On February 24, 1983, Tennessee Williams choked to death on a bottle cap at his New York City residence at the Hotel Elysee. He is buried in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to twenty-five full length plays, Williams produced dozens of short plays and screenplays, two novels, a novella, sixty short stories, over one-hundred poems and an autobiography. Among his many awards, he won two Pulitzer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards.
Tennessee Williams was an old-fashioned Southern romantic who never made any kind of adjustment to the real world, a world he constantly wandered in search of the sad music in people. Like the characters he stylized-even spiritualized- almost out of existence, he exulted in a shadowy reality above a substantial one.
The contribution of Tennessee Williams to the American cinema has surpassed that of any other American playwright, both before and after him. No other writer has matched the film output based on Williams's literary oeuvre. At least fifteen motion pictures were made from his plays, stories, novel, and original screenplays. Williams's contribution to the American screen spanned precisely two decades.
Williams’ mentally ill sister, Rose, was lobotomized and provided the inspiration for tragic characters in Suddenly, Last Summer and The Glass Menagerie. His domineering, unstable mother was the basis for Amanda Wingfield in Menagerie and Blanche DuBois in Streetcar.
Tennessee Williams had an older sister, Rose, who was institutionalized with severe schizophrenia. When Williams’ sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he felt a mixture of shame and guilt. Trips to visit her at Saint Vincent’s sanitarium, where she was found “screaming incoherently like a wild animal,” left Williams feeling ill. Williams first realized there might be something wrong with his older sister , who would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia, when she entered his room and said, “Let’s all die together.”
In 1947 Williams met Frank Merlo, a young Sicilian-American ex-sailor in New Orleans. By the fall of 1948, Williams had fallen in love, and the pair began a relationship that lasted until Merlo's death 14 years later. Williams wrote The Rose Tattoo during the happy first months of their relationship and the play reflects Merlo's Sicilian background. Williams nicknamed his friend "Little Horse."
During WW II years Williams worked for a short time in Hollywood writing for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film company. The first critical triumph come in 1945 with The Glass Menagerie, in which Williams used techniques he had learned from the cinema. The Glass Menagerie ran on Broadway for over a year and received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
In 1928 Williams traveled with his grandfather to Europe and inspired by its atmosphere and culture he wrote much poetry. In 1929 he entered the University of Missouri–Columbia, where he joined Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. His fraternity brothers dubbed him “Tennessee” for his rich southern drawl. Upon attending a production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts he decided to become a playwright. His first year of college at the University of Missouri he devoted to “writing and an infatuation with an Irish girl.” said Williams. After poor grades during his first year of college he was forced to work at his father’s shoe company, International Shoe Company.
Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1914, the second of three children of Cornelius and Edwina Williams. His father, a traveling salesman, was rarely home and for many years the family lived with his mother's parents. As a result, the young boy developed a close relationship with his grandfather, and also his older sister, Rose.
Tennessee Williams was an American writer from the South. Many of his characters were based on his own family and life. His first real success was the play The Glass Menagerie in 1944. His next work, A Streetcar Named Desire, won him a Pulitzer Prize.