Nationality: American. Born: Omaha, Nebraska, 3 April 1924. Education: Attended Shattuck Military Academy, Faribault, Minnesota; studied acting with Stella Adler, New School for Social Research, New York. Family: Married 1) Anna Kashfi, 1957 (divorced 1959), son: Christian Devil; 2) Maria Castaneda, 1960, children: Miko and Rebecca; children by Tarita Teriipaia: Teihotu and Tarita Zumi "Cheyenne" (deceased). Career: 1944—Broadway debut in role of Nels in I Remember Mama ; 1947—stage stardom established by performance in A Streetcar Named Desire ; 1950—film debut in The Men ; 1959—founded Pennebaker Productions to produce One-Eyed Jacks ; 1972—declined Academy Award for role in The Godfather , delegated Indian actress, Sasheen Littlefeather, to read statement accusing film industry of misrepresenting the American Indian; 1979—in TV mini-series Roots: The Next Generation . Awards: Best Actor, Cannes Festival, and Best Foreign Actor, British Academy, for Viva Zapata! , 1952; Best Foreign Actor, British Academy, for Julius Caesar , 1953; Best Actor Academy Award, Best Actor, New York Film Critics, and Best Foreign Actor, British Academy, for On the
Films as Actor:
The Men (Zinneman) (as Ken)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan) (as Stanley Kowalski)
Viva Zapata! (Kazan) (as Emiliano Zapata)
Julius Caesar (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) (as Mark Antony)
The Wild One (Benedek) (as Johnny); On the Waterfront (Kazan) (as Terry Malloy); Desiree (Koster) (as Napoleon Bonaparte)
Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) (as Sky Masterton)
The Teahouse of the August Moon (Daniel Mann) (as Sakini)
Sayonara (Logan) (as Major Lloyd Gruver)
The Young Lions (Dmytryk) (as Christian Diestl)
The Fugitive Kind (Lumet) (as Val Xavier)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Milestone) (as Fletcher Christian)
The Ugly American (Englund) (as Harrison Carter MacWhite)
Bedtime Story (Levy) (as Freddy)
The Saboteur—Code Name Morituri ( Morituri ) (Wicki) (as Robert Crain)
The Chase (Arthur Penn) (as Sheriff Calder); The Appaloosa ( Southwest to Sonora ) (Furie) (as Matt Fletcher)
A Countess from Hong Kong (Chaplin) (as Ogden Mears); Reflections in a Golden Eye (Huston) (as Major Weldon Penderton)
Candy (Marquand) (as Grindl)
The Night of the Following Day (Cornfield) (as Bud); Burn! ( Queimada! ) (Pontecorvo) (as Sir William Walker)
The Nightcomers (Winner) (as Peter Quint)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Don Vito Corleone)
L'ultimo tango a Parigi ( Last Tango in Paris ) (Bertolucci) (as Paul)
The Missouri Breaks (Arthur Penn) (as Robert E. Lee Clayton)
Superman (Richard Donner) (as Jor-El, father of Superman)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Colonel Kurtz)
The Formula (Avildsen) (as Adam Steiffel)
A Dry White Season (Palcy) (as Ian McKenzie)
The Freshman (Andrew Bergman) (as Carmine Sabatina)
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (Glen) (as Tomas de Torquemada)
Don Juan DeMarco (Leven) (as Dr. Jack Mickler)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (Frankenheimer) (title role, + co-sc)
Film as Director:
One-Eyed Jacks (+ ro as Rio)
By BRANDO: books—
Conversations with Brando , with Lawrence Grobel, New York, 1991.
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me , with Robert Lindsey, New York, 1994.
By BRANDO: articles—
"Brando's Oscar Speech," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 5, no. 4, 1973.
"The Complete Transcript of Brando's Speech at the First American Gala," in Interview (New York), January 1975.
Interview in Ciné Revue (Paris), 27 March 1980.
Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam), June 1990.
On BRANDO: books—
Zuckerman, Ira, The Godfather Journal , New York, 1972.
Carey, Gary, Brando , New York, 1973.
Jordan, René, Marlon Brando , New York, 1973.
Morella, Joe, Brando: The Unauthorized Bioraphy , New York, 1973.
Puzo, Mario, The Making of the Godfather , Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973.
Thomas, Bob, Marlon: Portrait of the Rebel as Artist , New York, 1973.
Thomas, Tony, The Films of Marlon Brando , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1973.
Shipman, David, Brando , London, 1974; rev. ed., as Marlon Brando , London, 1989.
Braithwaite, Bruce, The Films of Marlon Brando , 1977.
Brando, Anna Kashfi, and E. P. Stein, Brando for Breakfast , New York, 1979.
Downing, David, Marlon Brando , New York, 1984.
Carey, Gary, Marlon Brando: The Only Contender , New York, 1985.
Higham, Charles, Brando: The Unauthorized Biography , London and New York, 1987.
Nickens, Christopher, Brando: A Biography in Photographs , New York, 1987.
Fauser, Jorg, Marlon-Brando-Biographie , Hamburg, 1990.
Schickel, Richard, Brando: A Life in Our Times , New York, 1990.
McCann, Graham, Rebel Males: Clift, Brando, and Dean , London, 1991.
Mourousi, Yves, Le destin Brando , Paris, 1991.
Ryan, Paul, Marlon Brando: A Portrait , New York, 1991.
Bly, Nellie, Marlon Brando: Larger than Life , New York, 1994.
Manso, Peter, Brando: The Biography , New York, 1994.
Tanitch, Robert, Brando , London, 1994.
Haber, Mel, Bedtime Stories of the Legendary Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs , Palm Springs, California, 1996.
