How old is Amanda Wingfield anyway? (re: How old is Tom, anyway?)
Posted by: Marlo*Manners 05:13 pm EDT 09/14/21
In reply to: re: How old is Tom, anyway? - den 12:54 pm EDT 09/14/21

I've seen several "Glass Menagerie" revivals. The production that got me thinking about the ages of the characters in the play vs. the ages they are usually cast as was the 2005 David Leveaux production starring Jessica Lange, Christian Slater, Josh Lucas and Sarah Paulson.

The play is ostensibly set in the early 1930's at the height of the depression. Tom's narration where he is a sailor I would suspect might be set many years later probably slightly before WWII or America's involvement in WWII circa 1940.

Jessica Lange played Amanda as a brisk and attractive woman in her mid to late forties. Amanda's clothing looked like well-kept items from the 1920's that were repurposed or updated slightly. Lange's hairdo was a medium length Marcelle wave bob typical of the late twenties - not the messy gray chignon usually seen. Her dresses were neat floral frocks, blouses and skirts and coats that ended just below the knee - not long skirts or granny dresses. She was at the most fifty but not more. Then there is the scene in Act II where Amanda dons her old Southern belle gown from her premarital days. That gown often looks like something from the antebellum era - Gertrude Lawrence in the hardly definitive 1950 movie version has a flashback as a young Amanda greeting her Gentleman Callers in what looks like a 19th century ballgown. Well, Lange came out in a gown that looked like something the young Zelda Fitzgerald would wear - almost a flapper dress with beading. Very early 20th century.

The rest of the cast looked about 30 but could pass for twenties.

But then I thought about the timeline. Amanda would have married young in her twenties - if she waited until she was thirty she would have been an old maid. So I would think that Amanda's gentleman caller days in the South would be just before WWI. If she started having babies right away (no birth control then), her twentysomething kids (who didn't go to college and have high school degrees) would have been born when she was in her twenties. Therefore, Amanda would be late forties or at the most just about fifty - yet so many Amandas are sixtysomething or septuagenarians. And they look like old, old ladies with gray hair in a bun and sloppy matronly clothing that looks pre-WWI.

Look at the casting of so many of the stage and television versions (late career Jo Van Fleet, Helen Hayes, Shirley Booth, Katharine Hepburn, Joanne Woodward, Jessica Tandy, etc.) . For example the tv version from December 1966 (recently rediscovered) with a 68 year-old Shirley Booth and the very middle-aged Hal Holbrook as Tom and Pat Hingle as Jim - both in their early forties. Hingle really looks like a tired middle-aged sad sack with a spare tire and wrinkles, not a slick young go getter like Kirk Douglas in the 1950 version. Barbara Loden was 34 and looks sexualized as Laura with sixties makeup, bleached and permed hair and shapely figure. All wrong.

It seemed to me that Lange had very much the right idea - Amanda was a beauty who was careful about her appearance and would not necessarily let herself go and turn into a prematurely aged frump. She doesn't have money for new clothing or beauty parlor treatments but she keeps herself together. And she is only about 47 years-old, not an elderly bag. Her children are in their twenties and starting to have that youthful urge to wander, break away and make their own destinies.

Feel free to discuss and challenge me.

Marlo Manners (Lady Barrington)

Previous: re: How old is Tom, anyway? - den 12:54 pm EDT 09/14/21
Next: re: How old is Amanda Wingfield anyway? (re: How old is Tom, anyway?) - WWriter 01:56 pm EDT 09/15/21

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