Tennessee Williams, (1914-83). US dramatist, born Thomas Lanier Williams. His plays were often controversial, being criticized for their sensational treatment of sex and violence. The son of a salesman, he grew up in some poverty in the American Deep South. His first major success was The Glass Menagerie (1945), a play based largely on his own troubled family life. A Street-car Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) both won Pulitzer Prizes. Williams’s work suffered during the 1960s, when his addiction to alcohol and sleeping pills caused a complete physical and mental breakdown.