The Books: “Brando: The Biography” (Peter Manso)

manso.jpgDaily Book Excerpt: Entertainment Biography/Memoir:

Brando: The Biography, by Peter Manso

Peter Manso has an opinion about Marlon Brando, and it colors this entire book – which is 10,000 pages long – so that’s a long time to stick with a writer who has a low-level (sometimes high-level) strain of contempt for his subject. I do not share Manso’s contempt – even for Brando’s quirks of personality, his selfish side, his womanizing, his bad parenting, his naive politics, the list goes on and on … Brando led a long life, checkered with questionable behavior, and some outright tragedy (that business with his daughter) … but I seriously don’t care about any of that. Or – I care, because it’s interesting, and he’s an interesting topic – but knowing about his flawed personality does not take away from his work as an actor, or his giant reputation. And I don’t like a book that takes that tone. The problem here is a matter of tone. You may not feel that Brando is that good as an actor. But you had better make a damn good case for it – and it had better not be “Well, he was a womanizing asshole”. If that is your reasoning, then you certainly won’t mind if I don’t take you seriously.

It is difficult to talk about genius, and it is difficult to analyze from whence it sprung. But Manso doesn’t seem to be interested in that. He does get all the good anecdotes – things I have read before in other people’s biographies and memoirs … but they are sidelines to the freak show that was Marlon Brando’s actual life (in Manso’s opinion). There’s a fine line to walk here, and many biographies are unable to do it. But then you look at the great ones – Richard Ellmann’s book on James Joyce, Scott Berg’s book on Lindbergh, David McCullough’s book on John Adams … and you can see the difference between those books and Manso’s. I prefer a more even hand. I prefer a book that doesn’t have an axe to grind. I am also not interested in fanboy rantings, which is bigotry of its own kind with its own blinders – but I certainly think that Brando deserves better treatment. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not talking about judging him, or weighing in with ponderous opinions about his behavior, his politics, his trainwreck of a personal life. I don’t care what some biographer JUDGES. There is quite a lot to “judge” (if you go for that sort of thing, and I don’t) in the life of James Joyce, Charles Lindbergh, John Adams. They have personality foibles, flaws, they were men of great ego and sometimes vanity … but nevertheless, it is the WORK that made them who they are … and the biographies I mentioned above always seem to keep that in mind. They are not “neat” subjects – a human life never is … but the biographers put them in their context, and do their best to surround them with the world they were living in … so that their behavior is more easily understood. And then there are things that are just bad ideas, we all have had bad ideas in our own lives … and those need to be treated with the same even hand. I’m not saying we can’t judge John Adams for the Alien & Sedition Act but, as always, there is a deeper level of conversation surrounding that event – and if you don’t “go there” as a biographer, if you sit on your lofty soapbox and condemn … well, I, as a reader, lose interest. Because you know what? You’re just some stupid guy writing a biography. Your SUBJECT will outlast you, no matter WHAT you write about him … your impulse may be to tear him down, and sometimes a book succeeds in that goal (look at Mommie Dearest) – but I still believe that the subject, no matter her awful behavior or bad ideas, will outlast the smear-books. And THAT is something that some biographers cannot abide. I do not like those kinds of biographies. I like it when a subject is given its due. Peter Manso’s book, which is enormous, came out with much fanfare – although Marlon Brando published his own autobiography in anticipation of what he felt Manso’s book would do to his reputation … and it did sort of steal the thunder of Manso’s giant epic. The books were always mentioned together, they were always referenced in tandem … Brando beat Manso to the punch by a couple of months, which is smart … and while his thrown-together book is not all that good, it did manage to adjust the conversation that Manso was trying to start. It provided context. From the real guy. Good for Brando.

