Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
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.
Brando who, very calmly, came back to the set and proceeded to untie me with the greatest of ease.” She took it in good spirits: The two were seen chuckling between takes. Crew members witnessed a few head-to-head collisions with the director—Winner was a coarse talent masked as a refined one; Brando, as always, was a fragile ego covered with a hard carapace of fake lechery and vulgar remarks. He was forever grabbing Beacham, to whom he was not attracted, or trying to offend the Jewish Winner by
texts, thanks to his mother’s collection back in Libertyville. But during these study hall periods he awoke to the language, mouthing the words silently, learning their rhythms, and memorizing selected passages. His self-dramatizing melancholia fit well with sonnet twenty-nine: When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries… As it did with Marc Antony’s funeral oration: This was the most unkindest cut
In subsequent years, numerous historians claimed that The Godfather met with unanimous raves. That was far from the case. National Review critic John Simon, notoriously hard to please, said that the film was disfigured by its “basic dishonesty.” It showed the Mafia “mostly in extremes of heroic violence or sweet family life. Even the scenes of intimidation are grand and spectacular. Missing is the banality of evil, the cheap, ugly racketeering that is the mainstay of organized crime.” The
in 1959, Fugitive found little critical support. On one coast, the Los Angeles Times labeled Williams’s personae “psychologically sick or just plain ugly.” Back east, The New Yorker called the film “cornpone melodrama,” and the playwright/scenarist was greeted with catcalls as he left the Manhattan premiere. “I just booed back,” he told friends. One-Eyed Jacks, released a little over a year later, suffered much the same reception. Paramount had taken over, laboriously paring six hours of footage
of his fellow ten percenters, Kanter released his clients and opted for an office at Universal Studios, an MCA subsidiary. In that capacity he offered to rescue Pennebaker by purchasing it for $1 million. As added bait he agreed to back a film Pennebaker had optioned three years before, The Ugly American. Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer’s 1958 book followed the map laid out by Graham Greene in The Quiet American, published three years earlier. Both novels were indictments of U.S. foreign