Sometimes it really pays to be literate – and I mean pays.
On Tuesday, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune was one letter away from victory, having only to fill in one letter of the title of what is likely the greatest American play of the twentieth century, Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire.
The contestant saw this on the board: A Streetcar Na ed Desire. He had only to guess the letter “m.”
He failed. Calling instead for the letter “k,” the contestant apparently thought the word was “naked.”
Streetcar was not only a rip-roaringly famous play that launched Marlon Brando to fame as the brutal Stanley Kowalski, but also brought the Method technique developed by Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler to the forefront of the acting world, with other devotees such as Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Rod Steiger, and Julie Harris.
Directed by Elia Kazan, the play was filmed in 1951, winning Oscars for Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Kim Hunter as Stella, and Karl Malden as Mitch. Brando, ironically, was snubbed in favor of Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, but went on to be nominated three successive years for Viva Zapata, Julius Caesar, and On the Waterfront, finally winning the Oscar for Waterfront, also directed by Kazan. He won another Oscar 18 years later for The Godfather.
Reaction on Twitter to the contestant’s ignorance of the play was general disbelief:
See video here.