In Praise of Marlon Brando
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"I'm angry at Marlon because he does everything so easily. I have to break my ass to do what he can do with his eyes closed."
"If I've met three geniuses in my life, I would have to say I would put Marlon at the head of the list. Akira Kurosawa was a genius and Orson Welles...Not only as an actor, just as a man. Just as someone who's intelligent and his constantly inquiring mind about life, insect life, nature and the universe - I mean he was this kind of a person."
"Brando represented a reaction against the post-war mania for security. As a protagonist, the Brando of the early fifties had no code, only his instincts. He was a development from the gangster leader and the outlaw. He was antisocial because he knew society was crap; he was a hero to youth because he was strong enough not to take the crap ... Brando represented a contemporary version of the free American ... Brando is still the most exciting American actor on the screen."
"Marlon Brando is the epitome of actors today, and all actors since the 1950s have been mimicking him."
On Marlon Brando's talent: "Nothing short of pulverizing."
On the actors that came after Brando: "They're all living off the human poem of this guy, nourished by the poetry that he was."
"The first time I saw Audrey Hepburn was in Roman Holiday. There have only been a few firsts in my life that have rattled me so much - the first time I saw Fred Astaire, the first time I saw Marlon Brando. It was obvious to me that she was going to join a group into which a few artists are admitted: Chaplin, Astaire, Brando."
On his rivalry with Fred Astaire:
"If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I'm the Marlon Brando."
[on Marlon Brando in the stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire] There was an electrical charge and almost an animal scent he projected over the footlights that made it impossible for the audience to think or watch the other performers on the stage. All you could do was feel, the sexual arousal was so complete. I don't believe that quality can be learned; it's just there, primitive and compelling. The only time I experienced a similar reaction was when I saw Elvis Presley perform in Las Vegas.
From Richard Burton's Diaries:
"Marlon's and Elizabeth's personalities, to say nothing of their physical beauty, are so vast that they can and have got away with murder, but Elizabeth – unlike Marlon – has acquired almost by proximity to the camera, by osmosis, a powerful technique. Marlon has yet to learn to speak. Christ knows how often I've watched Marlon ruin his performance by under-articulation.
He should have been born two generations before and acted in silent films."
Burton recognized Marlon Brando as a great actor, but felt he would have been more suited to silent films due to the deficiency in his voice (the famous "mumble"). As a silent film star, Burton believed Marlon Brando would have been the greatest motion picture actor ever.
"He gave us our freedom."
“When Marlon dies, everyone moves up one.”
"With my generation, it was always Marlon Brando and always will be Brando."
(1979, on Marlon Brando) There's no doubt every time I see Brando that I'm looking at a great actor. Whether he's doing great acting or not, you're seeing somebody who is in the tradition of a great actor. What he does with it, that's something else, but he's got it all. The talent, the instrument is there, that's why he has endured. I remember when I first saw On the Waterfront. I had to see it again, right there. I couldn't move, I couldn't leave the theater. I had never seen the likes of it. I couldn't believe it.
"It was incomprehensible how good Brando was. He was just a phenomenon. I was acting before I ever saw a Brando picture. I'm very proud to be able to say that but I'll be imitating him until the day I die."
"He was like a godfather to many young actors worldwide but particularly in this country. He had enormous positive influence on younger performers. His memory will live on forever."
"People always ask me who was the most influential guy to us young guys back then. Anyone who doesn't tell you Brando was the man, they're lying. He influenced more young actors of my generation than any actor. Anyone who denies it never understood what it was all about. I loved him."
"He was the first one who was coming out on stage and was not this sophisticated ... At that time, you went to the theatre to see sophistication and glamour but he was a real person ... actors, you saw them acting, and you could not catch him acting."
"With tears in my eyes, I think that in dying Marlon has become immortal. [He] had learnt better than his peers how to feel like another person, to become a Mexican revolutionary, a Hell's Angel, a New York docker, a tree or a river. The cinema generally requires an actor to enter the skin of another. Me, on the other hand, I asked him in the film for his life as a man and an actor."