I read every word of Manso’s book but there was a pettiness to it that is truly odd – I think of petty as being something small, so it’s weird to read a book this long that ends up just feeling petty. For example, there’s an anecdote about a scene in The Godfather where Brando had cue cards placed all over the set, out of camera range, so if he forgot his lines he could glance up and see it. He had done the same thing in the famous taxicab scene in On the Waterfront, which is one of the greatest pieces of acting ever done by an American actor. It was his process. Did having cue cards mean he was lazy? Or that he was somehow a faker? That he had “put one over” on the American public by not memorizing his lines in the taxicab scene? But look at the result! If NOT memorizing your lines looks like THAT, then please. Let’s not memorize lines anymore. Manso does not understand that, and is interested in tearing down the myth of Brando. “You liked that taxicab scene? Did you know he was reading his lines off of cue cards on the ceiling??” My response is: “Yeah. So?” Everyone works differently. Creativity is not NEAT. Brando didn’t sit down and memorize lines. Especially not in films – where it was so easy to just have lines taped out of camera view. He explained to Coppola that he had been doing this cue-card thing for a long time and that it helped him feel more spontaneous. Manso then makes a bitchy comment – something like, “How cue cards would make him feel more spontaneous, Marlon never explained …” Like; Manso: are you an actor? Are you Marlon Brando? The man just explained his process. You may puff-puff on the sidelines how silly and unprofessional it is – but excuse me for saying: what the fuck do you know? I think your subject deserves more respect than that. Marlon Brando felt that having the lines taped around him, out of camera view, helped him relax – he wouldn’t have to worry about memorizing, and he could glance up and see the words, which would put him right back where he needed to be. His process was always a flowing kind of thing. It was not rigorous (although it could be) … it was intuitive. Lines were the LEAST of Brando’s magic. Anyway, it’s not that it’s not an interesting conversation: Brando using cue cards … it was Manso’s bitchy little rejoinder afterwards that pissed me off (and the book is full of stuff like that).

The end result is that I start to feel defensive towards Brando. I start to talk to Peter Manso, as I read, like: “Dude, he was just working on his PART .. that’s how he worked … ” But no. Everything was a weapon to Peter Manso to be used against Brando. I don’t like that. Who cares if he taped his lines to the ceiling of the cab in On the Waterfront? He’s Marlon fucking Brando. If that helps him, who are you to be a little bitch about it? If you don’t understand that everyone has a different process, then I certainly can’t explain it to you … but that element of the book was VERY annoying.

Oh, and another annoying thing which I think tips Manso’s hand: He always refers to Marlon as “Marlon”. Most biographers maintain a sense of professionalism towards their subjects and refer to them throughout the book by their last name. McCullough refers to John Adams as “Adams”. Ellmann speaks of “Joyce”. Manso doesn’t seem to believe that Marlon Brando deserves that respect. It gives the book a too-intimate feel, even spread out over 5,000 pages. Just call him “Brando”, Manso. Come on. It won’t kill you.

I sort of suffered through the long passages about his personal life – which Manso was very interested in, because Marlon was, you know, a terrible boyfriend, a womanizer, a compulsive sex freak, kind of amoral in his dealings with others, and a general MESS. Manso, again, was looking at all of that with a jaundiced eye, and while I can certainly understand that (I remember when Michael was reading the book when we were first dating, and he said something to me, like, “God, Marlon is such an awful person – it’s making me feel really bad!”) – I am more interested in what it was in all of that that contributed to who he was as an artist, OR – I am more interested in all of that just as the facts of the case. These are the facts. Just present them, please. Your prudey moralizing does not at all add to the book. It took away, in my opinion. So Marlon was an asshole as a boyfriend. Yeah, but have you seen On the Waterfront?? Who the hell cares? Marlon Brando was a giant actor who changed the way we judge acting. He was ALSO a terrible boyfriend and a mess, personally. BOTH are true. One does not cancel out the other. (This is a fight I’ve had on my site countless times. For example, in my Lana Turner tribute, someone said he didn’t care for Lana Turner because she was “slutty”. Yes. She was slutty. Have you seen The Bad and the Beautiful? Have you seen how good she could be, given the right material? Slutty/Good actress. Can’t both be true? There is an interesting conversation to be had about Turner’s reputation as an actress – what she is remembered for, and what she is NOT remembered for – and there is also such a thing as personal taste, and maybe Lana Turner is not everyone’s cup of tea – there’s an interesting conversation to be had about THAT as well, but to lead off with the comment that she was “slutty” … I don’t know. It’s just a very boring conversation to me.)

