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Tennessee Williams Collection


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Tennessee Williams Collection, 1935-1995 | MS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: Tennessee Williams Collection, 1935-1995Add to your cart.

ID: MS/MS/ms134

Primary Creator: Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983

Extent: 1.0 Boxes

Date Acquired: 07/28/1979

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Tennessee Williams Collection consists of three poem drafts by Williams written during his time at Washington University; Williams's University College grade card; Williams's Washington University Greek final examination blue book; four play scripts, The Rose Tattoo, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire and Vieux Carré; a film script for A Streetcar Named Desire; a draft of the libretto, Lord Byron's Love Letter: Opera In One-Act; the foreward to Constructing a Play by Marian Gallaway; two inscribed publicity photographs of Williams; a first issue points for Tennesse Williams dramatist's play service editions; programs for Williams celebrations; and two posters advertising William's play productions.

Collection Historical 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 Standwas 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.

Administrative Information

Repository: MS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Gift and Purchase

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 1288, Gift of Henry Wenning, 1971: July 28

Accession number 23076

Accession number 23077, Purchase from Faulkner House Books, 2004: October

Accession number 2013.027, Purchase from Clouds Hill Books, 2013: September 6

Accession number MSS2018-009, Purchase from Royal Books, 2018: May 3

Accession number MSS2018-010, Purchase from George's Books & Autographs, 2018: May 7

Accession number MSS2016-020, Purchase from Clouds Hill Books, 2016: September 8

Accession number MSS2016-018. Purchase from Ralph B. Sipper, 2016: August 8

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1],

Box 1Add to your cart.
Folder 1: "Sonnet to Pygmalion", 1935: December 30Add to your cart.
Autograph manuscript signed, 1 page. On ruled paper, in pencil, signed "Thomas Lanier Williams," and dated December 30, 1935 11:00 p.m. Published in Eliot, November 1936, and not reprinted until the posthumous Collected Poems. On the back is a pencil working draft of another, unfinished, poem, "An Empty Skull," in 16 lines, that would later be incorporated in "Cryptic Bone," published in Eliot, November 1937.
Folder 2: "EPODE", circa 1935Add to your cart.
Original typescript poem, 25 lines, signed "Thomas Lanier Williams" in pen, remains of mounting hinges on the back. This appears to be a completely different, and unpublished, poem from one of the same title which exists in drafts in the Williams archive at the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. The phrase "slow-footed woman of Cyprus" appears in the earliest draft of the poem "Sonnet to Pygmalion."
Folder 3: Washington University Grade Card, 1935-36Add to your cart.

Accession 23076

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

Folder 4: Washington University Greek Final Examination Blue Book, 1937Add to your cart.

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.

Folder 5: A Streetcar Named Desire play script, 1950Add to your cart.

Screenplay in pinned tan wrappers, 133 pages. Quarto. Mimeographed sheets printed on rectos only.  Script is stamped "TEMPORARY" on the front cover and dated July 5, 1950 [the movie was in production between mid-August to mid-October 1950, and had a United States release date of September 18, 1951]. Holograph note in blue ink on the verso of the title page in an unknown hand, which states: 'Little Comment on details but concerned with whole project - Unpunished Rape."

Based on an adaptation by Oscar Saul of Tennessee Williams' own 1947 play of the same name. Produced by Charles K. Feldman and directed by Elia Kazan. The cast included Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias, Wright King, Richard Garrick, Ann Dere, Edna Thomas, and Mickey Kuhn.

Folder 6: The Rose Tattoo , 1950Add to your cart.

Playscript in pinned blue Liebling-Wood wrappers. Quarto. Carbon sheets typed on the rectos only; 77 pages.

An original drama in three acts by Williams. This scripts is designated ‘Third draft, Europe / September 1950’ on the first sheet along with a red pencil notation that reads “1st Typing,” as well as containing two minor corrections in the Introduction. This copy also includes the epigraph from the poem “Anabasis” on the first sheet that was used intermittently by Williams throughout his many drafts. This draft was completed after learning that Elia Kazan had passed on directing the play to work on a film with Arthur Miller, a snub that greatly disheartened Williams. The Rose Tattoo was first produced at the Erlanger Theatre in Chicago on December 29, 1950, before the Broadway opening at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City on February 3, 1951.