"An angel as a man, a monster as an actor."
"He had it all yet didn't take himself or life too seriously. He was also the funniest guy and a joy to be with. 'Good night sweet prince.'"
"In 1947, when Marlon Brando appeared on stage in a torn, sweaty t-shirt, there was an earthquake. Kowalski changed the shape of sex in America. Before him, no man was considered erotic. A man was essentially a suit, not a body.”
"Marlon Brando is probably the greatest actor of the last two centuries. But his mind is much more important than the acting thing. The way that he looks at things, doesn't judge things, the way that he assesses things. He's as important as, uh, who's important today? Jesus, not many people... Stephen Hawking!"
When playing down Anthony Wong's praise of his own acting ability, he brings up Brando as the yardstick of acting:
“The next time you tell him to praise me, why don't you tell him to praise my good looks? In my eyes, (Anthony Wong) Chau Sang is a rare artist and a worthy friend. His acting skills are comparable to Marlon Brando."
"Other than James Dean, there's no one to rival Brando. I just wish he'd been a bit more serious about his acting. I mean, talking about acting as a craft – that always used to shit me. But, hey, if he's a craftsman, he's one of the greatest craftsmen that ever lived."
"I was to begin with the family show-off and then when I was twelve, I saw Brando in his first film "The Men" in which he played a paraplegic and for some reason, maybe the timing was right I -- it had a -- a very great affect on me and made me more interested in acting and at that time in stage acting."
"I was living in Marshalltown, Iowa. I was 17. My deepest desire was to act. I'd dreamed of being an actress since I was 12. I'd seen Brando's first film, The Men. A film about paraplegics. It was the first time I'd been really impressed by the strength or power of an actor, his ability to move viewers. I read every article I could find on Brando. I read that he hated publicity and liked peace and quiet, so I wrote him inviting him to live with me and my family."
"I admire Hollywood Rebels, like Marlon Brando and James Dean, they try to protect those things which made them individuals, they fight conformity. I think maybe not fighting conformity, maybe I didn't use the right word, but rather than fighting something, they're trying to preserve something I think, which was basically what they were and which was what made them on the screen the personality which made both adults and teen-agers like them and identify with them, and it's terribly easy to become a synthetic version of yourself. I have to watch myself all the time, because suddenly, very superficial phony things start coming out of your mouth and as long as you know they're phony or superficial then that's all right, but when you stop knowing then a I think as an actress too, you're in a very bad condition, because the only thing you have which is going to appeal to people, which is going to make them believe you is -- if you are a person above all."
"As a rule, I don't approve of the actor-director breed. Orson Welles has made it work once, and Laurence Olivier has succeeded in doubling his chores on several occasions. There are exceptions, however, in the ledger book that numbers many disasters for each successful effort.
I have directed one-and-a-fraction films. Time Limit, in which I did not appear, I directed in entirety; more recently, when Delmer Daves was taken ill, I directed the final sequences of The Hanging Tree, in which I was acting with Gary Cooper and Maria Schell. This harrowing experience reaffirmed my personal conviction: one thing at a time.
After watching Brando, the director, creating his first Western, I believe another exception may be in prospect.
On the practical level, Brando, the director, is patient, determined and intelligent.
From time to time I have been asked to explain the secret of another man with whom I've had the privilege of working frequently...Elia Kazan. What makes Kazan such a fine director? In a word, homework. His script is usually several thicknesses larger than any other on the set; he has thought of every contingency and prepared for it.
In evaluating Marlon Brando, the director, I might use the same standard. Brando, too, does his homework."
- From the article "The Two Faces of Brando" originally published in Films and Filming, August 1959.
When asked how he was as a director: "As an actor, the same brilliance. It's a shame they didn't let him go on directing."
