Tennessee Williams

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The author of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie did not set any of his well-known plays in Key West.

But the island was his primary residence from the 1940s until he died in 1983. That’s a lot longer than a certain other famous writer.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The plays of Tennessee Williams are usually set in the steamy, hot American South. Laurie Sansom is a theater director from chilly, gray Britain. But he’s come to love the works of one of America’s greatest playwrights. And because Key West is where Tennessee Williams lived for decades, that’s where Sansom came to work on a new project.

DeWolfe and Wood Collection / Monroe County Public Library

  Sixty years ago, a film partially shot in Key West won three Academy Awards — including Best Actress.

  Anna Magnani was the first Italian actress to win an Oscar. She won for her role in "The Rose Tattoo," a movie based on the play by her close friend Tennessee Williams.

The house where Magnani's character lived has recently been restored by an Italian couple. Carla Agostini Gay is a major movie buff and Magnani is her favorite actress.

Key West's literary heritage is overwhelmingly associated with one writer: Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winner's former home is a popular museum. And every summer there's a look-alike contest where white-bearded men compete to look like Papa.

But recently, the island has turned to celebrating another 20th-century writer who made Key West his home: Tennessee Williams. 

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was perhaps the most influential playwright of the twentieth century.

During the 1940s and 1950s, his work took the American theater by storm, achieving enormous popular success and the sort of feverish criticism only accorded writers of groundbreaking genius.

His best-known works include A Streetcar Named Desire, whose 1947 Broadway production launched the careers of Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy, and the 1955 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.