Cameron Kelsall: Well, David, even after our exhaustive—some might say, exhausting—deep dive into The Glass Menagerie, it seems we just can’t quit old Tennessee Williams. A natural next step would be the next chronological work in his canon, A Streetcar Named Desire, which firmly cemented the reputation he established with TGM. Yet aside from the legendary film version starring Vivien Leigh and most of the original Broadway cast, there just aren’t that many readily available filmed treatments of that sultry New Orleans tale. Instead, we’re going to jump ahead a decade to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—and return, however grudgingly, to Granada Studios, for another installment of Laurence Olivier Presents A Tribute to American Theatre.
David Fox: As you well know, Cameron, I love my Tennessee Williams, so I’m delighted to continue. I opined earlier that The Glass Menagerie is my favorite of his works, as well as my nominee for the greatest of all American plays. That said, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof holds a special place in my heart as the most potentially thrilling. For sheer scale and sweep, Cat has no equal. It’s sometimes called the American King Lear, which nods to themes of a father and his disappointing children… but I think it’s also Shakespearean in its sprawl and grandeur. Each time I see or read it, I’m also jolted anew by its frankness. The gay content that lurks below the surface in TGM is vividly given voice here in surprisingly candid ways, particularly the backstory of Big Daddy and the former plantation owners. Or at least, all of that should be central. Here, even with the presence of Lord Laurence Olivier as what must have been the engine driving this train, very little of it comes through.