Marlon Brando is a GIANT figure, and of course – giant figures just BEG to be torn down.

I began to realize, maybe 200, 300 pages in, that this was a smear book, and to not read it as anything else. Don’t look for balance. There is none.

As always, I am in it for the ANECDOTES – and in a book of this length, no stone is left unturned. Manso appears to have interviewed everybody. Despite the fact that the focus of the book was on Brando’s asshole personality (who cares??) – there are some great stories told. One involved Brando, pre-fame, in an acting class run by Stella Adler. She gave the students an improvisation: you are all animals in a barnyard, and suddenly you look up – and see a nuclear bomb is coming down to hit you. Adler’s point was to free the actors up, physically … to make them embody animals (always a great exercise for any actor – and many great performances have been based on animals – DeNiro said he thought of “crabs” when he was creating Travis Bickle, the sideways way they move, how they never ever appraoch anything head on … Interesting – but that’s just one example. Animals are great fodder for actors!) – and Adler wanted them to not just sit around Oinking like a pig but to be the animal … and then, once that was established, to be the animal in a panicked situation. Total change of situation. Well, the improvisation began, and the students began to race around the room – clucking and mooing and baahing – and basically freaking out because they were about to be incinerated by a nuclear blast. And Adler looked over and Marlon, who was playing a “hen”, sat on his egg, legs haunched up beside him, clucking, and preening his feathers, completely oblivious to the chaos around him. He would check on his egg, settle himself down again, cluck a couple of times, stretch his “wings”, cluck some more … Adler asked him later what was going on, and why he didn’t react to the impending apocalypse. Brando said something like, “A hen doesn’t understand nuclear warfare. A hen doesn’t know what a bomb is. She has no consciousness of what all of that would mean.” Brando would never be a jester. He would never do anything on command. His sense of truth was rock-solid, and he wasn’t being willful or difficult with Adler … it’s just that he could not be forced to play a game when he had a deep problem with the truth therein. Adler LOVED that about him.

She said, in regards to Marlon Brando, “Sending Marlon Brando to acting class was like sending a tiger to jungle school.”

She watched him cluck like a hen, oblivious to the nuclear bomb coming at him, and saw his genius. He was only 19 years old at the time, maybe 18. But she saw it then.

I am not calling for a fanatical DEFENSE of Brando, either. I am asking for an evenhanded examination – in the same way that Berg took on his controversial topic with Lindbergh. For many people, Lindbergh’s pro-German anti-war attitudes are enough to cancel out the good will he had generated during his flight in 1927 and his baby’s kidnapping. I happen to not agree with that. The guy is an interesting man, sometimes infuriating, but always interesting – and every single bit of it deserves to go into a biography, to get the fullest portrait possible of this 20th century figure. But without the moralizing shaking-of-the-finger of the biographer, sitting at his comfortable 21st century laptop, separate from the events that try men’s souls.

Manso had an axe to grind with Brando.

I think Brando deserves better.

Here’s an excerpt about Brando playing Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. I love the stories surrounding this film because it just messes with anyone’s pre-conceived IDEAS about Brando. He worked on that part. He had John Gielgud read out the part of Mark Antony into a tape recorder so that he could imitate Gielgud’s immaculate scansion. He spoke in iambic pentameter, learning how natural that rhythm is – and how IT shows YOU where to put the stress. And he obeyed. He obeyed the larger commands – of “how” to do Shakespeare, and how to breathe, and speak, and pause – the thought is IN the line Brando, a master at subtext, was able to submit to the demands of this kind of work – and I happen to think he’s great as Antony. So did Gielgud.

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Here’s the excerpt.

