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 Post subject: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2014 11:29 pm 
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Prince Judah
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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2014 11:31 pm 
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Prince Judah
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It's generally accepted that Brando's career went into serious decline in the sixties. However, as has been written elsewhere, after that special group of films in the 1st half of the fifties, anything he did would be considered anti-climactic. Consider - each of his early films built on the impact of the previous one and also got him Oscar nominations: his brutish Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (51), the Mexican rebel in Viva Zapata! (52), Antony in Julius Caesar (53), the rebel biker in The Wild One (53) and culminating with his Oscar-winning Terry in On the Waterfront (54). That streak of rebelliousness sent a signal to Hollywood and the world-at-large: cinema would never be the same. Nearly every film actor who began after 1950 was influenced by Brando, notably early rebels James Dean, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Brando's technique is popularly known as "The Method" (a term he himself was not fond of) but, in his younger days, he also displayed a primal ferocity that most other actors were simply incapable of.
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The game-changing Brando did a lot of theater in the late forties, notably the very successful A Streetcar Named Desire on the Broadway stage (where he was electrifying), and he declined offers from Hollywood during this period. He finally decided on his film debut as the small b&w drama The Men (1950), playing a wheelchair-bound ex-soldier. After the quintet of startling films in the early fifties, things leveled off in the 2nd half of the fifties. What's significant to note is that, more than just a creative explosion, his earliest films were financially successful - especially the last, On the Waterfront, which was surprising for a downbeat drama. So, Brando was a real box office force, not just a creative one. He seemed unsure after the accolades and the winning streak, taking grandiose or contractual roles: Napoleon in Désirée (54), the musical Guys and Dolls (55), as a Japanese man in The Teahouse of August Moon (56) and a sad blonde German officer in The Young Lions (1958 - with Montgomery Clift, though they had no scenes together!).
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ABOVE: how Brando was first seen on film, as a soldier in the first shot of The Men (1950); later, in The Young Lions (58)

He did get an Oscar nomination for Sayonara (57) - his last in quite a while - and good box office prevailed. But, Brando's eccentricities and the overlap with his personal life (women) now began to adversely affect his career. His latest project, begun in the late fifties, was an epic western, One-Eyed Jacks, to be directed by Stanley Kubrick. Then, Kubrick departed over long script rewrite delays and it seemed that Brando always intended to direct it himself. Brando cast his buddy Karl Malden as the main antagonist and the pic eventually goes way over budget. There are many stories of Brando's excesses (women) and eating binges and odd delays. Post-production was even worse - Brando gets lost in the editing process, first assembling an 8-hour film and finally one over 4 hours; the process bores him and the studio takes it over from him. Of course, a much shorter version is finally released in 1961; it's not a bad film - but it couldn't recoup its huge costs. Brando never directed again.
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Before One-Eyed Jacks was released, Brando starred in The Fugitive Kind (60), based on the Tennessee Williams play Orpheus Descending, with older Anna Magnani, and this is where all the high expectations of his genius also take their toll - this one is a failure critically & commercially. (Some salary trivia: Brando reportedly got $1 million, beating Elizabeth Taylor to this milestone, but it wasn't publicized, so Taylor became the famous one to first get that amount for a film). More excess followed with the Mutiny on the Bounty 1962 remake - Brando is overpriced, the film way over-budget - and he and Taylor become prime examples of the pampered elitist stars (he for the Bounty film, she for Cleopatra). And yet, it's a solid film, this version of the Bounty, and Brando delivers as a foppish officer who becomes outraged in the 2nd half. I'm not too interested in Trevor Howard as Bligh or Richard Harris; it's Brando that I watch in this film.
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But, the damage was done - Brando did most of his remaining sixties films for much smaller fees and as contractual obligations. There was one amusing comedy, Bedtime Story (64), with David Niven, and an awkward one with Sophia Loren for Chaplin, A Countess From Hong Kong (67). The other films were dull and routine: as an ambassador in a fictional country in The Ugly American (63); as an agent on a ship in a dreary war film Morituri (65) with Yul Brynner; as a sheriff in a corrupt town in The Chase (66), which boasted a stellar supporting cast but dragged; in the lackluster western The Appaloosa, about his quest for his horse; and as an effete military man married to Elizabeth Taylor in the eclectic Reflections in a Golden Eye (67), directed by John Huston, some might say pretentiously. The problem for Brando is that all of these were box office flops - the good streak was long gone. There was also the goofy Candy (68), which did make money, but Brando was just one of several big stars in weird cameos - he played an Indian guru in long wig.

