A Tribute to Marlon Brando
I would venture to guess that no other actor in the history of Hollywood has been so praised for so many great roles and at the same time so universally condemned for so many embarrassing parts as Marlon Brando.
His supporters would argue that this is because he was a risk-taker, an actor who was willing to appear in a musical when he really had no background in that area, or to play a Nazi soldier or somebody of Japanese descent. Others might say that he simply had bad taste in films, or did it for the money. Whatever the case, few would argue the fact that Marlon Brando was one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history, if not the greatest.
It’s important to remember that he dominated the 1950s, with five Best Actor nominations in seven years between 1952 and 1958. He had eight Oscar nominations altogether, all but one for best actor, and two wins, for On the Waterfront and The Godfather. He rejected the latter, but it was still a fine, archetypal performance.
His association with “The Method” influenced an entire generation of actors and actresses, though he, himself, was not really a Method actor. He was thrust into a leadership role for actors who began their careers after World War II, but was never comfortable in that role. He just wanted to act (he directed once, but it was not considered a success), and was otherwise a very private person, uncomfortable in the spotlight. By all accounts, however, he was well-liked by the actors he worked with, and by the directors who were willing to work with him.
The 60s weren’t very good to his career, but his reputation was restored with his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, a film that is usually mentioned among the top ten American films of all time. Many of his more recent projects were at least notable, if not Stanley Kowalski-like, including The Freshman (1990), Don Juan DeMarco (1995), and A Dry White Season (1989), for which he got his only Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
Brando died July 1, 2004 at the age of 80, reportedly of lung failure. This four-part article was originally written at the time of his 77th birthday. See Part II for several dedicated tribute sites and other pages with more detailed biographical information.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art, and Posters