EXCERPT FROM Brando: The Biography, by Peter Manso

While his personal life seemed chaotic, in front of the camera he continued to give the impression of being “very relaxed,” even though he was coming up on his real test as a classical actor: the forum scene. His weekend preparation had been so extensive that he even took the unusual step of reading the scene with Houseman, explaining his discoveries in a state of excitement. Recalled the producer, “Suddenly he had discovered that with a dramatist of Shakespeare’s genius and in a speech as brilliantly and elaborately written as Antony’s oration, it was not necessary nor even possible to play between the lines, and that having in his own mind created the character and personality of Antony, he must let Shakespeare’s words carry the full flood of his own emotion from the beginning to the end of the scene.”

It was a denial of Method “subtext”, which might well be equated with Mankiewicz’s joyous insistence that he was simply doing the job at hand. “I realize now that you’ve got to play the text,” Brando had said. “You can’t play under it, or above it, or around it, as we do in contemporary theater. The text is everything.

As the scene began, the crowd listened to Mason’s Brutus, showing every evidence of being swayed. When Marlon entered from the wings carrying Louis Calhern, six feet five and heavy, he placed the boy of Caesar at Brutus’s feet. “Friends, Romans, countrymen …” he began. The crowd, made up of 250 extras, spontaneously interrupted, not allowing him to go on. He started again, only to be interrupted, and Mankiewicz, who had primed the extras to interfere, now shouted at him, “Get mad!” In his saffron-colored toga, Brando began again.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” he leaned into it, as the extras fell silent. The speech went on unbroken for its thirty-four lines, Brando’s voice rising like a torrent until reaching its climax. With the director’s “Cut!” nobody moved. Then from every corner of MGM’s stage 24, the crew burst into applause.

“I felt a fucking chill go up my spine,” Mankiewicz recalls. “It was the greatest moment I have ever felt as a director … It’s what made [my] whole career worthwhile.”

By shooting “tight”, with alternating close-ups of Marc Antony and individual faces in the mob, Mankiewicz gradually accelerated the rhythm of the suspense. For Gielgud, the strategy seemed senseless, especially when Marlon’s voice started to go.

“They would photograph [Marlon] for a couple of days in the taxing speeches of the forum scene,” said Gielgud,” and then he would lose his voice and be unable to work. They would fill in time by filming the extras, taking a lot of shots of faces in the crowd responding, then Brando would recover and come down to the studio to do another speech. I imagine that the director hoped he could put it all together in the cutting room, but Shakespeare is too big for that.”

Mankiewicz was already off his tight shooting schedule, but even Houseman, who as producer was ultimately responsible for production delays, continued to marvel at Brando’s forbearance. “During that long week of shooting,” he explained, “he went through his speech over and over, without once losing his energy or his concentration. When he faltered or flubbed a line, he would stop, apologize, compose himself, and start afresh.”

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41 Responses to The Books: “Brando: The Biography” (Peter Manso)

  1. ted says:

    Really great post, Sheila! I love your opening and your comments about biography, in general. Your criticisms of his book are so specific to your own knowledge of Brando and his process.

    A propos of nothing, I’ve ordered Tanglewreck – it’s on its way.

  2. red says:

    Thanks, Ted! I hope it’s clear I’m not calling for less honesty or to edit out the more unsavory parts of his personality. I want to know it all. It’s the attitude I’m talking about that makes this a smear book!!

    Who cares if he used cue cards? I don’t understand.

    Oh, and cool about Tanglewreck!! I look forward to hearing your thoughts! I think you’ll dig it … even with the political messages she tries to slide into the fray … It’s a good story.

  3. Carrie says:

    Sheila, this is why I love that Jonathan Richman song, Pablo Picasso. It explains so much in just one line: “Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole”. He was an asshole, but did it matter? Did it detract from his art? If he did not paint he would be Pablo Picasso the asshole if he was remembered at all. But he is not remembered for being an asshole, he is remembered for being an artist.

