The Most Influential Movie Actor Of His Era, Marlon Brando Changed The Way Other Actors Perceived Their Craft His Approach Was Natural, Honest, And Deeply Personal, Resulting In Performances—most Notably In A Streetcar Named Desire And On The Waterfront—that Are Without Parallel Brando Was Heralded As The American Hamlet—the Yank Who Surpassed British Stage Royalty Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, And Ralph Richardson As The Standard Of Greatness In The Midtwentieth Century
Brando’s Impact On American Culture Matches His Professional Significance; He Both Challenged And Codified Our Ideas Of Masculinity And Sexuality Brando Was Also One Of The First Stars To Use His Fame As A Platform To Address Social, Political, And Moral Issues, Courageously Calling Out America’s Deeply Rooted Racism
William Mann’s Brilliant Biography Of The Hollywood Legend Illuminates This Culture Icon For A New Age Mann Astutely Argues That Brando Was Not Only A Great Actor But Also A Cultural Soothsayer, A Cassandra Warning Us About The Challenges To Come Brando’s Admonitions Against The Monetization Of Nearly Every Aspect Of The Culture Were Prescient His Public Protests Against Racial Segregation And Discrimination At The Height Of The Civil Rights Movement—getting Himself Arrested At Least Once—were Criticized As Being Needlessly Provocative Yet Those Actions Of Fifty Years Ago Have Become A Model Many Actors Follow Today
Psychologically Astute And Masterfully Researched, Based On New And Revelatory Material, The Contender Explores The Star And The Man In Full, Including The Childhood Traumas That Reverberated Through His Professional And Personal Life It Is A Dazzling Biography Of Our Nation’s Greatest Actor That Is Sure To Become An Instant Classic
The Contender Includes Sixteen Pages Of Photographs
He never drank to excess or did drugs, he turned to food instead it seems.
And lots of women.
Highs and lows, he was often misunderstood, but he struggled throughout his life to become a better person.
I have read a lot of biographies over the years and this one was more enjoyable to me than the average bio of an actor.
I ususally prefer reading about more historical figures.
This is an interpretive work.
In describing Marlon Brando’s personal and professional life, William Mann shows his subject’s character, his influence in theater/film and in the political issues he pursued.
Mann is selective and his time line skips aroundsome years are skipped entirely.
After reading the book you can better understand these areas among others:
Why such a great actor made so many bad movies.
Sacheen Littlefeather’s acceptance of Brando’s second Academy Award.
How his son came to shoot the father of his sister’s child.
His late in life corpulence
His 3 wives and 11 children
As Brando entered the scene, the philosophy that the director and the actor were in service to the writer’s text was giving way to the philosophy that director and actor should bring the character to the audience.
Stella Adler was a strong proponent of this and Marlon was her star pupil.
As the child of 2 alcoholics, one being a physically and emotionally abusive father, Marlon’s childhood gave him a wealth of emotion from which to draw his characters.
Mann shows how Marlon saw acting as a job and not a career.
Hence, you have the refusal to promote, his dismissive attitude towards awards and the acceptance of lousy roles to pay the bills.
Not being sucked into the Hollywood vortex he did not care if his criticism of the emerging consumer culture and being among the first of the stars to take up causes meant fewer roles.
He was bisexual at a time that it was a career killer and made no attempt to cover it up.
His childhood made him sympathetic to the plight of minorities and his anger at his father colored his relationships.
Mann shows you how Brando had many years in therapy with different therapists.
Rage was a major issue.
His rage (against his father and maybe subliminally his mother too) was destructive of people, primarily women, and property.
At the end of his life, Marlon seemed only somewhat aware of his abusive treatment of women.
Brando's first wife, Anna Kashfi, may have equaled him in rage, but her side of this relationship is not explored.
It seems that her complete unfitness as a mother should have convinced a judge to award Brando custody if he had seriously and consistently pursued it.
We see her as a selfcentered alcoholic with little regard for their son, Christian Devi Brando, whose troubled life resulted in a conviction for murder.
Reading the parts about Marlon's activism while Black Lives Matters has gathered mainstream support, you appreciate how far ahead of the curve he was.
I was unaware of the Hollywood and John Wayne reaction to having Sacheen Littlefeather accept his Academy Award.
Finally, 2 generations later, Brando's view of Hollywood westerns and their contribution to the distortion of history is mainstream.
The relationships of Brando with his most famous directors, Kazan and Copolla, are very well described.
On Brando’s weight, we only learn that he knows too much about alcohol to drink – his drug is food.
We don’t know much about this – does he cook? Is he a milkshake and burger man or a gourmet? We do learn that he recognizes his weight and is teased about it.
One interesting tid bit, is that Marlon’s (perhaps closest) friend was Wally Cox, whom he knew from childhood.
If you like a just the facts style biography, this is not for you.
If you like a biography with informed interpretation, you, like me, will be very satisfied.
Review to come.
This book was a truly fascinating glimpse into the life of the man some call one of the greatest actors of all time.
(Although he would have hated that statement).
I really appreciated the way the author chose to tell this story in a nonchronological fashion, instead beginning the book with Marlon’s arrival in New York City to study acting and then going back to intersperse tales of his childhood throughout the narrative.
More than anything, I have a new appreciation for his passion for social justice and the tragedy that fame brought to both him and his family.