Broadcast: July 16, 2004
Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
This is Doug Johnson.
On our show this week: some jazz music from Wynton Marsalis.
And a listener wants to know about a kind of horse called the Appaloosa.
But first, we remember American actor Marlon Brando.
The American movie industry lost one of its greatest stars on July first. Marlon Brando died in Los Angeles, California at the age of eighty. Gwen Outen takes a look back at the actor’s long life in movies.
MARLON BRANDO: “You don’t understand. I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum which is what I am.”
GWEN OUTEN: That was Marlon Brando playing a former boxer in the nineteen-fifty-four movie “On the Waterfront.” Marlon Brando was somebody, of course. Many critics say he was the greatest actor of all time. And many actors say Marlon Brando influenced them more than any other person in the movie industry.
Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska in nineteen-twenty-four. His mother was an actress. His father was a salesman. His childhood was not happy. In a book about his life, Brando wrote that both his parents were dependent on alcohol. He wrote that his father never said anything good about his son.
Marlon Brando linked his interest in acting to the painful years of his childhood. He said a child who feels unaccepted by his parents will search for a different identity that will be acceptable.
When he was nineteen, Brando moved to New York City. He studied acting and learned what is called the “method” style of realistic acting. In nineteen-forty-seven, he became a Broadway star with his famous performance as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Brando’s fame grew in nineteen-fifty-one when he acted the same part in the film version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Brando acted in more than forty movies. He won two Academy Awards for Best Actor. One was for his work in “On the Waterfront.” The other was for playing Vito Corleone, the powerful head of a criminal organization in “The Godfather” in nineteen-seventy-two. He was nominated for five other Academy Awards.
Brando was a private man but he did not lead a quiet or easy life. He was married three times. He had at least seven children. Brando dealt with several tragedies. One of his sons was sent to prison for killing a man. Brando’s daughter, Cheyenne, killed herself in nineteen-ninety-five.
No public service was held to honor Marlon Brando after his death. A family spokesperson said he would not have wanted one. But the actor’s place in Hollywood history is secure.
DOUG JOHNSON: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Nice, France. Anne Claude Petit asks about the Appaloosa horse.
Appaloosa horses have colorful spots on their bodies. History experts have found the horses shown in ancient cave paintings. The horses lived in Persia, China and Egypt. Spotted horses were developed into riding horses in Spain and taken to Mexico in the sixteenth century. They spread across North America.
The Nez Perce Indians used the spotted animals to produce horses that were fast, strong and gentle. The Nez Perce lived near the Palouse River that flows through the northwestern states of Washington and Idaho. White settlers called the colorful horse “a Palouse horse.” Later, the name was pronounced Appaloosa. The breed was recognized in nineteen-thirty-eight when Claude Thompson and George Hatley established the Appaloosa Horse Club. Its headquarters is in Moscow, Idaho.
Today, the Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes more than six-hundred-thousand Appaloosa horses. The club says Appaloosas are used everywhere a good horse is needed, including show racing and jumping. Appaloosas are also used for riding, on ranches and in the circus.
Appaloosas have broad heads, short bodies and strong legs. They move very smoothly. An Appaloosa can have one of many different designs on its body.
It may be white with colored spots, or colored with white spots. It may have a white back or colored spots on the back end. It may be a colored horse with light or white spots on the hips and legs. An Appaloosa can also be colored at birth but become almost white as the horse ages except for dark markings on the legs and face.
To be officially recognized as an Appaloosa, a horse must also have a visible white part of the eye, similar to the human eye. It should also have striped hooves and a special kind of partly colored skin around the mouth and nose.
Every year, the Appaloosa Horse Club organizes a championship contest for Appaloosas and their riders. The contest this year ended last week in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For more information about the contest and the horses, the Web site of the Appaloosa Horse Club is www.appaloosa.com.
The Magic Hour
Wynton Marsalis is a famous jazz musician, composer and conductor. He is the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. He was the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. That was in nineteen-ninety-seven. Wynton Marsalis has released more than forty records. He plays trumpet on his new album with the Wynton Marsalis Quartet. It is called “The Magic Hour.” Shep O’Neal tells us about Marsalis and his music.
SHEP O'NEAL: Wynton Marsalis says “the magic hour” is a special hour of the day for a family. He says that for children, the magic hour is one hour before they go to sleep. For parents, it is one hour after the children go to sleep.
Marsalis says the album celebrates the child in all of us. Critics say the album is full of simple pleasures. Here is one of them, a song called “Free to Be.”
Wynton Marsalis says he made the new album with three other musicians because he wanted to restate his love of jazz music in a quartet. “The Magic Hour” also includes two songs by guest singers. This one is called “Baby, I Love You.” The singer is Bobby McFerrin.
One critic says Wynton Marsalis is the most recognized jazz artist in the world today. Three years ago, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan declared him an international ambassador of goodwill. Wynton Marsalis and his group are performing in the United States and ten other countries this summer. We leave you with the song “Skipping” from “The Magic Hour.”
This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This program was written by Shelley Gollust, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Jim Sleeman.