Died on this day – 25 February 1983

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Orlando Fernandez, World Telegram staff photographerLibrary of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection

 

Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III, born on 26 March 1911, was an American playwright. Along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three foremost playwrights in 20th-century American drama.

After years of obscurity, he became suddenly famous with The Glass Menagerie (1944), closely reflecting his own unhappy family background. This heralded a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). His later work attempted a new style that did not appeal to audiences, and alcohol and drug dependence further inhibited his creative output. His drama A Streetcar Named Desire is often numbered on the short list of the finest American plays of the 20th century alongside Long Day’s Journey into Night and Death of a Salesman.

Much of Williams’ most acclaimed work was adapted for the cinema. He also wrote short stories, poetry, essays and a volume of memoirs.

On a trip to Europe in 1983 Williams visited Montmorillon where, after a visit to the Glass Key bookshop, he retired to the Trappe au Livres bar and launched into a serious bout of drinking before retiring to his room in the Hotel de France. It was here in his bed that he was found dead the next morning having choked to death from inhaling the plastic cap of a nasal spray dispenser.

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