Tennessee Williams was considered to be one of the most influential playwrights in 20th century America. His most famous stage plays include ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. Since his death he has been induced into the American Theater Hall of Fame. See the fact file below for more information on Tennessee Williams:
- Tennessee Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1911.
- He was born Thomas Lanier Williams III. In 1939 he adopted the name ‘Tennessee’ after where his father grew up.
- Tennessee Williams wrote 38 full plays and more than 70 one-act plays in his lifetime.
- Many of Williams’ most famous plays have been made into movies since the early 1950s, including ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘Orpheus Descending’.
- Williams spent his early life living in a parsonage in Clarkdale where his grandfather was a Reverend.
- Williams had an older sister, Rose, and a younger brother, Walter.
- Williams attended the University of Missouri in Columbia where he studied journalism.
- Whilst at university, Williams wrote many poems, essays, stories and plays (including ‘Beauty is the Word’) that he used to enter into writing competitions to try and earn some extra money.
- Williams was the first freshman to ever receive honorable mention in a writing competition after writing ‘Beauty is the Word’.
- William’s first job was working in a shoe factory. His father made him leave university to attend but Williams hated the job and soon quit.
- Williams also attended Washington University in St. Louis where he wrote the play ‘Me, Vashya’ and the University of Iowa where he graduated with a degree in English.
- In 1940, Williams received some money from the Rockefeller Foundation that he used to move to New Orleans where he worked on a program created by Franklin D. Roosevelt that aimed to help people during the Great Depression.
- In 1944, Williams’ play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ gained rave reviews and was moved to Broadway in New York.
- In 1947, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ was released and Williams was quickly becoming very successful.
- For over a decade between 1948 and 1959, Tennessee Williams had 7 plays performed on Broadway, for which he won 2 Pulitzer Prizes, 3 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, a Tony Award and 3 Donaldson Awards.
- Unfortunately William’s success didn’t last forever and he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his personal troubles, including the death of his partner Frank Merlo, his sister’s schizophrenia and his homosexuality.
- Tennessee Williams also suffered from depression for most of his life.
- In the 1970s and 1980s, Williams received many negative reviews for his plays.
- Tennessee Williams was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1979.
- Williams died in New York on February 25, 1983. He was 71 years old.
- It is believed that Tennessee Williams died from a mixture of choking, drugs and alcohol whilst staying at the Elysee Hotel in New York.
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