Lawrence Weschler at Wondercabinet:
Nowadays the title reads not only as tepid and banal but as distinctly unrepresentative of the ensuing narrative’s principal themes and contours. In fairness, when the onetime Austro-Hungarian actress and subsequently Hollywood scenarist Salka Viertel first began auditioning the phrase “the kindness of strangers” for the title of her memoir in progress, back in the mid-1950s, as her recent biographer Donna Rifkind has pointed out, the words were not nearly as hackneyed as they are today. (The sensational play A Streetcar Named Desire, from which they sprang, was only a few years old, having premiered in 1947; the film had only been released in 1951; and the primary chestnut to have emerged from the latter was Stanley’s bloodcurdling scream of “Stella! Stellllaaaa!” and not so much Blanche’s breathy Southern belle protestations of having always reliii-ed on the kindness of strangers.) Salka’s husband, the internationally acclaimed theater director Berthold Viertel, had been translating their friend Tennessee Williams’s plays for some years already and staging them all over Europe, and perhaps Salka savored the nod in the young playwright’s direction. Such selfless generosity, indeed such kindness on her own part, would have been just like her.