Marlon Brando

Krin Gabbard

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Marlon Brando

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Many critics have called Marlon Brando (b. 1924–d. 2004) the greatest American actor of the 20th century. Frank Sinatra, who tangled with Brando when they costarred in Guys and Dolls (1955), was among those who were less impressed, referring to Brando as the world’s most overrated actor. Born in Nebraska and raised in Illinois, Brando arrived in New York when teachers such as Stella Adler were introducing new inner-directed acting techniques based on the writings of the Russian director Constantin Stanislavsky and commonly known as “The Method.” With roots in this new approach, Brando stunned critics and audiences when he played Stanley Kowalski on stage in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. After his New York triumph, Brando began appearing in films, first in The Men (1950). He reprised his role as Stanley in the film version of Streetcar in 1951, inaugurating a new style of screen acting that has since become an essential feature of the American cinema. With his mumbling, his mood swings, his obscure gestures, and his impressions of a confused child in the body of a blustering adult, Brando radically changed the resources of the male actor. In the middle of his life, however, Brando lost interest in the craft of acting, regularly disparaging his own work and denying that a film could be a work of art. When he won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Godfather (1972), he refused to accept the award. In 1966 Brando took a 99-year lease on an island near Tahiti, where he lived for the last half of his life. His half-hearted, even parodic performances during this period were accompanied by several family tragedies, including the murder of one of his daughter’s lovers by his son Christian. Nevertheless, Brando left behind an extraordinary body of work that continues to inspire young (and old) actors.

Article.  6437 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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