"When we were doing The Chase, one scene which is a terrible scene of a bunch of town bullies coming down and beating up the sheriff. I started to do it in a conventional way which is you know let's get some stuntmen in here and let's have them lay out the scene. Marlon said 'No,' and he said: 'Have you ever seen a fight - a real fight?' I said: 'Yeah I was in the war Marlon you know.' He said: 'Get them to throw a punch.' And he said: 'Let's undercrank a couple of frames a second.' Ordinarily a film was shot at 24 frames a second. But if you move down to 20 frames, you can speed up normal action and will add the velocity. This was a lesson for me, because I used it later on in the ending of Bonnie and Clyde, changing speeds. I ganged up 4 cameras together, all running at different speeds. It came from this experience with Marlon."
On Brando's performance in On the Waterfront: "It was that basic human story, it was watching the fluid way in which Marlon [Brando] directed the wind around him. We were all moved and swayed by him, and it was the first time that I took notice of truth in acting. There was no acting; everyone else acted around him, but he was there."
"They're different types - Brando and DeMille - but each also is unlike all other directors. Most of them work for the awards for the respect of Hollywood. But DeMille directed for the world, to give people what they wanted. And Brando shares that ability to ignore what Hollywood will think of his work. His only concern is to present the story as he sees it."
- When asked to compare Brando's directing style to Cecil B. DeMille's (a director he previously worked with).
"Marlon has the sort of genius, I think, that is able to play a genius. I mean his Napoleon, I think, is immeasurably the best Napoleon I think I've ever seen. Simply marvelous. Simply because of his own particular quality of being so easy, so easily bringing a sense of genius to a character who was a genius. He's got an astonishing gift. I think he's a very, very remarkable actor. It's not always completely controlled. But, on the movies of course he learns to be controlled. Actually, he'd hate to be called a technician I'm sure, but he is one. A great technician."
"I was twelve years old when I saw On the Waterfront, the effect was enormous and it did change my life. What was interesting about his behaviour, I can't even call it acting, behaviour is really what it was. There was something that was so truthful in the nature of the way he moved and what he said, even the way when he was talking to Eva Marie Saint in that long scene, every move he made was true to the situation. It was a kind of emotional truth that I've never seen before."
"Everything that came before On the Waterfront is of a different time and place. And then On the Waterfront is the demarcation line for me with actors and of course with directors too."
On One Eyed Jacks: "I remember seeing the film on its first release in New York in Vistavision. It's one of my favourite films actually and again as the behaviour, it's just with the opening shot where they were robbing the bank when he's sitting on the counter eating a banana, you know, it's the attention to detail."
On Reflections in a Golden Eye: "Particularly his mirror scene, I don't think I've ever seen anybody ever doing anything like that, where he talked to himself in the mirror. Having that in mind, on Taxi Driver, last two days of shooting, there was a scene in which De Niro's trying on his guns so to speak in front of the mirror. But I asked him, kind of having that scene in mind, to see what Bob would do in front of the mirror, what he would say to himself. And so the scene 'Are you talking to me?' came out of that. But that's because I was so shocked by what Brando does at that moment, you know, the total desperation of this man."
On One-Eyed Jacks:
"Westerns are my favorite genre, both novel - although I'm an eclectic reader - and film. This particular film has long been my favorite western, but I stand nearly alone among my peers...
I've often wondered why the film was panned. Perhaps because of the time? A time when America was in turmoil and needed heroes, not 90% anti-heroes as those featured in One-Eyed Jacks. I've also engaged in some introspection as I'm generally a happy-ending kind of guy, and the ending of the film is rather nebulous. As reported from several sources this was not the ending Brando wanted, which was darker and far less upbeat. Had he had his way; the ending would have been a typical Greek tragedy ending as Brando wanted, the film might have been among those nominated for an Oscar. His very old friend and co-star in the film, and others, reported how unhappy Brando was with the studio changes. But it wasn't his ending. Be that as it may.
So, why would I hold the film in such high esteem?
