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What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 5 December 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... rootlessness. Cinema as a medium urges us to view ourselves as actors presenting ourselves. So Marlon Brando could be a paraplegic after the war, he could be Zapata, Napoleon, a mafia don, or Lee Clayton, swanning around the Missouri Breaks country in a dress, a bonnet and an italic Irish accent. He might be a used-up ex-boxer on the Jersey docks. Or ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Marlon Brando, 19 July 2007

... Marlon Brando didn’t believe in acting, except in real life, and he took every opportunity, in interviews and his autobiography, to trash the profession. It’s tempting to say this is why he was a great movie actor, but the story is more complicated. For much of the time he performed on screen like a person who didn’t believe in acting, and threw a lot of his career away ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal, 5 September 2002

... makes up for (nearly) everything, however, with a terrific anecdote about Truman Capote and Marlon Brando. CAPOTE: You tell him about yourself, and slowly spin your web so that he tells you everything. That’s how I trapped Marlon. BRANDO: The little bastard spent half the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Michael Jackson’s frailties, 31 March 2005

... fallen idols of American popular culture, challenging listeners to ‘name the last good film that Marlon Brando made/While trying to keep his kid from going to jail.’ ‘Too late to crash, too late to burn, too late to die young,’ goes the chorus. The song is softened somewhat by the singer’s sense of his own life lacking much direction or ...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained, 13 December 2001

Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... a Communist or a socialist, Willard’s host (played by Christian Marquand, an old actor friend of Brando’s and the director of Candy) gives an eloquent explanation of why they must stay in this place where they are not wanted, where their time is plainly over. The place is ours, he says, we brought the rubber from Brazil and planted it. ‘We want to stay ...

You could scream

Jenny Diski, 20 October 1994

BrandoSongs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... world into the shape we first thought of. Very likely we would have got around to dreaming up Brando and Garbo at about the time of the woolly mammoths, and what’s more, they would still be with us in their perfect form because, as knowing and committed dreamers, we would have had the good sense not to ask them what they thought about anything. As it ...

The First Person, Steroid-Enhanced

Hari Kunzru: Hunter S. Thompson, 15 October 1998

The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 204 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 9780747541684
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The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters. Vol. I 
by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Douglas Brinkley.
Bloomsbury, 720 pp., £9.99, July 1998, 0 7475 3619 8
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... to his school magazine railed against ‘security’, eulogising, in tones apparently inspired by Marlon Brando in The Wild One, the ideal of ‘true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences’. That outlaw pose adopted in his teenage conflicts with Southern authority has never been dropped. In ‘The ...

Harrison Rex

Carey Harrison, 7 November 1991

Conversations with Marlon Brando 
by Lawrence Grobel.
Bloomsbury, 177 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 9780747508168
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George Sanders: An Exhausted Life 
by Richard Vanderbeets.
Robson, 271 pp., £15.95, September 1991, 0 86051 749 7
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Rex Harrison: A Biography 
by Nicholas Wapshott.
Chatto, 331 pp., £16, October 1991, 0 7011 3764 9
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Me: Stories of my Life 
by Katharine Hepburn.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, September 1991, 0 670 83974 4
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... Famous faces. Anyone at home behind them? Let’s begin with Brando, now a famously corpulent body beneath the spoiltangel head. The magnificently instinctual film performer belongs to a past when the man felt able to take acting seriously. By Last Tango in Paris, brooding power had turned to blubbery narcissism, and self-parody, it seemed, had come to stay ...

Take a tinderbox and go steady with your canoe

John Bossy: Jesuits, 20 May 2004

The Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories 
by Jonathan Wright.
HarperCollins, 334 pp., £20, February 2004, 0 00 257180 3
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... spirit, but what we take away is not the implied commentary but the picture of a canonised Marlon Brando. With Ignatius we get inward description, bold but risky: the vision of the Spiritual Exercises is ‘optimistic, rooted in notions of magnanimity and fraternity’. Optimistic? Yes, I suppose. Fraternal? I don’t think so. Magnanimous? It ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’, 11 October 2012

... except this man on a bike, an ageing white-haired gent imitating a 1950s American icon – think Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Next it’s Freddie’s turn. He is to choose a point in the far distance, focus on it, go for it. Freddie takes off and the camera follows him for a bit. He is going very fast in the opposite direction to the one the Master ...

Top Sergeant

D.A.N. Jones, 23 April 1992

An Autobiography 
by Fred Zinnemann.
Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 7475 1131 4
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... slim’, as James Jones described Prewitt in the book.) Zinnemann led the stage-actor, Marlon Brando, into screen stardom with The Men (1949): it was about paralysed war veterans – and only an art-house movie. He describes Brando’s ‘method’ and writes, characteristically, of the film: it opened in ...

Ministry of Apparitions

Malcolm Gaskill: Magical Thinking in 1918, 4 July 2019

A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War 
by Owen Davies.
Oxford, 284 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 0 19 879455 4
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... rooting around in a Monmouth junk shop. This was, unsurprisingly, a hoax, as were claims that Marlon Brando had paid £350,000 for the footage. But the alleged provenance was intriguing. Sullivan invented a psychical researcher called William Doidge, who had, he said, fought with the Scots Guards at the Battle of Mons in August 1914. The angel had ...

The Old Feudalist

D.A.N. Jones, 3 July 1986

Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass 
by Karen Blixen.
Penguin, 351 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 008533 5
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Out of Africa 
by Karen Blixen.
Century, 288 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 7126 1016 2
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Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen 
by Judith Thurman.
Penguin, 511 pp., £3.50, April 1986, 9780140096996
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... Robert Redford. He should have taken lessons in the British accent from the hard-working Marlon Brando. Firmly hooked to the movie, this elaborate Century edition of Out of Africa is packed with illustrations which will appeal to nostalgic movie-weepers but have nothing to do with the text. We are reading about an interesting Kikuyu called ...

Family Values

Michael Wood, 17 October 1996

The Last Don 
by Mario Puzo.
Heinemann, 482 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 0 434 60498 4
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... so compelling, so remote from the slightly mawkish moments in the first, where that lovable old Marlon Brando collapses to his death while playing with a grandchild in the garden, is the sense of deeper and deeper implication in horror. Godfather III (1990) is a different story altogether, a wandering tale of conspiracy and disaster, a movie which is ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift, 7 October 2010

The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... going to ruin everything.’ That’s one way of reading the impact that the triumvirate of Clift, Brando and Dean had on Hollywood. Of course, there had been great actors before, but there had been few among the men who were renowned for intensity, for ‘sincerity’. Passion and performance were for women. For men, effortlessness and dignity were the ...

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