    Funny thing is I don’t even think that is what the song itself is about but to me that line speaks so much.

    Love the Brando stuff btw.

  4. red says:

    Carrie – so glad you like!

    Love your thoughts on Picasso!

    Although it is funny to imagine:

    “Member Pablo Picasso?”
    “The only thing I remember about that guy is what an ASSHOLE he was.”

    hahahaha

  5. Carrie says:

    Yeah I can hear the two word jaded New York responding when someone asks them about Picasso:

    “Picasso? Asshole.”

    Yeah, that is how to go down in history.

    I have no anecdotes about Brando but I was obsessed with him when I was younger, saw all his movies, read everything I could. It was going to an art house theatre that showed Streetcar Named Desire that did it to me. I’d read SND in high school and seen the movie on TV, that planted the seed but my god, seeing Brando in a darkened theatre bigger than life took the breath out of you. You got it. All of a sudden you understood the fuss. Such a shame all these greats get reduced to 22 inch screens; especially with the older films it really takes the big screen to pack the punch intended.

  6. red says:

    Carrie – I’ve never seen Streetcar on the big screen – I can’t even imagine!! That performance still feels contemporary to me, surprising, scary, sexy … Nothing about it has dated.

  7. red says:

    Van Gogh? What a PUTZ!
    Shakespeare? JAGOFF!
    Mozart? Man, what a DICK that guy was.

    hahahaha

  8. DBW says:

    DaVinci was the worst! Couldn’t stand the guy.

  9. red says:

    Yeah, man. What an asswipe.

  10. brendan says:

    Picasshole!

  11. brendan says:

    To take the bitchy tone to its logical extreme, I picture Manso in the theater saying, “Sure, Kurtz is some sort of demon apparition but look what happened twenty years later with Christian.”

  12. red says:

    Bren – hee hee Exactly!!

  13. Carrie says:

    Came back and caught you all bad-mouthing geniuses of the world. LOL LOL LOL

    Einstein? Stinker! Never showered!
    Beethoven? Couldn’t hear a damn thing!
    Dickens? DOUCHEBAG!

    hahahahahahahahaha

    Ahem. Brando. OH MY GOD. Get thee to a big screen of Streetcar. It will blow you away. Totally contemporary, just like you say. But you have no idea until you see him glowering and towering above you like that. Wow.

  14. red says:

    Dammit. Why can’t I have my own movie theatre??

  15. Josephine says:

    You know Sheila, thanks for these (whether yo know it or not) challenging posts. I really appreciate them, because I didn’t even realize I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater when I dismissed actors’ work in light of their sordid lives. For me, their work and lives were equivalent. I like that I’m learning to separate the two. I find life IS richer and more intriguing this way.

    “Who cares if he taped his lines to the ceiling of the cab in On the Waterfront? He’s Marlon fucking Brando. If that helps him, who are you to be a little bitch about it?” LOL. Priceless. You tell ‘em!

  16. Carrie says:

    Actually for Brando the cue card thing makes total sense. It’s like when you give speeches. Do you go up there with the whole speech written out, and read word for word, or do you go up with the ideas of the speech bullet pointed on index cards? In both cases you have written the speech and know it inside out. But with the index cards you are allowing space for breathing, for spontaneity, for inspiration, for the energy of the moment to come in. Given Brando’s style of acting it makes perfect sense he would do it that way. I have no doubt he knew the lines inside out. I can’t imagine him reading the script once and then casting it aside. But I can see having the touchstone of cue cards while he was living the moment would keep him on track, steady his boat. Otherwise, who needed writers? He would just riff off everyone else in the moment.

  17. red says:

    Josephine – hahahaha I guess I could have worded that last sentence there a LITTLE bit more genteel-y – but I was mad!! hee hee

    Glad you like the posts! I didn’t realize they were challenging – but I am very happy to read your thoughts.

    And sure, I get disappointed or alarmed when a star I love acts in a way that seems bizarre or self-destructive – but to me, it’s not an either/or thing. At least not if the work itself is good.

