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still from A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, US 1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire

Elia Kazan / US, 1951 / 122 min.

Elia Kazan’s classic is iconic: Marlon Brando’s astounding Method Acting was at complete odds with traditional, subdued acting. Alex North was one of the first to take jazz seriously as film music.

poster A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, US 1951)

Kazan gave Brando, star of Kazan’s Method Acting school, free reign in the black & white adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ famous play, which was also directed by Kazan, featuring Brando as the rough Stanley Kowalski.

Composer Alex North was one of the first to take the opportunities jazz provided as soundtrack music seriously. The way he incorporates jazz and blues into the sound of a symphony orchestra is unique.

The score illustrates the characters’ moods using different instruments (saxophone, strings). In the past, film composers had accompanied characters with (recurring) themes and motifs. North used jazz – a musical genre viewed purely as party music (swing, ragtime, Dixieland) or as experimental artsy music (bebop) – as a compositional element. Before A Streetcar Named Desire jazz in films was often a gilded gimmick or location music (from a radio or in a dirty diner).

Jazz great Miles Davis (not exactly known for praising peers) said of Alex North's score; ”That’s a wild record... if anybody is going to write for strings in the jazz idiom or something near to it it’ll be North”



Elia Kazan

Production year




Original title

A Streetcar Named Desire


122 min.





Part of

All That Jazz

All That Jazz: a scintillating programme on jazz and film featuring classics, live performances and a focus on exceptional avant-garde and activist filmmakers with a passion for jazz. From Miles Davis to Vincent de Boer, from Sun Ra to Ornette Coleman.

Learn more
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still from A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, US 1951)
still from A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, US 1951)
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