Brando Knew How To Hook His Audience Through A Realistic Emotional Response
A single rose in his jacket pocket, stroking a cat while threatening to kill a man, and conducting business on the day of his daughter’s wedding. That is how Marlon Brando will always be remembered; as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972).
The indomitable method actor — the greatest performer of his generation — is quite imitable but none have ever been able to copy his skill or his finesse.
However, the career graph of the two-time, Oscar-winning actor was not always so smooth. Though he shot to fame while playing an emotionally vulnerable, yet dangerous character, in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in 1951, he faced many ups and downs in his career which spanned over three decades.
He embodied the grace and flamboyance of erstwhile actors like Grace Cooper and Harry Fonda yet was able to portray gritty, conflicted anti-heroes perfectly. It would not be out of place to say that he defined how to play anti-heroes, yet made them immensely loveable.
He not only pushed his contemporaries to give career-best performances, but he also made directors make better films because he pushed them to create more intense characters for his actors. One of the best examples of this is James Dean. He was one of the earliest adopters of Brando’s acting method and gave some memorable performances because of it.
The Ups and Downs of Brando’s Career
The 1960s were not kind to Brando. His career went into a free-fall after massive successive flops like ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). It was only revived in 1972 when a young Francis Ford Coppola pushed for his inclusion in the classic ‘The Godfather.’ Though Brando had to take a massive pay cut, he was awarded an Oscar for his effort and outstanding performance.
Brando eccentricities can best be explained by events such as this. In The Godfather, he often suggested that his co-stars Robert Duvall and Al Pacino have his dialogues taped to their chest when they were facing away from the camera. He said that this helped him make the dialogues seem more spontaneous.
His talent definitely cannot be attributed to sheer luck. He has been known to rehearse his performances repeatedly. Sometimes he became obsessive about getting a scene right, even if it took a long time and would beg for scenes to be reshot again and again until he was satisfied. This tended to rub his fellow actors the wrong way.
Brando was an ardent social activist and did not shy away from making bold statements to let his allegiance to such causes known. He did not attend the 1972 Oscars in protest towards Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans in film. He sent Littlefeather — a Native American — in his place where she refused to accept the award. From James Bond, Sir Roger Moore himself.
In the fading years of his career, he bought a house in Los Angeles and became neighbors with none other than Jack Nicholson. Nicholson fondly remembers the three decades they shared together and often shines a light on the playful, intelligent and kind human being that he was, though he mostly refrains from sharing too many personal details about the relationship.
Marlon Brando was notorious for never giving out his phone number. He would often give the contact number of the restaurant he used to frequent. People calling him would first be answered by restaurant managers and only after passing their screening would Brando answer the phone.
Brando will be revered timelessly throughout Hollywood history for bringing epic realism to the film industry. His outstanding talent and passion made him a legend, and one of the greatest method actors to have ever lived.