    My opinion, but I’m stickin’ to it!! I created my entire comment policy around those who could not talk about actors without dissing their personal lives and their politics. I just was so sick of NOT getting to talk about the work!!

    Thanks again for the comment. :)

  18. red says:

    Carrie – I think a lot of that contemptuous attitude from others comes out of either envy at Brando’s uncanny gift or total misunderstanding of what the craft actually entails. “Pah, he was no good, he read his lines off cue cards!”

    There are moments in the taxicab scene (and in the scene over his dead wife in Last Tango in Paris) where you can actually see him glance up for the line taped to the ceiling. But you would never know that that was what he was doing if I hadn’t just told you. It looks organic. It flows. It just flat out doesn’t matter.

    And then of course – when he did a play – he was able to memorize every single word that he needed to memorize … so it wasn’t that he COULDN’T do it – it was that he understood that film was a different medium.

    I also love the story about him rubbing cut-up onions on the stairway railing during the long run of Streetcar on Broadway – so that it would make him cry.

    I love his inventiveness. I think his process is very misunderstood. He was, at heart, a veyr PRACTICAL actor. If it works, use it. If it don’t, then don’t. End of story.

  19. Aaron says:

    Jesus, even from that excerpt, I can’t stand Manso’s liberal usage of quotation marks (of being “very relaxed”, by shooting “tight”, Method “subtext”), almost talking down to the reader. I haven’t gotten to this bio, but own a copy — you’ve made me want to burn it!

    Would you say the definitive tome on Brando has yet to be written?

  20. red says:

    Aaron – I felt the same way you did, particularly about the “relaxed” being in quotations.

    I don’t think the definitive Brando book has been written yet. I’m not aware of any new ones that have come out (ones that are serious critical studies, I mean) – the latest was Patricia Bosworth’s book, very well-worth reading, and much better written.

  21. Campaspe says:

    This was so completely wonderful. I loved it. Yes, I feel that a biographer needs some sort of compassion even for the worst of subjects, and Brando was by no means an irredeemable Picasshole. (still laughing at that) He was, as you so rightly point out, an actor for whom the word “genius” is le mot juste and not an overreach. If he wants to tape the lines to the top of the cab, let him. If he wanted to tape it to the DP’s ass and it resulted in that cab scene I say let him and Rod Steiger and Elia Kazan probably would said so too.

  22. red says:

    Campaspe – HA!!

    “Here. I need to tape this to your ass, Boris. Thanks.”

  23. In keeping with the Brando theme of the day:

    Clip below of the famous taxicab scene in On the Waterfront. A couple things to keep in mind: 1. In the closeups of Steiger, he wasn’t even talking to Brando – Brando had left to go to his shrink. Steiger…

  24. The Books: “Marlon Brando” (Patricia Bosworth)

    Next book on my “entertainment biography” shelf: Marlon Brando, by Patricia Bosworth This tiny book is part of the absolutely wonderful Penguin Lives series (article about it here) – short condensed little biographies – which certainly will not take th…

  25. The Books: “Brando: The Biography” (Peter Manso)

    Next book on my “entertainment biography” shelf: Brando: The Biography, by Peter Manso Peter Manso has an opinion about Marlon Brando, and it colors this entire book – which is 10,000 pages long – so that’s a long time to…

  26. Gretchen says:

    ON THE WATERFRONT is a great movie, not only because of Brando but certainly in large part because of Brando at his peak. I really dislike biographers who don’t respect their subjects–haven’t reand the Manso book, but certainly others. It is one thing to discover that someone you thought was a hero was a flawed person, but to use their flaws as an axe to write 10,000 pages! The ridiculousness of that speaks for itself. Most artists were not good at life–marriage, kids, relationships, putting other people first, politics, etc.–and possibly that’s why their art was so good. Or not, but most people stink at some part of life, frankly, just not everyday in public in front of photographers and biographers. Watching a great actor act is a thing of joy, and who cares about how he does it, or his technique, or his taped-up pages? If you do not like Brando, go watch someone else. I personally cannot stand to watch Al Pacino (except in a very few things, like all 3 Godfather films), so I don’t. I’m not going to waste my time “proving” to others why I think he’s bad, either as a person or an actor. I think I’ll go watch ON THE WATERFRONT again instead.