Brando wrapped up the sixties with a couple of slightly more interesting films. He had been slightly overweight for much of the decade (remember, the eating binges) but got into good shape by the time of Night of the Following Day (68), an offbeat kidnapping thriller that functioned as a disturbing dream on some levels. Then he was a 19th-century British government agent fomenting a rebellion in the Caribbean in Burn! (69), a reflection of his real life political causes and which started a trend in the next few films of his characters perishing by the climax. But, neither of these had much of an audience. The same could be said for The Nightcomers (1971), a British prequel to The Turn of the Screw; he played Quint, a roguish Irish groundskeeper who plays games with two children and engages in sadomasochistic liaisons with the governess. This was Brando being edgy - and it was daring for its time - but no one went to see it.
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All these failures explain why Brando was considered unemployable by this point, and why director Francis Coppola had to convince the studio to hire Brando for The Godfather (1972). He looked different and older in the role of Don Corleone, head of an organized crime family, backed by new young stars Pacino, Caan and Duvall. The film was an enormous hit, the biggest grosser of the year, and - to put it mildly - it revitalized Brando's career. He even won his 2nd Oscar, the one he declined (perhaps he was bitter - having no confidence in himself or the film, he gave up his profit points for a fee and sacrificed about $10 million). Almost immediately, he starred in Last Tango in Paris, indulging in more *** games with a much younger actress; the director, Bernardo Bertolucci, also allowed lengthy scenes of Brando in stream-of-consciousness mode, speaking of personal incidents in his life. As is well known now, Brando began acting off of cue cards at this time, essentially reading all his lines, as if he had memory problems. This adversely affected his acting style. Still, it was considered groundbreaking in its time, great box office, and Brando won more accolades.
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Then, being Brando, he again did the unexpected: now back on top of the heap, he didn't work in films for the next few years. He finally returned in the revisionist western The Missouri Breaks (1976), as an eccentric bounty hunter/killer up against Jack Nicholson. Brando played this with an Irish brogue, as a lethal trickster who uses disguises - hamming it up some might say - and his role was smaller than Nicholson's, but the teaming of these two should have guaranteed big box office; it didn't. Nevertheless, Brando was still a big name and he used this to his monetary advantage, collecting huge paychecks for small roles in huge films - as the superhero's father in Superman (78) and as a deranged colonel in Coppola's Apocalypse Now (79). It is now evident that he disliked the chore of acting, so he took brief work for large pay. During the seventies (after Last Tango), Brando had steadily gained back all the weight he had lost in the late sixties and more, becoming fairly corpulent by the time of The Formula (1980), in which he popped up in a few scenes as an oil executive engaged in some verbal sparring with star George C. Scott. It was rather forgettable.
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Brando did appear in one TV episode of the Roots sequel, The Next Generations (79), as Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi party in the sixties, in which he looked slimmed down and also won himself an Emmy. Then he disappeared for most of the eighties, finally playing a lawyer during apartheid in A Dry White Season (89). He was quite heavyset now, but it was a fine performance, as was his comedic turn in The Freshman (1990), parodying his own Godfather role, but from then on Brando again went for the money and garnered several Razzie awards: a 10-minute role in the laughable epic Christopher Columbus:The Discovery (92) and, worse, as the mad scientist in the baffling The Island of Dr. Moreau remake of '96, which diverted all attention to his strange make-up and distracted attitude. However, he was elegant as a psychiatrist helping Johnny Depp in Don Juan DeMarco (95); he also, as a favor, acted in a scene in Depp's personal project, The Brave (97), a supposed deep statement about Indians & poverty & sacrifice, but it was plodding and it all but disappeared, never released in the USA. Brando then did a strange comedy, Free Money (98) and ended his film career with some distinction in the heist drama The Score (2001), appearing with Robert De Niro. However, he was so heavy at this point - perhaps 350 lbs. - that it looked difficult for him to move.
__ Image Image <as Moreau (did we need to see this?)

Brando's legacy - even with all the setbacks and miscues - remains as that incredible infusion of talent and trendsetting in the early fifties, during which time he single-handedly changed the face of the film world. In some ways, film history can be divided into: before Brando - before 1950 ...and after Brando. At his best, he could be mesmerizing on screen, and, to this day, no other actor can match him when he was in his prime - not Pacino, not De Niro, not Sean Penn, nor any of the other 'new Brandos' that would shoot to fame in Brando's wake (Warren Beatty, for example, was very bland compared to Brando). James Dean came close, but he looked slighter, and we were never able to see where Dean's career might have taken him. Brando's legend continued in an odd way via archival footage in the films Superman Returns (2006) and the Richard Donner version of Superman II (also 2006), which contained footage of Brando from the late seventies.
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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2014 1:41 pm 
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An excellent summary of Brando's career. I feel most of his 60's failures are a lot better than their reputations-A Countess From Hong Kong is a dud but most of the others have merit.
One problem is that Brando's magnetic screen prescence could almost be too powerful for some of the more traditional genre films-Bedtime Story ( romantic comedy), The Appaloosa( Western), Morituri ( Ww2 thriller) etc
Those films are well made an entertaining & I watch them regularly.


