Author(s): John Lahr
On 31 March 1945, at The Playhouse Theatre on Forty-Eight Street the curtain rose on the opening night of The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams, the show's thirty-four-year-old playwright, sat hunched in an aisle seat, looking, according to one paper, 'like a farm boy in his Sunday best'. The Broadway premiere, which had been heading for disaster, closed to an astonishing twenty-four curtain calls and became an instant sell-out. Beloved by an American public, Tennessee Williams's work - blood hot and personal -pioneered, as Arthur Miller declared, 'a revolution' in American theatre. Tracing Williams's turbulent moral and psychological shifts, acclaimed theatre critic John Lahr sheds new light on the man and his work, as well as the America his plays helped to define. Williams created characters so large that they have become part of American folklore: Blanche, Stanley, Big Daddy, Brick, Amanda and Laura transcend their stories, haunting us with their fierce, flawed lives. Similarly, Williams himself swung high and low in his single-minded pursuit of greatness. Lahr shows how Williams's late-blooming homosexual rebellion, his struggle against madness, his grief-struck relationships with his combustible father, prim and pious mother and 'mad' sister Rose, victim to one of the first lobotomies in America, became central themes in his drama. Including Williams's poems, stories, journals and private correspondence in his discussion of the work - posthumously Williams has been regarded as one of the best letter writers of his day - Lahr delivers an astoundingly sensitive and lively reassessment of one of America's greatest dramatists. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is the long-awaited, definitive life and a masterpiece of the biographer's art.
The definitive biography of America's most impassioned and lyrical twentieth-century playwright from acclaimed theatre critic John Lahr
John Lahr was the senior drama critic for the New Yorker for twenty years. He is a critic, novelist and biographer and is the author of seventeen books, including Notes on a Cowardly Lion, the biography of Bert Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears, the biography of Joe Orton, which was made into a film in collaboration with Alan Bennett, and Show and Tell, a collection of New Yorker profiles which reinvented the celebrity profile to get at the essence of performance, with subjects ranging from Frank Sinatra and David Mamet to Ingmar Bergman and Roseanne Barr. Lahr has also written for the theatre and for film, receiving a Tony Award for his work - the first for a critic. His short film Sticky My Fingers, Fleet My Feet was directed by John Hancock and nominated for an Academy Award in 1971. He lives in London.