  27. The Books: “Lessons IN Becoming Myself” (Ellen Burstyn)

    Next book on my “entertainment biography” shelf: Lessons in Becoming Myself, by Ellen Burstyn In less than a decade, Ellen Burstyn was nominated 5 times for an Oscar (for The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,…

  28. The Books: “Montgomery Clift: A Biography” (Patricia Bosworth)

    Next book on my “entertainment biography” shelf: Montgomery Clift: A Biography, by Patricia Bosworth I consider this book to be a high watermark in entertainment biography. I find myself comparing all other biographies to this one. In a similar way…

  29. The “Byron from Brooklyn”

    There is a new biography out about Marlon Brando, the “Byron from Brooklyn”) (even though he was from Nebraska): Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando, by Stefan Kanfer. Review of the new book here. I’ve…

  30. Nick says:

    Couple years late again, but I liked this very much. The stuff about Brando’s Mark Antony was fascinating—I, too, think he was a great Antony, as good as Mason’s for-the-ages Brutus—and the description of the filming of the funeral oration, as well as Brando’s revelation about playing the role—”playing the text”—gave me goosepimples.

    Its always kind of dumb to try and merge someone’s private and personal lives and expect to create a useful narrative (or a fair one). Like Atticus told us a long time ago, you never know anyone ’til you’ve walked around in their shoes awhile. And like Nick Carraway told us, withholding judgement is a matter of infinite hope. Both pretty good advice, I’d say…

  31. Christofeles R. says:

    I have no problem with Brando’s selfishness, self-absorption, and insularity as a personality. I have a problem with his selfishness, self-absorption, and insularity as an actor. He ruined the Godfather with his star’s turn. Give me Alec Guiness or Burt Lancaster any day.

    Maybe all you Brando fanatics do him a disservice by over-selling him. While acknowledging his unlearned talent, I find myself wondering why he is not more luminous. There’s something dirty about him, an absence of polish (which would have been a source of pride for an ‘authentic’) but also of consciousness. He’s a dark star, and for all his ability to embody impulse and interiority, I don’t find him all that charismatic. He was a natural, but only a natural.

    Sure, he draws our attention to him, a bit like a drain sucking water into itself. And away from his fellow actors. He was a self-stirring, primordial kind of character, and it didn’t always work to a films advantage. That’s all I want to acknowledge. So please, let’s temper the idolatry.

    • Eternalfriendly says:

      How do you know Brando was selfish, self-absorbed and insular as a person? Had you ever lived with him and known him in person to make such an assured statement? Again, were you there during the filming so you know Brando was selfish, self-absorbed and unsular as an actor? (I remember Robert Duvall stating that Brando was a very generous actor when interviewed by Larry King. He was in three films with Brando ).

      If you think Brando ruined the Godfather, I am sorry he enhanced that movie because he was so respected by other actors that his very presence inspired them during the filming (I read this somewhere).

      Are you some kind of mind reader so you can read Brando’s mind?

      I am not Brando fanatic and I don’t intend to oversell Brando. I only use my logic and objective observation to make my own judgement. I am rather curious about why you want to undersell him though.

      There’s something dirty about Brando? Really? Must you have caught him taking too few showers while he was alive?

      Absense of polish? Really? What kind of polish are you talking about?

      Dark star? Really? Isn’t a star supposed to be bright?

      Brando had been considered charismatic by his fans. Beauty is in the eye of beholder.

      He was a natural, gifted and an quintessential original. The list can go on.

      Sure, we are drawn to him because he was good, a bit like a mysterious light. Along the way, he made his fellow actors look good (using the words of Karl Malden and Kim Hunter). His very presence certainly made Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront an instant success and an enduring classic.

