Timeless: Marlon Brando

Our throwback Timeless series continues. We've covered Valentino, Flynn, Cooper, Gable, Grant, Clift and Dean. Enjoy today's post and come to Bacchus today and cover Blanco, Añejo and Reposado; enjoy all tequila for $5 and a top-shelf margarita is only $7.

Flashback to 1953…Marlon Brando appears on screen as the rebel Johnny in The Wild One.

"What're you rebelling against, Johnny?"
"Whaddya got?"

Brando tore up the screen with a brooding and emotive performance in a leather jacket that cemented his place as a gay icon. His carefully stylized wardrobe suggests that his Wild One Johnny would be right at home at our upcoming Gear party. The sales of leather jackets and blue jeans increased exponentially after the movie hit the big screen. Brando's portrayal is said to have influenced teen rebellion.

He was an iconoclast. He was emotive. He was sexy. AND we knew it because a few years earlier he had dazzled the world as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. It was a role he took from Broadway to the big screen.

After The Wild One, Brando starred in On the Waterfront as Terry Malloy, a dock worker who gets caught up in union violence and corruption. He won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. The most memorable line:

"Hey, you wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you."

During this time, it is reported that he started an S&M relationship with James Dean. The thought of them together takes naughty Bacchus' mind to to visually interesting places, but click here to read all about that speculation. Oh the things they'll say about you when you're dead (true or not!). :-)


Here's a look back at his life leading up to his breakout roles in the 1950s.
He was born on April 3, 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents rasied him as a Christian Scientist. His mother, Dodie, was an actress, wore trousers, drove a truck, drank and smoked. His father enjoyed telling Marlon that he couldn't do anything right.

Marlon's childhood nickname was "Bud" and he was a mimic from his youth. He developed an ability to absorb the mannerisms of kids he played with and display them dramatically while staying in character. This helped him make friends as his family moved a few times, first, to the Chicago suburbs then, after his parents divorced, to Santa Ana, California. It was in Santa Ana that he became a teen rebel and was kept back in school and eventually expelled for riding his motorcycle through the halls of the high school (Maybe this inspired the plot lines in Grease 2? Nah!). He then went to a military academy to finish school, but was expelled again (insubordination), but eventually invited back and finished in 1943.

Upon graduation, he tried to enlist in the army, but did not pass his physical. He had a bad knee injury sustained playing high school football that hadn't healed properly. He decided to join his older sisters in New York. They were there studying acting and Marlon had enjoyed a role he had in a school play, so, he thought, "what the heck...."

He loved acting school. He was accepted there. He wasn't criticized. It was the first time in his life that he heard good things about himself.

Brando was an avid student and proponent of Stella Adler, from whom he learned the techniques of the Stanislavski System. This technique encouraged the actor to explore his own feelings and past experiences to fully realize the character being portrayed. Brando's remarkable insight and sense of realism was evident early on. Adler used to recount that when teaching Brando, she had instructed the class to act like chickens, and added that a nuclear bomb was about to fall on them. Most of the class clucked and ran around wildly, but Brando sat calmly and pretended to lay an egg. Asked by Adler why he had chosen to react this way, he said, "I'm a chicken—what do I know about bombs?"

He soon was auditioning for, and was cast in summer-stock roles on Long Island. His performances were hailed as outstanding, but his non-acting onstage and backstage behavior was always bratty and undermined his success. In a stage production of The Eagle Has Two Heads, Tallulah Bankhead hated the way Brando tried to distract her onstage by picking his nose and making faces all while he was turned away from the audience. She got him fired for it. But, as fortune would have it, this freed him up to audition for the role of Stanley in 1947's Streetcar on Broadway.

He enjoyed much success on Broadway and, as was typical back then, Broadway became a stepping stone to Hollywood. Brando's first movie role was in 1950 where he played a supporting part in The Men where he played a bitter paraplegic named Ken. To prepare, he spent a month in a military hospital in Van Nuys. The preparation paid off. Reviews were stellar:

Ken "is so vividly real, dynamic and sensitive that his illusion is complete."
"Out of stiff and frozen silences he can lash into a passionate rage with the tearful and flailing frenzy of a taut cable suddenly cut."

