This bitter story of squandered lives was Williams’ first successful play. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1945 and has been transformed for film and television. My favorite movie version is the 1987 hit (rated PG, 134 minutes) with Joanne Woodward and John Malkovich.
The ironic miscarriage of the only good deed in The Glass Menagerie almost overshadows the fiercely unremitting sadness of the lives of the Wingfields: Amanda, the mother (Woodward); Laura, the daughter (Karen Allen), and Tom, the son (Malkovich).
Amanda burdens her children with her querulous dissatisfactions and her selfishly revised memories of the abbreviated happiness of her youth. Tom is beleaguered, bedeviled by his cloying mother, and he finally escapes after being punished for his good deed.
Laura collects glass animals, she collects disappointments and inadequacies, she collects yesterdays that never had any real hopes… She casts away a fleeting waltz of swirling, genuine, furnace-hot emotions because they didn’t last long enough to cease feeling so very strange to her…
The Glass Menagerie may seem a tiny bit less achingly poignant if you can manage to think of it as a wrenching, literate, relentless drama, and not think of it as a maelstrom of human frailty that could, all too easily, pull down real people. Alas, the jonquils are too dreamily pathetic and altogether too believable.
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) wrote The Glass Menagerie in 1944.