January 30, 2019 – (Key West, FL). Five fun facts you might not know about Tennessee Williams
Most people know that Tennessee Williams was a famous American Playwright. They may have even heard of The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof— some by stage, others by silver screen. But even those who can name every play the Pulitzer Prize winner wrote might not know these five fun facts below, and that there’s an annual birthday party celebration right here in Key West to honor the man who called the island home for over 34 years.
1. His given name. Thomas Lanier Williams III became Tennessee at the age of 28. Whether it was a tribute to his ancestors who “fought the Indians for Tennessee” or claiming the state where his father hailed from, we may never know.
2. Erotic dark comedy. In 1956, Time magazine wrote that Tennessee Williams’ first original screenplay “Baby Doll” was “just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited. The film, which told the story of two Southern rivals and a sensuous 19-year-old child bride, was picketed by nearly 20 million Catholics on its opening weekend, prompting nearly ¾ of the theaters to pull it.
3. Instant success? No. Williams’ first recognition didn’t’ come until 1940 when he received a Rockefeller fellowship and wrote “Battle of Angels.” To get by, he ran an all-night elevator, waited tables in New York and New Orleans, worked as a teletype operator for the U.S. Engineers in Jacksonville, Florida, and ushered at the Strand Theater on Broadway, later writing in a playbill that “All the while I kept on writing, writing, not with any hope of making a living at it but because I found no other means of expressing things that seemed to demand expression. There was never a moment when I did not find life to be immeasurably exciting to experience and to witness, however difficult it was to sustain.”
4. Tennesse Williams, the painter. He created and gifted these sensual, psychological dreamscapes to close friends, including David Wolkowsky, whom Williams spent much time with while living in Key West. Thanks to Mr. Wolkowsky’s generosity, visitors to the Custom House Museum can enjoy the 17 paintings he bequeathed to Key West Art & Historical Society.
5. A birthday party!Key West Art & Historical Society and the award-winning Tennessee Williams Museum host a Birthday Celebration in his honor every year. The month-long commemoration begins March 4thwith the first of four of Williams’ films at the Tropic Cinema and a limited-ticket kickoff party on March 6th at the home of exhibit founders Dennis Beaver and Bert Whitt. This year’s festival theme is “The Library” (Williams loved and supported the local Key West library) and boasts a full roster of writing and painting contests, film and poetry forums, curator tours of the Tennessee Williams Museum at 513 Truman Avenue, a March 27th birthday party for the playwright (following his March 26thbirthday), and 2 one-act theatre productions of the Pulitzer-Prize-winner’s work topping off the month-long celebration.
Visit KWAHS.ORG for a full schedule of events or contactDani Holliday, 305.295.6616 x 111.Sponsored in part by Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, Neal Ruchman and Melissa Jean McDaniel, and Bert Whitt. Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island.
“Library” is the theme of the month-long 2019 Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration, which launches March 6 and runs through April 1 at multiple Key West venues.