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THE MOVIEGOER

At the Astor

By David L. Ratner

The screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" follows the script, set, and even some of the props of the stage version with unusual faithfulness. But it fails to duplicate the central characters' sense of confinement and of frustration which was one of the chief virtues of the play.

Weakness was almost inevitable, since a camera cannot stay in one spot too long without boring the audience. But as soon as the camera moves out of the room in which most of "The Glass Menagerie" takes, place, it lets the characters out and one can't feel quite as sorry for them as one did in the play. One of the most poignant episodes in the stage production, for instance, was a monologue in which Amanda Wingfield, a demolished southern belle, recalls her past. It was poignant because the belle was so far from her romantic youth. The picture, however, in order to avoid focusing on one face for several minutes, adds a flashback to the monologue; the belle's past becomes much closer and more real than it should be.

Despite the defect inherent in a film adaptation, the screen "Glass Menagerie" is a very good job. The script requires only four important speaking parts. Three are very well acted and the fourth is done competently. Gertrude Lawrence handles the meatiest role, that of the faded belle, and she proves that she deserved it. Her part demands several long speeches without much accompanying action, something difficult to put over in a movie. Miss Lawrence never misses; she brings out the peculiar combination of guts and hot air of the character se portrays.

The belle's son, excellently played by Arthur Kennedy, is a would be poet, fed up with a dull job in a warehouse and with his nagging mother, who keeps him at the job while he'd like to be off on adventures. AT the end of the picture he is faced with the prospect of continued frustration in order to support his mother and crippled sister, or the alternative of leaving them for a more interesting life. Hollywood's best traditions would require the male to stick by his loved ones in their hour of need. Kennedy scrams. This is one of several breaks with the routine movie plot which "The Green Menagerie" makes, and which makes it a clearly superior picture.

Kennedy's sister is a shy girl, crippled and introverted. It is she who keeps the glass menagerie, a little collection of glass animals, an escape from her cloistered existence. This is a difficult role and Jane Wyman acts it just about perfectly. Apparently the glass figurines also serve as Williams' symbol of the fictional escape all the characters cherish.

Kirk Douglas is competent as the "gentleman caller" but is outclassed by Miss Lawrence, Miss Wyman, and Mr. Kennedy and, whereas in the play the caller was a doltish sort of a fellow putting on an act, he emerges as a bright, slick young man in the screen version. Somehow the original caller was more consistent with Williams' description of the entire work "a picture of a fundamentally enslaved section of American society. . . living in huge buildings always burning with the slow implacable fires of human desperation."

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