Aside from its technical innovations the 1950s also saw a gradual easing of the strict production codes of the 1940s. After much wrangling with censors, Elia Kazan finally brought Tennessee Williams’ critically lauded (and controversial) Broadway drama, A Streetcar Named Desire, to the screen in 1951. With Streetcar Kazan also launched the career of one of the greatest composers to work in Hollywood, Alex North.
North had previously established himself in concert, ballet, and theater music in New York, and brought to the film a highly charged fusion of sophisticated, sometimes dissonant orchestral scoring and authentically loose but precisely notated jazz. Often using a less-is-more approach that worked against the usually lush Warner Bros. sound, the character of Stanley is unforgettably introduced by a slithering clarinet solo with a dissonant piano vamp. Blanche’s more traditional theme is poignant and laced with melancholy romanticism. Throughout the drama the sensuous intensity of North’s music constantly draws the listener irresistibly into both the steamy New Orleans setting and the tempestuous, conflicted inner lives of the characters who live there.