Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
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Stefan Kanfer, acclaimed biographer of Lucille Ball and Groucho Marx, now gives us the definitive life of Marlon Brando, seamlessly intertwining the man and the work to give us a stunning and illuminating appraisal. Beginning with Brando’s turbulent childhood, Kanfer follows him to New York where he made his star-making Broadway debut as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire at age twenty-three. Brando then decamped for Hollywood, and Kanfer looks at each of Brando’s films over the years—from The Men in 1950 to The Score in 2001—offering deft and insightful analysis of his sometimes brilliant, sometimes baffling performances. And, finally, Kanfer brings into focus Brando’s self-destructiveness, ambivalence toward his craft, and the tragedies that shadowed his last years.
movies, giving performances that were occasionally becalmed but always more interesting than the material, Marlon Brando has finally connected with a character and a film that need not embarrass America’s most complex, most idiosyncratic film actor, nor those critics who have wondered, in bossy print, what ever happened to him.” Marlon’s champions won the day. For on The Godfather, they pointed out, he had done his thing and, after a string of unmitigated disasters, this time his thing had
did almost all of the Brando cronies. One wish of the deceased did come to pass: In accordance with his instructions, he was cremated. The ashes, along with those of Wally Cox, kept for decades in the Mulholland house, were scattered in Death Valley and Tahiti. During the mourning period a distraught forty-year-old woman named Lisa Warmer suddenly showed up at the front door of the Brando house. “Marlon Brando is my father,” she sobbed. “I found out about him six years ago when my mother [actress
stressing the need for new blood; the government was being run by “tired old men.” Admiral Halsey was the same age as the President, the GOP candidate pointed out. Admiral King was sixty-six, Generals MacArthur and Marshall sixty-four. The next generation was hammering at the door. The polls indicated that Dewey’s message would not be enough to defeat a failing but illustrious leader. Yet the governor’s subtext had an effect; Americans pondered the coming postwar economy, aware that in every
could rescue Marlon Brando was Marlon Brando. That would have been hard enough for a more mature individual, and the emerging star was, as his sister suggested, emotionally retarded. From childhood on, Marlon continued to provide pop-psych speculators with a rich field. But medical experts also had their say, and their observations seem inarguable. Psychologist Sibyl Baran finds that his conduct in early manhood is illustrative of many pages in the DSM—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Shakespeare. And like most children his age, he became an addict of network radio. Albert Einstein, newly arrived from Germany, explained radio to the American public: “You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. And radio operates in exactly the same way; you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.” The absence of cat was what made the medium so miraculous.