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Marilyn Butler, 22 January 1981

Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... in Tynan’s work as in Gilliatt’s. She writes of the film persona of Burt Lancaster or Marlon Brando or Sean Connery, all actors she likes to watch, as though these are nevertheless people we all know, and don’t have to fawn on. She never suggests she has any privileged knowledge of them off the screen, and what emerges of her ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... On the Waterfront, where union corruption is only defeated after Terry Malloy, played by Marlon Brando, plucks up the courage to ... fink. Navasky pours scorn on this movie, as if sensing how much it damages his case. There’s little point in enumerating some of the minor errors in Naming Names: its omission of Philip Dunne, who helped ...

When students ruled the earth

D.A.N. Jones, 17 March 1988

1968: A Student Generation in Revolt 
by Ronald Fraser.
Chatto, 370 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 7011 2913 1
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Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties 
by Tariq Ali.
Collins, 280 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780002177795
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Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 241 12174 4
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Nineteen Sixty-Eight: A Personal Report 
by Hans Koning.
Unwin Hyman, 196 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 9780044401858
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... of student, a President of the Oxford Union on a debating tour. He mingled with Bertrand Russell, Marlon Brando, Sartre – and, most amusingly, with John Lennon, who rightly urged him ‘to get those left-wing students out, to talk to the workers. All the revolutions have happened when a Fidel, a Marx, a Lenin or whatever, who were intellectuals, were ...


Ian Hamilton, 28 May 1992

Damon Runyon: A Life 
by Jimmy Breslin.
Hodder, 410 pp., £17.99, March 1992, 0 340 57034 2
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... Runyon would later base one of his most dreamy-eyed character-confections, ‘The Sky’ – or Marlon Brando in the film of Guys and Dolls. Sky Masterson is Runyon’s fugitive ideal. As a sportswriter, and as a close-up hanger-on of gangsters and tycoons, Runyon was in the business of constructing heroes, but none of the heavyweight boxers he ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... room, I wrote the last sentence of the novel Burr.’ The supporting cast in this séance included Marlon Brando, Greta Garbo, André Gide, the Beat poets, the Kennedys and the Sitwells. To follow a triumphant vanity production like Palimpsest with an authorised biography is a bit too-too. It’s as if Vidal were commissioning a monument to fit inside the ...


Peter Pomerantsev: At Potemkin Productions, 3 February 2011

... scene reminded me of, then I realised: it’s taken straight from the moment in The Godfather when Marlon Brando gathers the heads of the New York clans to discuss business. Tarantino repeats the device when Lucy Liu meets the Yakuza heads in Kill Bill – it’s a trope in gangster movies. I doubt this is coincidence. Putin’s PR men dress him like a ...

On Trying to Be Portugal

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Zionist Terrorism, 6 August 2009

‘A Senseless, Squalid War’: Voices from Palestine 1945-48 
by Norman Rose.
Bodley Head, 278 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 224 07938 9
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Major Farran’s Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain’s War against Jewish Terrorism 1945-48 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 290 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 434 01844 4
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... in tone, written by Ben Hecht, an ardent Irgun supporter, and starring the 22-year-old Marlon Brando. A quainter showbiz connection came when American arms were secretly acquired for the incipient Jewish state and smuggled out by Teddy Kollek, later mayor of Jerusalem, with the help of Meyer Lansky, the mobster whose associates controlled the ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings, 9 October 2014

E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... Allen Tate and Djuna Barnes, who also lived on Patchin Place, as Theodore Dreiser once had and Marlon Brando later would. He had become well regarded as an experimental poet, but he hadn’t yet become famous. Then, in 1931, he visited the USSR and was horrified by what he saw. His disenchantment with communism and frankness about it was not well ...

Irishness is for other people

Terry Eagleton: Enrique Vila-Matas, 19 July 2012

by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey.
Harvill Secker, 245 pp., £16.99, June 2012, 978 1 84655 489 6
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... at times uncertain. Mysteriously, he confuses literature with Catherine Deneuve, and suspects that Marlon Brando died in his place. Unhinged from the workaday world in the manner of Stephen Dedalus, yet given to free association in the style of Leopold Bloom, he sets out from his native Barcelona on a trip to Ireland in search of his long-buried self. His ...

Strange Stardom

David Haglund: James Franco, 17 March 2011

Palo Alto: Stories 
by James Franco.
Faber, 197 pp., £12.99, January 2011, 978 0 571 27316 4
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... Dean,’ Franco says, ‘I’m James Dean. Actors sniff jackets. Actors act, actors sniff jackets. Marlon Brando sniffed jackets.’ Franco tore himself down in more serious ways as well. In July 2008, he filmed Erased James Franco (the title is a nod to Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning) with the artist Carter, whose previous work consisted largely of ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave, 5 August 2004

Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... to fend for themselves. Gielgud was never out of work, unlike his Julius Caesar co-star the late Marlon Brando, who made a fabulous cult of his non-appearance on stage, and whose indolence and contempt for the business causes Gielgud to look like a worker bee, making regular honey at no great expense to the spirit. ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... to the rest of his body – and as unsafe. ‘Laurence Olivier is less gifted than Marlon Brando,’ wrote William Redfield in Letters from an Actor. ‘He is even less gifted than Richard Burton, Paul Scofield, Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud. But he is still the definitive actor of the 20th century. Why? Because he wanted to ...

Let’s not overthink this

Michael Wood, 9 September 1993

... really about violence at all, but about knowhow and determination and competition – we think of Marlon Brando getting the speed to return to his broken hand in One-Eyed Jacks. Munny doesn’t get any skill back, he just gets a big gun, and takes the town by surprise. We are also not displeased to see Little Bill get blown away, because he is a law ...

A Little Swine

Sheila Fitzpatrick: On Snitching, 3 November 2005

Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero 
by Catriona Kelly.
Granta, 352 pp., £17.99, May 2005, 1 86207 747 9
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... names before the House Un-American Activities Committee) in On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando as a longshoreman who risks his life by breaking ranks and denouncing the mob; while the counter-view of denunciation as betrayal was presented in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (1955), the story of a docker who turns in his wife’s ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... falling for the Jewish girl – as a moral education in the same way, for example, that the Marlon Brando character is educated in On the Waterfront. That would be the convention, and one I’d so much taken for granted that I kept looking in the Malle film for signs of this instruction in the school of life beginning to happen. But it ...

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