Finding-Aid for the Tennessee Williams Collection (MSS134)


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Department of Special Collections
Olin Library
Campus Box 1061
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
(314) 935-5495
Fax: (314) 935-4045
spec@wumail.wustl.edu
http://library.wustl.edu/units/spec


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Table of Contents

Collection Outline

Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents Note

Restrictions

Box and Folder Listing


Collection Outline

Washington University Greek Final Examination Blue Book 1937

Washington University Grade Card 1935-36

First Issue Points for Tennesse Williams Dramatist's Play Service Editions

City Players of St. Louis, Vieux Carre, by Tennessee Williams Poster 1984: June 2-17

The Performing Arts Area Presents 'Flowers for the Dead, A Tribute to Tennessee Williams' by Herbert E. Mertz Poster 1984: March 22-25

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Descriptive Summary

Creator: Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
TitleTennessee Williams Collection
Quantity: 0.21 linear feet
Identification: MSS134

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Biographical Note

Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983) was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs. His professional career lasted from the mid-1930s until his death in 1983, and saw the creation of many plays that are regarded as classics of the American stage. Williams adapted much of his best known work for the cinema.

Williams received virtually all of the top theatrical awards for his works of drama, including several New York Drama Critics' Circle awards, a Tony Award for best play for The Rose Tattoo (1951) and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). In 1980, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter and is today acknowledged as one of the most accomplished playwrights in the history of English speaking theater.

Thomas Lanier Williams III was the second child of Edwina and Cornelius Coffin (C.C.) Williams. His family included an older sister Rose (1909–1996), and a younger brother, Dakin (1919–2008). When Williams was seven years old, his father was promoted to a job at the home office of the International Shoe Company in St. Louis. His mother's continual search for what she considered to be an appropriate address, as well as his father's heavy drinking and loudly violent behavior, caused them to move numerous times around the city. He attended Soldan High School, a setting referred to in his work The Glass Menagerie. Later he studied at University City High School.

From 1929 to 1931, he attended the University of Missouri, in Columbia, where he enrolled in journalism classes. After he failed military training in his junior year, his father pulled him out of school and put him to work at the International Shoe factory. His dislike of the 9-5 work routine drove him to write even more than before, and he gave himself a goal of writing one story a week, working on Saturday and Sunday, into the night. Overworked, unhappy and lacking any further success with his writing, by his 24th birthday he had suffered a nervous breakdown and left his job.

In 1936, Williams enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis where he wrote the play Me, Vashya (1937). In 1938, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Iowa, where he wrote Spring Storm. He later studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City. Around 1939, he adopted "Tennessee Williams" as his professional name.

In 1939, with the help of his agent, Audrey Wood, he was awarded a $1,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in recognition of his play Battle of Angels which was produced in Boston in 1940, but poorly received. Using the remainder of the Rockefeller funds, Williams moved to New Orleans in 1939 to write for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He lived for a time in the French Quarter; first at 722 Toulouse Street, the setting of his 1977 play Vieux Carré.

During the winter of 1944–45, The Glass Menagerie was successfully produced in Chicago garnering good reviews. The huge success of his next play, A Streetcar Named Desire, in 1947 secured his reputation as a great playwright. Between 1948 and 1959, seven of his plays were performed on Broadway: Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), Garden District (1958), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). By 1959, he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards, and a Tony Award.

His work reached world-wide audiences in the early 1950s when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were made into motion pictures. Later plays also adapted for the screen included Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana and Summer and Smoke.

After the extraordinary successes of the 1940s and 50s, the 1960s and 70s brought personal turmoil and theatrical failures. Although he continued to write every day, the quality of his work suffered from his increasing alcohol and drug consumption as well as often poor choices of collaborators. Kingdom of Earth (1967), In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969), Small Craft Warnings (1973), The Two Character Play (also called Out Cry, 1973), The Red Devil Battery Sign (1976), Vieux Carré (1978), Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980) and others were all box office failures, and the relentlessly negative press notices wore down his spirit. His last play, A House Not Meant to Stand was produced in Chicago in 1982 and, despite largely positive reviews, ran for only 40 performances.

On February 25, 1983, Williams was found dead in his suite at the Elysee Hotel in New York at age 71. The medical examiner's report indicated that he choked to death on the cap from a bottle of eye drops he frequently used. Contrary to his expressed wishes but at his brother Dakin's insistence, Williams was interred in the Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. Williams had long told his friends he wanted to be buried at sea at approximately the same place as Hart Crane, a poet he considered to be one of his most significant influences.

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Scope and Contents Note

The Tenneessee Williams Collection consists of Williams's Washington University Greek final examination blue book, Washington University grade card, a first issue points for Tennesse Williams dramatist's play service editions, and two posters adverstizing William's play producations.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Open.

Use Restriction

None

Users of the collections must read and abide by the Rules for the use of manuscript collection materials.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent publish manuscript collection materials form.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.

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Box and Folder Listing

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Box/folder
1/1

Washington University Greek Final Examination Blue Book, 1937 (1 item)

Accession 23077
Includes a series of Greek-to-English and English-to-Greek translations, with individual grades ranging from A- to C , C-, D and D. Also, includes a 17-line, pencil-written poem titled "Blue Song." Williams originally titled the poem "Sad Song," which he lightly erased.

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Box/folder
1/2

Washington University Grade Card, 1935-36 (1 item)

Accession 23076
Grades for Journalism II, Contemporary British and American Literature, and Short Story. Williams' address is listed as 6634 Pershing.

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Box/folder
1/3

First Issue Points for Tennesse Williams Dramatist's Play Service Editions, (1 item)

Accession 1288. Gift of Henry Wenning, January 1972.
Typescript list of `First issue points for Tennessee Williams Dramatists Play Service Editions', compiler unknown, [Henry Wenning?] List includes 9 titles; titles and pertinent points underlined in red.

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Box/folder
1/4

City Players of St. Louis, Vieux Carre, by Tennessee Williams Poster, 1984: June 2-17 (1 item, 25 in. x 16 in.)

Poster for production. "City Players of St. Louis, Vieux Carre, by Tennessee Williams. Season Forty-Seven, June 2-17, 1984, sponsored by the Missouri Arts Council."
Located in oversize.

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Box/folder
1/4

The Performing Arts Area Presents 'Flowers for the Dead, A Tribute to Tennessee Williams' by Herbert E. Mertz Poster, 1984: March 22-25 (1 item, 23 in. x 12 in.)

Poster for production. "The Performing Arts Area Presents 'Flowers for the Dead, A Tribute to Tennessee Williams' by Herbert E. Mertz, March 22, 23, 24, 25, 1984, 8:00PM, Edison Theatre, Mallinkrodt Center, Washington University."
Located in oversize.

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