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Tennessee Williams Collection, *L(Special) 89.35, The Rodgers and Hammerstein
Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library for the Performing
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi,
was an American playwright, poet, and novelist. Being from an old Tennessee family,
he adopted his first name while in New Orleans in 1939. After graduating from the
State University of Iowa in 1938, he traveled around the country while working at
odd jobs and writing short plays and getting occasional productions in community
theaters. He worked briefly as a scriptwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1943.
He achieved sudden success with the New York production of The Glass
Menagerie (1945). His subsequent success came with A Streetcar Named
Desire (1947), which won a Pulitzer Prize.
Although Williams' life was marked by personal disarray, mental stress, and drug
addiction, he enjoyed long-term relationships with male companions and continued to
be productive. In 1968 he converted to Catholicism.
His later plays include Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose
Tattoo (1950), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955, Pulitzer
Prize), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and Night of the
He also published two novels and several poems. Many of his plays were made into
successful movies, but his later works were not well received and he became
disaffected from the New York professional theater. He died by choking on the cap of
a bottle of pills.
Eleven of the thirteen recordings in the collection were made by Williams in 1948 at
a New Orleans carnival booth facility. These recordings primarily feature Williams
reading his poems, including selections from In the Winter of Cities.
Williams also participates in apparently impromptu comic sketches with friends. The
remaining two recordings are songs by composer Ray Cook with texts from In
the Winter of Cities, here performed by tenor and piano. These two
recordings were given to Williams by Ray Cook.