Brando's first six films—The Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar, The Wild One and On the Waterfront—laid a standard of excellence that would sustain him throughout his career—a standard that Brando himself would have difficulty reattaining. As the decade continued, Brando remained a top box office draw but critics felt his performances were half-hearted, lacking the intensity and commitment found in his earlier work, especially in his work with director Elia Kazan (Streetcar, Zapata!, Waterfront).

in 1954 Brando tried his best at singing in Guys and Dolls and could carry a tune better than Russell Crowe in Les Miserables, but that's not saying much. It was his first and last singing role and he readily admitted that he couldn't sing.

Numerous roles followed in the 1950s, Teahouse of the August Moon, Sayonara, The Young Lions and The Fugitive Kind. All movies did well, but Brando didn't shine as he had in his earlier films. He tripped his way through some more character roles and then made Mutiny on the Bounty in Tahiti. While filming, he was accused of deliberately sabotaging nearly every aspect of the production to the tune of $6 million.

Mutiny on the Bounty nearly capsized MGM and, while the project had indeed been hampered with delays other than Brando's behavior, the accusations would dog the actor for years as studios began to fear Brando's difficult reputation. Critics also began taking note of Marlon's fluctuating weight. So it's no wonder that Brando's career fizzled in the 1960s.

As this blog post is a tribute to the star as we like to remember him, here are some more memorable photos of Brando.

His career revived in the 1970s with Oscar nominated roles in The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris. He took home the top prize for his role as Vito Corleone, but stunned the Academy by shunning the award and sending a native American in his place to decry the treatment of American Indians.

For Last Tango Brando's highly noted performance threatened to be overshadowed by an uproar over the sexual content of the film. Brando portrays a recent American widower named Paul, who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young, betrothed Parisian woman named Jeanne. As with previous films, Brando refused to memorize his lines for many scenes; instead, he wrote his lines on cue cards and posted them around the set for easy reference, leaving director Bernardo Bertolucci with the problem of keeping them out of the picture frame. The film features several intense, graphic scenes involving Brando, including Paul anally raping Jeanne using butter as a lubricant and Paul's angry, emotionally charged final confrontation with the corpse of his dead wife. The controversial movie was a hit.

The voting membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences again nominated Brando for Best Actor, his seventh nomination. Although Brando won the 1973 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the actor did not appear at the ceremony or send a representative to pick up the award if he won.

As the years passed, he put on more weight and dealt with family issues (custody battles, murder, death, etc.). He appeared in 1978's Superman and 1979's Apocalypse Now and finished his career with a series of unforgettable roles ending with the title role in 2001's The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Regardless of his predilection to dominate James Dean, Brando was quite heterosexual. His personal life was quite an interesting mess. He married and divorced many times. He had sixteen children in and out of wedlock- the most interesting being fathering a child with his ex-wife (years after their divorce) while his current wife was pregnant.

Through his career Brando earned a reputation as a bad boy for his public outbursts and antics. According to Los Angeles magazine, "Brando was rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was". His behavior during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) seemed to bolster his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in director and a runaway budget, though he disclaimed responsibility for either. On June 12, 1973, Brando broke paparazzo Ron Galella's jaw. Galella had followed Brando, who was accompanied by talk show host Dick Cavett, after a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City. He reportedly paid a $40,000 out-of-court settlement and suffered an infected hand as a result. Galella wore a football helmet the next time he photographed Brando at a gala benefiting the American Indians Development Association.

The filming of Mutiny on the Bounty affected Brando's life in a profound way, as he fell in love with Tahiti and its people. He bought a 12-island atoll, Tetiaroa, and in 1970 hired an award-winning young Los Angeles architect, Bernard Judge, to build his home and natural village there without despoiling the environment. An environmental laboratory protecting sea birds and turtles was established and student groups welcomed there for many years. Tragically, a 1983 hurricane destroyed many of the structures including his resort. A hotel using Brando's name is currently under reconstruction under new ownership due to open in 2014.

Marlon Brando died on July 1, 2004 of congestive heart failure. He was 80.

It's the early iconic roles we remember best. Brando is credited with bringing a gripping realism to film acting, and is often cited as one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time. He helped to popularize the Stanislavsky system of acting, today more commonly referred to as method acting.

Join us today and shoot back an ounce or two of $5 tequila. And give a salute to Marlon Brando.