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Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
is a 1959 play by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
which tells the story of a gigolo and drifter, Chance Wayne, who returns to his home town as the companion of a faded movie star, Alexandra Del Lago (travelling incognito as Princess Kosmonopolis), whom he hopes to use to help him break into the movies. The main reason for his homecoming is to get back what he had in his youth: primarily, his old girlfriend, whose father had run him out of town years before. The play was written for Tallulah Bankhead, a good friend of Williams. Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
originated circa 1956 as two plays: a two-character version of the final play featuring only Chance and the Princess, and a one-act play titled The Pink Bedroom that was later developed into Act Two of the play, featuring Boss Finley and his family.[1]

Contents

1 Plot 2 Production history

2.1 Pre-Broadway 2.2 Broadway 2.3 London 2.4 Chichester

3 Film and television adaptations

3.1 1962 feature film 3.2 1989 made-for television version

4 Cultural references 5 Notes 6 External links

Plot[edit] Failed St. Cloud, Florida, native son Chance Wayne has fled his home town, seeking to profit from his beauty and youth in New York or Hollywood (whichever of the two). When he fails as an actor and then a personality in both cities he turns to the freelance career of gigolo. As the traveling escort of his current employer, Chance returns to his home town of St. Cloud,[why?] escorting an aging, depressed, semi-alcoholic film star: Alexandra del Lago, who is running away from the negative criticism she believes is the public and critical response to her attempt at a cinematic comeback in a recently released film. Del Lago herself had been running away and burying herself in sex, alcohol, and drugs, until Chance recognized her while hustling in a Florida resort. He saw in her a last chance to build a relationship (taking care of her, while on their drive her back to Hollywood, with him as her escort). He is using his perceived gallantry to entice del Lago to give him the imprimatur of stardom which he failed to achieve on his own. As he and del Lago were driving along the Sunset Route back to California, Chance hopes that he will reunite with his childhood sweetheart, Heavenly Finley, and bring her back to Hollywood, where - with del Lago's aid - they will both achieve stardom. Unfortunately once returned to St. Cloud, Chance discovers Heavenly is only a shadow of the girl he knew. During his last visit to St. Cloud, he had unknowingly infected her with a disease he picked up as a result of his own promiscuity. When she discovered the problem, she had to have surgery to cut the disease out and which, because of an unskilled doctor's knife, resulted in a hysterectomy and her sterility. Her powerful and corrupt father and brother are determined to make Chance pay for the injury done to Heavenly. Chance worries that he will receive the same fate (evisceration) as a black man who was recently attacked and castrated in the town. Using Alexandra's car and funds, Chance tries to prove to the town that he is a success, but his old friends call his bluff and see him for what he has become. Meanwhile, Alexandra receives news that the criticism she's been running from is actually praise and that her comeback could not have been better. Chance believes he will ride with her to the top, but Alexandra has no wish for a gigolo to besmirch her good name. His youth gone, Chance does not know how to move on with his life. Although she will not recommend him for a job in Hollywood, Alexandra urges him to continue as her escort, but he decides to stay and accept his inevitable punishment in St. Cloud. Production history[edit] Pre-Broadway[edit] Williams began work on the play in the fall of 1959, calling it at first The Enemy of Time.[2] As Sweet Bird of Youth, the work-in-progress had a tryout production starring Tallulah Bankhead and Robert Drivas
Robert Drivas
in Coral Gables, Florida, directed by George Keathley[2] at his Studio M Playhouse in 1956[3][4] which began before Williams' agent Audrey Wood (literary agent) knew he had a new play.[5] Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan
saw it.[6] Kazan and Cheryl Crawford were "party to the secret and petitioned Audrey to let them produce and direct the new play."[7] Broadway[edit] The original production by Cheryl Crawford opened on March 10, 1959 at the Martin Beck Theatre
Martin Beck Theatre
in New York City. Directed by Elia Kazan, it starred Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Sidney Blackmer, Madeleine Sherwood, Diana Hyland, Logan Ramsey, and Rip Torn. Bruce Dern
Bruce Dern
also played a small role. The production was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Actress for Page. The play ran for 375 performances. A revival opened on December 29, 1975 at the Harkness Theatre, in a production directed by Edwin Sherin, starring Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken
as Chance Wayne and Irene Worth
Irene Worth
as Princess Kosmonopolis. Worth won the 1976 Tony Award for Best Actress. A production was planned to open in 2011 with David Cromer
David Cromer
directing and Scott Rudin serving as producer. It had been announced that Nicole Kidman would portray the role of Alexandra Del Lago.[8] James Franco was in talks to co-star, however he dropped out for unknown reasons.[9] In 2012, the production did go ahead at the Goodman Theatre to much acclaim but with Diane Lane
Diane Lane
in the lead role.[citation needed] London[edit] After 26 years, Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
appeared in London's West End. It opened on July 8, 1985 at the Haymarket Theatre
Haymarket Theatre
in a production directed by Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
and presented by impresario Douglas Urbanski it starred Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall
and Michael Beck with James Grout
James Grout
and David Cunningham. This production later transferred to Los Angeles under the direction of Michael Blakemore. The play returned to the London
London
stage on 1 June 2013 with a production at The Old Vic
The Old Vic
directed by Marianne Elliott and starring Kim Cattrall as Del Lago and Seth Numrich as Chance. Chichester[edit] The play was revived in 2017 at Chichester Festival Theatre, running from June 2 to 24. Directed by Jonathan Kent, it starred Marcia Gay Harden as Alexandra del Lago/The Princess Kosmonopolis and Brian J. Smith as Chance Wayne. Co-stars included Emma Amos and Richard Cordery.[10] Film and television adaptations[edit] 1962 feature film[edit] In 1962, the play was made into a feature film starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Madeleine Sherwood, Ed Begley, Rip Torn and Mildred Dunnock. The movie was adapted and directed by Richard Brooks.[11][12] The film version earned three Academy Award nominations, all for acting: Best Actress - Geraldine Page; Best Supporting Actress - Shirley Knight ;and Ed Begley
Ed Begley
won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his Boss Finley. 1989 made-for television version[edit] Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
was made for television in 1989, directed by Nicolas Roeg
Nicolas Roeg
and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mark Harmon, Valerie Perrine, Ronnie Claire Edwards, Cheryl Paris, Kevin Geer and Rip Torn. It was adapted by Gavin Lambert. Cultural references[edit]