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2014 4:22 am 
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Prince Judah
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Mark wrote:
I feel most of his 60's failures are a lot better than their reputations-A Countess From Hong Kong is a dud but most of the others have merit. One problem is that Brando's magnetic screen presence could almost be too powerful for some of the more traditional genre films-Bedtime Story ( romantic comedy), The Appaloosa( Western), Morituri ( Ww2 thriller) etc
Those films are well made an entertaining & I watch them regularly.

I don't disagree - I sort of made a blanket statement about most of his sixties films being dull, but that was a bit of shorthand on my part because my write-up was getting long. I have seen the films, so I'm not just making my comments based on other sources, but I last saw most of these films a long time ago. I have laserdiscs of a couple of these but last watched them in the mid-nineties, so that's about 20 years ago. The Chase, for example, has this brutal scene of Brando getting beat up and in The Appaloosa, he has this arm wrestling contest with John Saxon, but I don't remember much else about the films. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that these films are forgettable - which is the conclusion I jumped to - but instead that my memory is going. So, I need to re-watch these films to get a more detailed, a more immediate view of them. Brando's roles in such films challenges the common conception of the central heroic role - the guy who always wins out - and a person's appreciation for such films may change with time.


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 12:47 pm 
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I think a problem he had in the 60's was that with each financial and critical failure, the pressure to make a 'classic' increased and he didn't do it. If he'd managed a couple of big critical/commercial successes in the decade then the other films probably would have been better received.
I don't know if this is the case but strongly suspect a lot of film reviewers/journalists had bad experiences with Brando and were keen to pay him back.


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 3:00 am 
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Prince Judah
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I watched The Chase (1966) again on my laserdisc - it's not DVD quality but presented a nice widescreen picture. I admit now that the last 3rd of the film was fairly intense and there's even a spectacular action finale, though the build-up in the first two-thirds of the film was still too slow in my estimation.

RIGHT: Brando with Robert Redford in a late scene > Image
others in the big cast included Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson as Brando's wife and James Fox

Unfortunately, watching this again reminded me why I didn't like it much the last time I watched it: most of the characters are very annoying. The prime example is this old religious lady who walks around reading from the bible; it's a small role, but it also represents how annoying all the bigger roles are. Some of the female roles (primarily Janice Rule & Martha Hyer) are these overdone boorish lushes. I really got tired of watching them get more & more drunk (and more tiresome). The 3 bullies who eventually beat up Brando are annoying redneck tools - they also get drunk for half their screen time. There are bunch of young people (including Paul Williams in one of his 1st roles) and teens in small roles - all annoying. I know why all this was done - to show the underbelly of such a small town, the small scale corruption and so on, but it was overdone; it was as if 99% of the town's inhabitants were thoroughly corrupt in some way - except for Brando, his wife and a couple of others.

Now Brando's character stays sober and doesn't fall into this trap (neither do Fonda, Redford and Dickinson), but my own theory on why Brando's roles in the sixties are not as well regarded as his early stuff is well demonstrated by his role here: he's no longer the young firebrand of the early fifties and, unless it's a very well written role, he comes off as bored and mumbling - the very thing he has been criticized for, but the criticism is legitimate for his roles in the sixties. He's not terrible here - I mean, he has some good scenes - but overall he just appears as quite unexcited, depressed over his lot in life and having to deal with all the annoying people in his town. The reason I remembered the scene of him getting beaten up - he does do this scene very well; not many actors can act as the beaten up bloodied victim as well as Brando, I'll give 'im that. ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 11:11 am 
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I have read that Arthur Penn was furious when the producer Sam Spiegel made the final cut of the film without his input. That may be a reason for some of the failings.
Brando's role is a strange one-he's the star of the film but hasn't got a lot to do-apart from, as you say, towards the end. Penn claimed some of his ( Brando's)best scenes were left out of the final cut.


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:04 am 
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So the director claims that the producer cut out the actor's best scenes? :twisted: - that's producers for ya... :lol:

btw, I just found out earlier today that actress Martha Hyer died only 5 days after I mentioned her in my previous post, on May 31st, at age 89. Though her role in The Chase was that of a kind of pathetic wife - drunken in half her scenes - she usually played good girls or ladies in the fifties and sixties. I remember her best in the sci-fi adventure First Men in the Moon (1964) and as Clint Walker's wife in Night of the Grizzly (66). R.I.P.


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 Post subject: Re: Marlon Brando
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:16 pm 
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I've recently got the DVD of The Man From The Diners Club, Danny Kaye's last star vehicle and she's in that film-it's not one of the great mans best films but no disaster either.


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