Tennessee Williams

(1911 – 1983)

TennesseeWilliams-Portrait.JPG (JPEG-Grafik, 203 × 277 Pixel)Biographical Sketch

Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III (Columbus, MS, USA, March 26, 1911 – New York, NY, USA, February 25, 1983) was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs. His professional career lasted from the mid-1930s until his death in 1983, and saw the creation of many plays that are regarded as classics of the American stage.

Williams’s first major success was his “memory play” The Glass Menagerie, which was successfully produced in Chicago during the winter of 1944-45, garnering good reviews. It moved to New York where it became an instant and enormous hit during its long Broadway run. The Glass Menagerie, which was inspired by Williams’s own family circumstances, won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best play of the season. The huge success of his next play, A Streetcar Named Desire, in 1947 secured his reputation as a great playwright. Between 1948 and 1959, seven of his plays were performed on Broadway: Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), Garden District (1958), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). By 1959, he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards, and a Tony Award.

His work reached world-wide audiences in the early 1950s when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were made into motion pictures. Later plays also adapted for the screen included Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana, Sweet Bird of Youth, and Summer and Smoke. Many of the adaptations were authored by Williams himself.

After the extraordinary successes of the 1940s and 1950s, the 1960s and 1970s brought personal turmoil and theatrical failures. Although he continued to write every day, the quality of his work suffered from his increasing alcohol and drug consumption as well as occasional poor choices of collaborators. On February 25, 1983, Williams was found dead in his suite at the Elysee Hotel in New York at age 71. The medical examiner’s report indicated that he choked to death on the cap from a bottle of eye drops he frequently used, indicating that his use of drugs and alcohol may have contributed to his death by suppressing his gag reflex.

In late 2009, Williams was inducted into the Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Performers who took part in his induction included Vanessa Redgrave and Eli Wallach. – Elia Kazan, who directed many of Williams’ greatest successes, said of Williams: “Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life.”

Read more about Tennessee Williams on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Pulitzer Prize (USA)
  • 1948: Drama – “A Streetcar Named Desire”
  • 1955: Drama – “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
Tony Awards (Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre) (USA)
  • 1951: Best Play – “The Rose Tattoo”



  • The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950)
  • Moise and the World of Reason (1975)
Short Stories and Collections of Short Fiction
  • Isolated (1924)
    – First short story; published in school newspaper.
  • The Vengeance of Nitocris (1928)
    – Short story.
  • Stella for Star (1933)
    – Short story.
  • The Field of Blue Children (1939)
    – Short story.
  • One Arm, and Other Stories (1948)
  • Hard Candy (1954)
  • Three Players of a Summer Game (1960)
  • The Knightly Quest (1967)
  • Eight Moral Ladies Possessed (1974)
  • It Happened the Day the Sun Rose (1981)
  • Collected Stories (1985)
  • Short Stories (1986)
  • The Night of the Iguana and Other Stories (1995)
  • Demon Smoke (1935)
    – Poem, published in school yearbook.
  • Five Young American Poets (1944)
  • In the Winter of Cities (1956)
  • Blue Mountain Ballads (1946)
    – Music by Paul Bowles.
  • Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977)
  • The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams (2002)
Plays and Screenplays
  • Beauty Is the Word (1930)
    – Unstaged.
  • Cairo! Shanghai! Bombay! (1935)
  • Candles to the Sun (1936)
  • The Magic Tower (1936)
  • The Fugitive Kind (1937)
  • Spring Storm (1938)
  • American Blues (1939)
  • Battle of Angels (1940)
    – Revised under the title Orpheus Descending (1957)
  • Stairs to the Roof (1941)
  • You Touched Me! (1943)
    – With Donald Windham.
  • The Glass Menagerie (1945)
  • 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, and Other One Act Plays (1945)
    – Augmented and republished 1953 with introduction Something Wild.

