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At the Movies

Michael Wood: Marlon Brando

19 July 2007
... MarlonBrando 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 ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando

25 November 2019
The Contender: The Story of Marlon​ Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... can be controlled. An actor can be anyone, if he can stand the pace of change and its rootlessness. Cinema as a medium urges us to view ourselves as actors presenting ourselves. Rod Steiger and MarlonBrando in ‘On the Waterfront’ (1954). So MarlonBrando could be a paraplegic after the war, he could be Zapata, Napoleon, a mafia don, or Lee Clayton, swanning around the Missouri Breaks country ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal

5 September 2002
... may be a tacit sop to those of us who like our books to deliver what they promise on the cover. Farndale makes up for (nearly) everything, however, with a terrific anecdote about Truman Capote and MarlonBrando. 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 night telling me his ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Michael Jackson’s frailties

31 March 2005
... a mercy killing,’ it begins, before turning its attention to the inglorious late careers of other fallen idols of American popular culture, challenging listeners to ‘name the last good film that MarlonBrando 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 ...

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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... the Army was betrayed by the politicians) and a heated argument about whether Mendès-France was 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 ...
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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... we might have achieved if we’d settled for dreaming about things instead of chipping the material 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 ...

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 ...
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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... the horizon’. This is an account of a 17th-century engraving and Wright offers it, I think, in a satirical spirit, but what we take away is not the implied commentary but the picture of a canonised MarlonBrando. 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 ...

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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... school graduation day in Louisville jail as part of a six-week sentence for robbery. A contribution to his school magazine railed against ‘security’, eulogising, in tones apparently inspired by MarlonBrando 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 ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’

11 October 2012
... endless and would take him beyond the known world. The film itself seems to have forgotten everything except this man on a bike, an ageing white-haired gent imitating a 1950s American icon – think MarlonBrando 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 ...

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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... Private Prewitt – though not an obvious choice as a soldier or a boxer. (He was, however, ‘deceptively slim’, as James Jones described Prewitt in the book.) Zinnemann led the stage-actor, MarlonBrando, 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 ...

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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... In​ 2001 an architect called Danny Sullivan claimed to have found cine film of an angel while rooting around in a Monmouth junk shop. This was, unsurprisingly, a hoax, as were claims that MarlonBrando 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 ...

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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... surprised if a sequel showed his escape to be short-lived. What makes the second Godfather movie (1974) so compelling, so remote from the slightly mawkish moments in the first, where that lovable old MarlonBrando 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 ...

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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... one Tin Pan Alley songwriter is said to have lamented: ‘These boys are geniuses; they’re 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 ...

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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... a ‘friendly witness’, although he tried at the time: his best apologia is his and Budd Schulberg’s On the Waterfront, where union corruption is only defeated after Terry Malloy, played by MarlonBrando, 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 ...

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