Suddenly Last Summer Background

Suddenly Last Summer Background

Suddenly, Last Summer is a one-act play by Tennessee Williams structured in four scenes. The short drama tends to run around an hour in production and is thematically representative of the bulk of work which makes up this section of Williams’ career. Like the much better known Sweet Bird of Youth and the more obscure Orpheus Descending, the central theme is emblematic of the playwright’s obsession with the repressive effects of societal oppression upon the creative mind.

Suddenly, Last Summer premiered in early 1958 at the York Theater in NYC. At that time it was actually produced in tandem with another short work by Williams, Something Unspoken, under the umbrella title Garden District. Despite the lurid and controversial subjects of the play—including homosexuality, promiscuity, lobotomy as valid psychological treatment, and cannibalism—a film produced just one year later is surprisingly faithful to the original material. While playwright Tennessee Williams receive screen credit alongside actual screenwriter Gore Vidal for the adaptation, in actuality he had nothing do with the film production.

Suddenly, Last Summer would receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress with Katharine Hepburn playing Violet Venable and Elizabeth Taylor for Catharine. Although both would lose out to eventual winner Simone Signoret, Taylor did beat out her co-star for Best Actress in a Dramatic Role at the Golden Globes. The movie version also marked the last of three on-screen collaborations between very close friends Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Since the release of the film, the play Suddenly, Last Summer has enjoyed several stage revivals, most often as a standalone event divorced from its original pairing with Something Unspoken.

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