    • 27 Wagons Full of Cotton
    • The Purification
    • The Lady of Larspur Lotion
    • The Last of My Solid Gold Watches
    • Portrait of a Madonna
    • Auto-da-Fé
    • Lord Byron’s Love Letter
    • The Strangest Kind of Romance
    • The Long Good-bye
    • Hello from Bertha
    • This Property is Condemned
    • Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen
    • Something Unspoken
    • The Unsatisfactory Supper
    • Steps Must Be Gentle
    • The Demolition Downtown
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)
    – Also screenplay (1951).
  • Summer and Smoke (1948)
    – Revised under the title The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1964)
  • The Rose Tattoo (1951)
  • I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix (1951)
  • Camino Real (1953)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
  • Baby Doll (1956)
    – Screenplay.
  • A Perfect Analysis is Given by a Parrot (1958)
  • Suddenly Last Summer (1958)
  • Garden District (1958)
    • Suddenly Last Summer
    • Something Unspoken
  • Sweet Bird of Youth (1959)
  • Period of Adjustment (1960)
  • The Night of the Iguana (1961)
  • Five Plays (1962)
  • Grand (1964)
  • The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1964)
  • Slapstick Tragedy (1966)
    • The Gnadiges Fräulein
    • The Mutilated
  • The Two-Character Play (1967)
    – Revised under the title Out Cry (1971)
  • Kingdom of the Earth (1968)
    (A/K/A The Seven Descents of Myrtle)
  • In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969)
  • I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow (1970)
    – Written for TV.
  • Dragon Country: A Book of Plays (1970)
    • In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel
    • I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix
    • The Mutilated
    • I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow
    • Confessional
    • The Frosted Glass Coffin
    • The Gnadiges Fräulein
    • A Perfect Analysis is Given by a Parrot
  • Small Craft Warnings (1971)
  • The Red Devil Battery Sign (1975)
  • This Is (An Entertainment) (1976)
  • Vieux Carré (1977)
  • Tiger Tail (1978)
    – Stage adaptation of Baby Doll.
  • A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (1979)
  • Clothes for a Summer Hotel: A Ghost Play (1979)
  • Kirche, Kuchen und Kinder (1979)
  • Will Mr. Merriwether Return From Memphis? (1980)
  • Tennessee Laughs (1980)
  • Steps Must Be Gentle (1980)
  • Something Cloudy, Something Clear (1981)
  • A House Not Meant to Stand (1981)
  • The Notebook of Trigorin (1981)
    – Free Adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Sea Gull.
  • The Theatre of Tennessee Williams (1972 – 1981)
  • The Bag People (1982)
  • Stopped Rocking and Other Screenplays (1984)
    • All Gaul Is Divided
    • The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
    • One Arm
    • Stopped Rocking
  • The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. LeMonde (1984)
  • Three by Tennessee (1992)
    • Sweet Bird of Youth
    • The Rose Tattoo
    • The Night of the Iguana
  • Four Plays (1992)
    • Summer and Smoke
    • Orpheus Descending
    • Suddenly Last Summer
    • Period of Adjustment
  • Not About Nightingales
    – – Set in 1938 but first produced posthumously 1998.
  • Library of America: Plays 1937 – 1955 (2000)
  • Library of America: Plays 1957 – 1980 (2000)
Essays, Correspondence, Memoirs
  • Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport? (1927)
  • Memoirs (1975)
  • Tennessee Williams’s Letters to Donald Windham, 1940 – 1965 (1976)
  • Where I Live (1978)
  • Conversations With Tennessee Williams (1986)
  • Five O’Clock Angel: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just, 1948 – 1982 (1990)
  • The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams: 1920 – 1945 (2002)
  • The Selected Letters Of Tennessee Williams: 1946 – 1957 (2004)


A Selection of Quotes

The Glass Menagerie

“Time is the longest distance between two places.”

“The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.”

“Every time you come in yelling that God damn “Rise and Shine!” “Rise and Shine!” I say to myself, “How lucky dead people are!”

“You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it.”

“People go to the movies instead of moving. Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them.”

A Streetcar Named Desire

“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?”

“He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one!  […] Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle!”

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

“Stella! Hey, Stella!”

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? – I wish I knew … Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can …”

Summer and Smoke

“You’ll be surprised how infinitely merciful they [these tablets] are. The prescription number is 96814. I think of it as the telephone number of God!”

Camino Real

“When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”

The Catastrophe of Success

“It is only in his work that an artist can find reality and satisfaction, for the actual world is less intense than the world of his invention and consequently his life, without recourse to violent disorder, does not seem very substantial.”

Conversations with Tennessee Williams ( Albert J. Devlin, ed.)

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.”

As quoted in Elia Kazan’s autobiography, A Life (1988)

“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life.”

Find more quotes by Tennessee Williams on Wikiquote and Goodreads.