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Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski from the stage version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1948).
In the play
Stanley lives in the working class Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife, Stella (née Dubois), and is employed as a salesman. He has a vicious temper, and fights often with his wife, leading to instances of domestic violence. Near the beginning of the play, Stanley announces that Stella is pregnant.
Stanley's life becomes more complicated when Stella's sister Blanche shows up at their door for a seemingly indefinite "visit." The two despise each other almost on sight; the spoiled, aristocratic Blanche openly looks down upon Stanley, whom she derides as an "ape", and she often calls him a Polack, while Stanley is enraged at what he sees as a constant reminder that he is not good enough for Stella. His resentment grows almost unbearable when Blanche starts dating his friend, Mitch, and lets Stella briefly take refuge with her after an argument in which he hits her.
Stanley starts asking questions of a street merchant who knew Blanche in her old life, and finds out that Blanche is staying with the Kowalskis because she is homeless; her family's ancestral mansion, Belle Reve, has been mortgaged. He also learns that she was paid to leave Mississippi to quell gossip about her many affairs, which she began after her husband, a closeted homosexual, committed suicide. Overjoyed to have the upper hand, Stanley tells Mitch about Blanche's secret past, which scares Mitch into ending the relationship.
The night that Stella gives birth to their son, Stanley goes out and gets drunk in celebration, and finds a similarly drunk Blanche, lost in fantasies of better times, when he returns home. He makes a crude, drunken pass at her, which she rebuffs, disgusted. Enraged, Stanley overpowers and rapes her. This final assault on what she had left of her dignity sends Blanche over the edge into a nervous breakdown. Weeks later, Stella has Blanche committed to a mental institution at Stanley's insistence.
In other media
He was most famously portrayed by Marlon Brando in the play's initial Broadway performance as well as the 1951 film adaptation. Since then, he has been played by Treat Williams and Alec Baldwin in, respectively, the 1984 and 1995 made for TV adaptations.