“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks! The world thirsts after sympathy, compassion, love.”
Don Quixote character in Camino Real
Play written by Tennessee Williams
(The first part is engraved on Williams’ headstone.)
It just so happens that in the midst of this run of posts on the life and work of Tennessee Williams I drove through St. Louis, Missouri yesterday and basically had enough time to stop and take the above photo at Calvary Cemetery north of I-70.
I knew of Williams’ connection to St. Louis, but did not realize he was buried there until doing research on these recent set of posts. Danny Manus in his Script article posted yesterday, Notes from the Margins: Every Article on Screenwriting You Never Have to Read Again, may be correct when he stated that 90% of screenwriting blogs are “regurgitated bullshit,” so the way I try to set myself apart from the hundreds of screenwriting and writing blogs is to take you to places like Columbus, Mississippi where Williams was born and Calvary Cemetery where he was laid to rest.
The stake I put in the ground on January 22, 2008 (with the post Life Beyond Hollywood) was that this blog would be come from the angle of a Hollywood outsider. Of course, along the 1,684 posts I’ve quoted more than 400 Hollywood insiders, but I’ve always been concerned with writers’ origins and a sense of place. You can’t separate Chekhov from Russia, Ibsen from Norway , or Shakespeare from England. And you can’t separate Tennessee from Mississippi, or New Orleans, or St. Louis.
In fact— from the perspective of this blog—if there is a bookend to screenwriter Diablo Cody (who was the inspiration behind starting this blog just a few days after seeing Juno) it is Tennessee Williams. Like Cody, Williams graduated from the University of Iowa. Both achieved awards at the highest level for their dramatic writing (Williams a Tony and a couple of Pulitzer Prizes, and Cody an Oscar). Other commonalities between the two writers are a struggle with depression, an enjoyment of alcohol, and a mixing of the sacred and the profane.
I’m not saying that Cody is on the same plain as the hallowed Williams, just that they make a nice bookend to what this blog is about in hopes that it will help inspire you in your writing. (And to be fair to Cody, when Williams was 35-years old as Cody is now, he was known for just one major play.) As I was driving 25 hours over the last two days I also connected Williams with writers Ernest Hemingway and Pat Conroy, in that part of what shaped them as writers was a love for books at an early age as well as interesting (read highly dysfunctional) dynamics between their fathers and/or mothers.
Circling back to Williams’ gravesite, in one interview I saw he said he wanted to be buried at sea—as close to his poet hero Hart Crane as possible. Yet there he is in a Catholic Cemetary with his mother and sister buried on each side of him. Williams’ sister Rose may be the single person in his life that influenced him the most. She is the basis for Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Perhaps the most powerful over-arching theme in Williams work is the fragileness of human life. A theme by the way, which will always have an audience.
“Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger—anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lighting! Blow out your candles, Laura, and so goodbye….”
Tom in The Glass Menagerie
Written by Tennessee Williams
P.S. I know Angelina Jolie has a tattoo on her left that are slightly modified words from Tennessee Williams; “A prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages.”
I don’t have any tattoos, but if I got one right now I think I’d go with, “The world thirsts after sympathy, compassion, love.”
The Juno—Iowa Connection
Postcard #55 (Iowa Writers’ Workshop Library) Neither Cody or Williams did any graduate work at Iowa, but the school has a deep tradition of producing writers.)
(Yawn)…Another Pulitzer Prize