      Again, how can you be so sure that he was a self-stirring, primordial kind of character?

      Nobody is indulging in idolatry here but opposed to your biased criticism. Again, you are entitled. But I am amazed by the absolute certainty in your voice.

      • sheila says:

        Years of studying Brando makes me feel confident that I have earned the right to my own “take”.

        You may disagree. That’s irrelevant and also expected.

        This is my take. I’ve been obsessed with Brando since I was 12 years old. Of COURSE I am “biased”. I am so curious as to those who look for objectivity where there should be none. This is not a Wikipedia entry. This is not an encyclopedia entry. This is the personal website of an opinionated individual who loves movies, studied acting, and writes from the heart.

        If you come here looking for an unbiased opinion, that is totally your problem. You need to know where you are on the Internet, first and foremost. This is a personal website. Not sure how you could mistake it for anything else, but whatever, it happens.

        Don’t be AMAZED when other people have opinions that don’t jive with yours. It’s a ridiculous waste of time.

  32. sheila says:

    Christofeles – Were you expecting unbiased objectivity or something here? Why would you expect that? This is a personal website.

    So in short: no, I won’t temper anything here, any of my opinions/passions/theories/likes/dislike/”idolatry” or otherwise.

    But, yeah, thanks for the lecture. It’s a shame because you make some interesting points, some of which I agree with. But your tone leaves a ton to be desired.

  33. Anna says:

    Guess you know more about books than those that nominate books for Pulitzers. That said the book is no 10,000 pages. Are you sure you read it?
    You pretend that Manso called Brando an asshole, he did not. All this comes from interviews. Are you sure you read the book?
    I disagree with most of what you had to say. It was clear to me that Manso applauded Brando’s talent and is in awe of it. Did you by chance interview Brando’s daughter? Once this book and transcripts are archived you will know where Manso’s information came from and how much was actually left out. Don’t be so quick to judge.

  34. sheila says:

    The “10,000 pages” thing was a joke.

    Being “quick to judge” is one of life’s little pleasures, especially when one is a critical thinker. Just kidding.

    I have been studying Marlon Brando and his work since I was 12 years old so I hardly think my opinion here shows that I am “quick to judge”.

    I’m fine with disagreement. I despised this book.

    • Luckydog says:

      Me too. I despised that book. A biased account of Brando’s life.

      Norman Mailer once stated, “Manso is looking for gold in the desert of his arid inner life, where lies and distortion are the only cactus juice to keep him going.” As Manso’s old friend, Mailer certainly knew Manso’s penchant for lies and distortions, which are reflected in his mean-spirited books.

  35. katie says:

    If you’re interested in Marlon Brando then tune in to the new series of Four Rooms on Channel 4, Wednesday at 8pm. There’s a surprising Brando piece up for sale in episode 1! Here’s a clip – http://youtu.be/A-h-ZGZCFKQ?t=47s

  36. SeanMay says:

    Peter Manso is an annoying thing. Doesn’t he resemble a mosquito? If a mosquito decides that someone’s blood is delicious, thus chasing him around and sucking his blood day and night, should this mean it has anything to do with its victim? Should any one bother to take it seriously?

    The press has gotten it all wrong. Every time something happened to Marlon Brando, I saw this disgusting mosquito being consulted for his comments? Why? Just because he had sucked Brando’s blood, he became related to Brando? So his opinions matter? It is bizarre!

    Mr. Brando has nothing to do with this goddamn Mosquito whether in life or in death!!!

    So let me give Mr. Mosquito some advice:
    Please shut up!!!!!
    Please leave Brando alone!!!

    So, does anybody think I would bother myself to read anything drawn out by this Mr. Mosquito?

  37. SeanMay says:

    Additionally,

    I don’t expect Marlon Brando to be anything more than a human or to be a perfect human being.

    Just because he was a flawed human being as we all are, he was able to portray human conditions so brilliantly.