and Kennedy are fun to watch and certainly make it worthwhile.