Accession number 2015.006

Folder 7: Constructing a Play by Marian Gallaway foreward, 1950Add to your cart.

Typescript [mimeographed], 5 pages. Quarto. Issued as a publicity release by the publisher, Prentice Hall. A scarce essay that has not been collected in which Williams comments concisely on the mechanics of play construction, through the course of which he imparts hitherto unknown autobiographical information about his own playwriting experiences.

Accession number MSS2016-018

Folder 8: Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, circa 1954Add to your cart.

Playscript in a pinned grey folder. Quarto. Carbon sheets typed on rectos only; 133 pages.

An original drama in three acts by Williams. This early pre-publication draft contains William’s holograph emendations to the text in red pencil in two places: suggesting a move of Brick’s line: “I might be impotent, Maggie” from 3-39 to the close at 3-40; and adding a line for Maggie following Brick: “I’m not afraid!” and then “Curtain.”  This early unsanitized pre-New York playscript also contains the original lewd “Elephant Joke” [Parker 484-5] at 3-31 with Brick’s uproarious laughter which director Elia Kazan gradually eliminated from successive drafts but which was incorporated into the original Philadelphia play try-outs.

Accession number 2015.006

Folder 9: Lord Byron's Love Letter: Opera In One-Act , circa 1954-1955Add to your cart.

Libretto in stapled sheets. Quarto. Mimeographed sheets printed on both the rectos and versos; 13 pages.

There is no record of a professional theatrical premiere of Lord Byron’s Love Letter.  However, Williams collaborated with Raffaello de Banfield on an operatic version of the play that was produced at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 17, 1955. The opera was subsequently performed at the Lyric Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, in November 1955. This is the script for the 1955 publication of the opera by G. Ricodi and Co., which coincided with its first performance at Tulane University. While the play remained unpublished until it appeared in 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other One-Act Plays in 1966.

Accession number 2015.006

Folder 10: Photograph of Tennessee Williams and Anna Magnani, 1954: SeptemberAdd to your cart.
Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams on the Andrea Doria on the way to the United States to film The Rose Tattoo.
Folder 11: Publicity photograph of Tennessee Williams, circa early 1970sAdd to your cart.
Issued by the International Creative Management (ICM) for promotion of the Tennessee Williams. This copy has been inscribed by Williams at the bottom right corner: “To Robert / Tennessee Williams.” With an additional inscription on the verso of the photograph, reading: “A mon cher ami! / Aloha to you all! / juis / Tennessee Williams / dans le Bay de San Francisco! / November 1981! / Et monsieur / Merci beacoup! / T.W. / or / 10 10 I see! ha! / Alons et en avant / T.W.”
Folder 12: A Streetcar Named Desire play script, circa 1973Add to your cart.

Play script in pinned pale green wrappers, 146 pages. Quarto. Mechanically produced sheets printed on the rectos only.

Script is for the first Broadway revival of the play, which opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 26, 1973, and ran for a total of 110 performances. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center and directed by Ellis Rabb, the opening night cast included James Farentino, Patricia Conolly, Rosemary Harris, Philip Bosco, Brian Brownlee, Ray Fry, Priscilla Pointer, Dan Sullivan, and Robert Symonds. Rosemary Harris won a Drama Desk Outstanding Performance Award for her role as Blanche DuBois. The revival was a major success, with the original engagement having to be extended, and in May the production broke the then house record for a non-musical at the Beaumont with a week’s gross of $60,797.

Accession number 2013.027

Folder 13: Tiger Tail play script, 1979Add to your cart.

Play script in brown portfolio cover with prong brining, 100 pages. Quarto. Includes photocopied manuscript textual annotations; highlighted in pink throughout. Title page has "September 1977" crossed out and replaced with "July 1979."

Based on Williams's screenplay for Elia Kazan's 1956 film "Baby Doll." Tiger Tail was first produced in 1979 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, Florida.

Accession number MSS2018-009

Folder 14: Vieux Carré play script, circa 1977Add to your cart.

Play script in stapled glossy wrappers, 109 pages. Quarto. Mechanically produced sheets printed on the rectos only.