After reading the argument that One-Eyed Jacks was not the first film to feature a protagonist, or protagonists who were equally or more so antagonists, anti-heroes, I've spent some time again watching the films of the 50s that critics say preceded One-Eyed Jacks, and again I have to disagree. Searchers is given as an example. If you think John Wayne was portrayed as an anti-hero in that film, then I don't know the definition of "hero". Yes, he threatened to gun down Natalie Wood, but for what at the time - the time portrayed in the film - was considered a good reason. It's not the first instance I've observed that critics and the public try to impose 21st century mores and morals on 19th or earlier century writings. I find it an abomination to do so, and a violation of true morals and ethics. Lying is hardly ethical.
I'm a student of history and, particularly of the pre-Mexican War Californios era. If I'm any judge, it's never been better portrayed in film than it was in One-Eyed Jacks...
The picture is a celebration of anti-heroes, and as such, almost totally original for westerns.
One of the rules of writing drama is 'make 'em laugh, make em' cry.' Although I laughed, winced and sympathized many times watching the final version, I didn't cry, and I might have with Brando's ending. As good a film as it was, Brando's ending was likely much better.
Malden said, 'If we'd made it the way Marlon wanted it to be made, like a Greek tragedy, it could have been a breakthrough western. It could have been a classic.'
I agree, although I think it's a classic nonetheless.
No matter Brando's many warts. No matter the film not having the ending Brando wanted. No matter its lack of rave reviews. It's my favorite western. That said, Shane and Open Range are close behind.
I feel more than justified when one considers the recent praise for the film from Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. If one wanted his opinion of a film buttressed, who could ask for stronger supporters?"
On Brando's acting:
"I've watched a number of films - all I've been able to get my hands on - and it's my belief he's the master of silence. The pause, when he performs one, is unlike other actors. Malden says, "Marlon took the longest pauses I have ever sweated through. Other days, he would come in too soon...
Silence is a powerful ingredient, and Brando proved it time and time again in his acting.
He sold his scene, his character, his products, with his silences. It seemed to be the most powerful arrow in his very full quiver.
He put more into silence than dozens of other fine actors did with words, tears, grimaces or grins.
Malden said Brando could fill a pause because he had '...a fire inside him that kept everything he did interesting.'"
"If you hadn't seen him earlier on the stage (before watching his movies) you had no idea about the power of Brando's acting. I remember an acting teacher at Yale, Ms. Welch, who saw him in a play on its way to Broadway and she never knew Brando (initially) and said it was as if a leopard had come on the stage. And this man who looked like maybe a stagehand had wandered up. The combination of genes and genius that he had were such a high degree that it came smashing through the screen or out into your lap in the theatre."
"Psychologically a mess. Marlon may have in the same way that he was the greatest actor - a phrase he wouldn't allow anyone to use around him - was the greatest mess."
"A German friend had said: 'My mother when she saw the Young Lions with Brando and Dean Martin. (She said) We could not convince my mother who's 85, that that actor was not a German, and specifically from her part of Germany because no one had been able to reproduce the accent so faultlessly.'"
"When his success blossomed on Broadway as it did and then the films, he could have any movie he wanted without exception, he could do any play he wanted, anything from Henry VIII to King Lear to whatever he should've done and just...*sigh* the inelegant expression is: pissed it away."
"He never made me feel inferior to him, he regarded me as a brother. Indeed, there was no one like Brando; that way of changing the expression of his face, of his eyes; even more, he was a brave man."
"He slayed me good because he was the king of everything. Everything. He was one of the most sexual people on earth."
Who was the better lover? Brando. "Elvis was a sweet fella. Handsome boy. But Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley? C'mon. Amateur night."
She admits that Brando was much better in bed than Elvis: “Oh honey, that's like a 2-year-old and the king,”
Marlon Brando Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American actor and film director. With a career spanning 60 years, he is regarded for his cultural influence on 20th-century film. Brando's Academy Award-winning performances include that of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972). Brando was an activist for many causes, notably the civil rights movement and various Native American movements. He is credited with helping to popularize the Stanislavski system of acting having studied with Stella Adler in the 1940s.
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