American Playwright, Novelist, Poet, and Short Story Writer. He is best known for his plays "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" which each earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948 and 1955 respectively. He was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, whose father was an alcoholic-prone traveling shoe salesman and his mother had bouts of mental illness. While very young, he became ill nearly died from either diphtheria or rheumatic fever, which left him confined to his house for about a year. During this time he grew very close to his mother and older sister. When he was eight, his father received a promotion to the home office of the International Shoe Company in Saint Louis, Missouri, and the family relocated there. While in high school he acquired an interest in writing and his essay "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?" that was published in Smart Set in 1927 and his first short story entitled "The Vengeance of Nitocris," published in the August 1928 issue of the magazine Weird Tales. In 1929 he enrolled in the University of Missouri (Columbia) to pursue journalism, all while entering his works in writing contests. In 1932 his father pulled him out of college, putting him to work at the International Shoe Company factory. He continued to write without any success and suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 24 and quit his job. In 1936 he enrolled at Washington University in Saint Louis, transferring to the University of Iowa at Iowa City, Iowa, and graduated in 1938 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He adopted "Tennessee Williams" as his professional name in 1939 and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to write for the Works Progress Administration, a federally funded program started by President Franklin Roosevelt to help put people back to work during the Great Depression. In 1944 his play "The Glass Menagerie," which was based upon his memories growing up in Saint Louis, became an instant hit in Chicago, Illinois and on Broadway in New York City, New York, winning his first New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for the best play of the season. His success was duplicated in 1947 with his next play, "A Streetcar Named Desire," securing 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), earning him two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards, and a Tony Award. "The Glass Menagerie" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" were made into motion pictures in the 1950s and nearly all of his other major plays were also adapted for the screen. In the 1960s the quality of his work began to decline due to his increased alcohol and drug consumption as well as the death of his partner, Frank Merlo, he found himself in and out of treatment facilities under the control of his mother and brother. His remaining plays were all box office failures and, coupled with the negative press notices, his spirit wore down and he never was able to overcome his dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs. He died in his suite at the Elysee Hotel In New York City as the result of a drug and alcohol overdose. During his lifetime, he wrote 29 major plays, nine apprentice plays, ten screenplays and teleplays, two works of poetry, ten short stories, three novels, and over 70 one-act plays. In 1980 he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. In 2009 he was posthumously inducted into the Poets' Corner at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
"The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks!"
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