The play opened at the St. James Theatre in New York City on May 11, 1977, and ran for a total of six performances. Produced by Golden Eagle Productions and George R. Nice, and directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, the opening night cast included Sylvia Sidney, Tom Aldredge, Richard Alfieri, Diane Kagan, John William Reilly, Grace Carney, Olive Deering and Iris Whitney.

Accession number 2013.027

Folder 15: The Performing Arts Area Presents 'Flowers for the Dead, A Tribute to Tennessee Williams' by Herbert E. Mertz Poster, 1984: March 22-25Add to your cart.

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.

Folder 16: City Players of St. Louis, Vieux Carre, by Tennessee Williams Poster, 1984: June 2-17Add to your cart.

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.

Folder 17: 9th Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival program, 1995: March 23-26Add to your cart.
Folder 18: First Day of Issue. Program for the celebration in Clarksdale, Mississippi of the United States Postal Service creation of a Tennessee Williams stamp, 1995: October 13Add to your cart.
2 copies
Folder 19: 10th Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival program, 1996: March 28-31Add to your cart.
Folder 20: First Issue Points for Tennesse Williams Dramatist's Play Service EditionsAdd to your cart.

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.

Folder 21: Transferred to Rare BooksAdd to your cart.
Item 1: Christopher Street Magazine, Volume 5, Number 10, Issue 58, 1981Add to your cart.
Features Williams’ play “The Travelling Companion.” Inscribed by Williams in red ink at the inclusion of his piece on page 32: “Bob / Love / 10.”
Item 2: The Kingdom of Earth with Hard CandyAdd to your cart.
New York: New Directions, (1954). First edition. Half-linen and patterned paper boards; spine stamped in gilt; front inner hinge slightly cracked, unworn slipcase. Marked "Presentation copy" below the stated limitation of 100 numbered copies, and signed by the author. This was one of Williams's copies, and given by him to the previous owner. Includes the additional story "The Kingdom of Earth" which is not listed on the contents page and was excluded from the regular edition because of its graphic sexual content. The new impression contains an extra gathering of ten leaves at the end of the volume and a new title leaf which is pasted on the stub of the excised original.
Item 3: Mediterranean Review, Volume I, Number 2, Winter 1971Add to your cart.
Features contributions by Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others. With a non-personalized inscription at Williams’ inclusion on page 15, a transcription of a talk given by him at the London Poetry Festival in 1970 titled, “What’s Next on the Agenda, Mr. Williams?” Inscribed by Williams at the top right corner of the page: “Velly solly, but – / 10 wms.”
Item 4: The Savitar of 1932: A History of the University of Missouri for the Year 1931-1932, 1932Add to your cart.

Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri. Full brown textured cloth; spine stamped and lettered in gold; cover lettered in gold, with embossed illustration, 408 pages. "Volume 38" on spine. Includes Ex libris stamp signed "Frances Moore." Lists Thomas L. Williams as a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity (page 224) and includes his poem, "Not Without Knowledge" (page 249).

May be Williams' first publication.

Accession number MSS2018-010

Item 5: A Streetcar Names Desire, 1973Add to your cart.
Caedmon Records, three 33 & 1/3 RPM Long-Playing Records in a box. No. TRS-357. Inscribed by Williams on the top rear panel: “To Bob / dear Bob / the “Streetcar” / Tennessee Williams.” Cast recording of the 1973 performance of the play at the Lincoln Center, directed by Ellis Rabb and starring Rosemary Harris and James Farentino.
Item 7: Tennessee Williams Reading from The Glass Menagerie, The Yellow Bird, and Five Other Poems, 1961Add to your cart.
Caedmon Records, 33 & 1/3 RPM Long-Playing Record in a sleeve. No. TC-1005. Inscribed by Williams on the top rear panel: “To Bob, dear Bob / Tennessee Williams,” then again, in the same ink at the bottom right corner: “Tenn Wms / 10.” With a front panel design made especially for this LP by Andy Warhol, with his printed (not holograph) signature at the top left corner.
Item 8: Tennessee Williams Reads Hart Crane, 1965Add to your cart.
Caedmon Records, 33 & 1/3 RPM Long-Playing Record in a sleeve. No. TC-1206. Inscribed by Williams on the top rear panel: “To uplift us all, he is – / from Tenn Wms – to Tom.” Crane pieces read by Williams, selected from “The Bridge,” “White Buildings,” “Key West,” and “Uncollected Poems.”

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