Schirmer, Lothar, Marlon Brando: Portraits & Film Stills: 1946–1995 , New York, 1996.
Vergin, Roger C., Brando with His Guard Down , West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1997.
On BRANDO: articles—
Current Biography 1952 , New York, 1952.
Houseman, John, "Filming Julius Caesar ," in Films in Review (New York), April 1953 and Sight and Sound (London), July/September 1953.
Brinson, P., "The Brooder," in Films and Filming (London), October 1954.
Capote, Truman, "Marlon Brando," in Newsweek (New York), 9 November 1957.
Rush, B., "Brando—The Young Lion," in Films and Filming (London), March 1958.
Malden, Karl, "The 2 Faces of Brando," in Films and Filming (London), August 1959.
McVay, Douglas, "The Brando Mutiny," in Films and Filming (London), December 1962.
Steele, R., "Meet Marlon Brando," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Fall 1966.
McGillivray, D., "Marlon Brando," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1972.
Haskell, Molly, articles on Brando in Village Voice (New York), 14 June 1973 through 30 August 1973.
Sarris, A., "A Tribute to Marlon Brando," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1974.
Gow, G., "The Brando Boom," in Films and Filming (London), November 1974.
Bodeen, DeWitt, "Marlon Brando," in Films in Review (New York), December 1980.
Kael, Pauline, "Marlon Brando and James Dean," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Schickel, Richard, "Celebrity," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1985.
Peary, Gerald, "The Wild One," in American Film (New York), June 1986.
Kram, Mark, "Brando," in Esquire (New York), November 1989.
Webster, Andy, filmography in Premiere (New York), October 1994.
Brodkey, Harold, "Translating Brando," in New Yorker , 24 October 1994.
Naremore, James, " Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me , Brando: The Biography ," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 21, no. 1–2, Winter/Spring 1995.
Bush, Lyall, "Doing Brando," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1996.
Goldstein, R. "A Streetcar Named Meshuge," in Village Voice (New York), 23 April 1996.
* * *
Marlon Brando is the preeminent actor of American postwar cinema. In the early 1950s, he received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in four successive years, and in 1954 won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in On the Waterfront. His portrayal of the leather-jacketed biker in The Wild One established an integral connection between rebellion, defiance, and sexual prowess, and made Brando a generation's symbol of masculinity. Brando himself studied the work of actors such as Spencer Tracy, Paul Muni, and Cary Grant, but for actors of his generation and beyond, it has been Brando who has served as the model.
Often considered America's greatest actor, Brando has, throughout his career, demonstrated a remarkable ability to reveal characters' contradictions. His portrayals of rebels such as Stanley Kowalski ( A Streetcar Named Desire ) and Terry Malloy ( On the Waterfront ) present us with brutish characters who possess an innate intelligence and fundamental nobility; his characterizations of figures such as Major Penderton ( Reflections in a Golden Eye ) and Sir William Walker ( Burn! ), men who understand and live by the rules of "civilized" society, become studies of personal disintegration and the devastating effects of power. Brando's skill in representing complex characters creates compelling and contradictory points of contact for spectators: in The Young Lions , Brando's portrayal of the young Nazi officer is disturbing for he is, at times, a sympathetic and attractive figure; in The Godfather , Brando's Don Corleone is both ruthless and kindhearted; in The Last Tango in Paris , Brando's representation of Paul mobilizes and lays siege to the image of masculinity Brando's early film roles helped to establish.
Brando studied with Stella Adler and came to Hollywood from Broadway after his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire caught the attention of the critics and the public. In an interview with Truman Capote in 1957, Brando explained that he intended to remain a film actor because "movies have the greatest potential. You can say important things to a lot of people. About discrimination and hatred and prejudice." Brando's work with Adler had instilled in him the belief that actors should have a point of view toward society, and we can get a sense of that view by looking at the parts he has chosen to play throughout his career (e.g. the Mexican revolutionary in Viva Zapata! ), and the specific coloring he has given many of his characters (e.g. his portrayal of Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty who, because of the forces of class and commerce, cannot live inside or outside the law).
The conventional wisdom is that Brando wasted his talents in the period between his auspicious beginning in the 1950s and his commercial and critical comeback in the 1970s (in films such as The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris ). A more comprehensive consideration of his work suggests that is not the case. For example, in 1961, Brando directed and starred in One-Eyed Jacks , an effective ensemble piece and, in its reworking of Western formulas, an interesting (Hamlet-like) study of revenge. In 1970's Burn! , playing the part of the agent of imperial and capitalist aggression, Brando gave what he sees as his best performance. This role is especially illustrative of the actor's authorial control and ideological concerns, for in portraying Sir William, Brando candidly articulates why the British imperial forces will defeat the island's guerrilla army in a way that echoes, almost word for word, the speech he gives as Major Penderton when lecturing on military strategy in Reflections in a Golden Eye . Brando's performances in the late seventies, eighties, and nineties—for example, as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now , as Ian McKenzie in A Dry White Season , and as Tomas de Torquemada in Christopher Columbus —reveal his signature reshaping of material and his abiding (social) concerns.
Like other stars, Brando's work as an actor has been understood through and in terms of certain roles and highly publicized moments of his private life. Yet rather than focusing on the rebel roles of his early career or incidents that have provided fuel for gossip columnists, Brando's work should be considered as a whole, for as James Naremore points out, Brando's achievements are remarkable, and his performances reveal a negotiation between the contradictions of not only his own personality, but those of the culture as well. What is significant is that Brando has not simply continued to play the rebel throughout his career, but instead has put together a body of work that examines the exercise of power in all its troubling aspects.