"Youth of a Thousand Summers" by Van Morrison
Van Morrison
is based on this play. In the Robert Zemeckis
Robert Zemeckis
film Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her
(1992), lead character Madeline Ashton is depicted as the star of a Broadway musical adaptation of Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
called "Songbird!" The song "Sweet Bird of Truth" by the rock group The The is a reference to the Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
play. A reference to the Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
play (and indeed Williams himself) was written by Bernie Taupin
Bernie Taupin
in his lyric for Elton John's song "Lies," from John's 1995 album Made in England.

Notes[edit]

^ Kolin, Phillip; The Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Encyclopedia; pp. 262-263 ISBN 0313321019 ^ a b Lahr, John Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh W. W. Norton & Company, 2014. ^ The World of Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
by Richard Freeman Leavitt, Kenneth Holditch, Hansen Publishing Group, 2011; ISBN 1601820003 ^ Thomas W. Ennis, "Robert Drivas" The New York Times, July 1, 1986. ^ Barranger, Milly Audrey Wood and the Playwrights Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; ISBN 1137385472. pg. 48. ^ Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan
and Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
at [1]. ^ Barranger, Milly Audrey Wood and the Playwrights Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; ISBN 1137385472. p. 48. ^ Kidman Returning To Broadway Contact Music. 17 September ^ Kennedy, Mark (August 30, 2011). " James Franco
James Franco
And The 'Sweet Bird Of Youth': Actor Drops Out Of Would-Be Broadway Debut". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 12, 2011.  ^ Full casting announced for Sweet Bird of Youth, Chichester Festival Theatre. Accessed 2017-06-04. ^ Variety film review; February 28, 1962, page 6. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; March 10, 1962, page 34.

External links[edit]

Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
at the Internet Broadway Database Sweet Bird of Youth (film)
Sweet Bird of Youth (film)
on IMDb

v t e

Works by Tennessee Williams

Plays

Candles to the Sun (1936) Spring Storm (1937) Fugitive Kind (1937) Not About Nightingales
Not About Nightingales
(1938) Battle of Angels (1940) Auto-da-Fé (1941) The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie
(1944) You Touched Me (1945) Stairs to the Roof (1947) A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) Summer and Smoke
Summer and Smoke
(1948) The Rose Tattoo
The Rose Tattoo
(1951) Camino Real (1953) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
(1955) Orpheus Descending
Orpheus Descending
(1957) Suddenly Last Summer
Suddenly Last Summer
(1958) Sweet Bird of Youth
Sweet Bird of Youth
(1959) Period of Adjustment
Period of Adjustment
(1960) The Night of the Iguana (1961) The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
(1963) The Seven Descents of Myrtle
The Seven Descents of Myrtle
(1968) In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel
(1969) Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis? (1969) Out Cry
Out Cry
(1971) Small Craft Warnings
Small Craft Warnings
(1972) The Two-Character Play (1973) The Red Devil Battery Sign
The Red Devil Battery Sign
(1975) This Is (An Entertainment) (1976) Vieux Carré (1977) A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur
A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur
(1979) Clothes for a Summer Hotel
Clothes for a Summer Hotel
(1980) The Notebook of Trigorin
The Notebook of Trigorin
(1981) Something Cloudy, Something Clear
Something Cloudy, Something Clear
(1981) A House Not Meant to Stand
A House Not Meant to Stand
(1982)

Novels

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
(1950) Moise and the World of Reason (1975)

Short story collections

Hard Candy: A Book of Stories (1954) Three Players of a Summer Game and Other Stories (1960) The Knightly Quest: a Novella and Four Short Stories (1966) One Arm and Other Stories (1967) Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed: a Book of Stories (1974)

Screenplays

The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie
(1950) A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) The Rose Tattoo
The Rose Tattoo
(1955) Baby Doll
Baby Doll
(1956) Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) The Fugitive Kind (1959) Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
(1966) Boom! (1968) The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
(1957, filmed 2009)

Non-fiction

"The Catastrophe of Success" (1947) "A Streetcar Named Success" (1947)

Poetry

In the Winter of Cities (1956) Androgyne, Mon Amour
Androgyne, Mon Amour
(1977)

Unfinished manuscripts

In Masks Outrageous and Austere
In Masks Outrageous and Austere
(1983)

Related articles

List of one-act plays by Tennessee Williams

Authority control

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