I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about actor Marlon Brando.
Many critics say he was the greatest actor of all time. And many actors say he influenced them more
than any other person in the film industry.
There was no public service to honor Marlon Brando when
he died in two thousand four at the age of eighty. The actor's sister, Jocelyn
Brando, said he would have hated such an event.
The family held a small private ceremony instead.
did not seek public attention when he was alive. He protected his private life. But he was a huge star. This, combined with his personal tragedies
and his politics, made him a special target of the press.
Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska in nineteen twenty-four. He was named after his father, a salesman,
but his family called him Bud. His
mother, Dorothy, was an actress in the local theater. He had two older sisters.
Brando's childhood was not happy. His
parents drank too much alcohol and argued often. Dorothy Brando blamed her husband for the
failure of her acting career. The older
Marlon Brando did not have a good relationship with his son. In a book about his life, the actor wrote
that his father never had anything good to say about his son.
Brandos moved many times when Marlon was young.
His parents separated when he was eleven, but they re-united after two
years. Young Marlon was always getting into trouble at school. His father
decided to send him to a military school in Minnesota. Marlon did not do well
in classes there. But he did find
support for his interest in theater. A
drama teacher urged him to begin acting in plays there and he did. But he was
expelled from the school for getting into trouble.
Brando moved to New York City when he was nineteen years old in nineteen
forty-three. He took acting classes at
the New School for Social Research. One
of his teachers was Stella Adler, who taught the "Method" style of realistic
acting. The Method teaches actors how to use their own memories and emotions to
identify with the characters they are playing.
Marlon Brando learned the Method style quickly and
easily. Critics say he was probably the greatest Method actor ever. One famous actress commented on his natural
ability for it. She said teaching Marlon
Brando the Method was like sending a tiger to jungle school.
Marlon Brando appeared in several plays. He got his first major part in a Broadway
play in nineteen forty-seven, at the age of twenty-three. He received great praise for his powerful
performance as Stanley Kowalski in the Tennessee Williams play, "A Streetcar
fame grew when he acted the same part in the movie version, released in
nineteen fifty-one. Brando plays an
angry working-class man. His wife's
sister, Blanche, comes to visit them in New Orleans, Louisiana. Blanche's family used to be rich landowners
but they lost all their property. Now
she is mentally unstable. Stanley treats
Blanche unkindly and insults her. Here,
he tells Blanche what he thinks about women.
STANLEY: "I don't go
in for that stuff."
STANLEY: "Compliments to women about their looks. I never met a dame yet didn't know if she was
good-lookin' or not without bein' told.
And there's some of them that give themselves credit for more than
they've got. I once went out with a dame
who told me, 'I'm the glamorous
type'…she says 'I am the glamorous type.'
I says 'so what?'"
BLANCHE: "And what did she say then?"
STANLEY: "She didn't say nothin'. I shut her up like a clam."
was Brando's second film. He was
nominated for an Academy Award for the performance. He was nominated for Oscars for his next two
films as well. In nineteen fifty-two he
played Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata in the movie "Viva Zapata."
The following year he played Marc Antony in "Julius Caesar."
Brando did not win an Oscar for Best Actor until nineteen fifty-four for the
movie "On the Waterfront." Many critics
consider it his finest performance. The
film's director, Elia Kazan, said it was the best performance by a male actor
in the history of film.
plays Terry Malloy, a failed boxer. He
informs on organized crime leaders, including his brother, Charlie. His brother had made him lose fights on
purpose so Charlie could make money gambling on the fights. But now, Terry expresses his regrets about
losing the fights.
TERRY MALLOY: "You don't understand.
I coulda had class. I coulda been
a contender. I coulda been somebody
instead of a bum which is what I am. Let's face it."
Brando acted in about forty movies. He
was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards. In his movies, he played a Japanese
translator, a German Nazi military officer and the father of Superman. He even
sang in a movie musical called "Guys and Dolls."
His real life was as colorful as his many
movie characters. His love life was
especially active. He married actress
Anna Kashfi in nineteen fifty-seven. The marriage had problems from the start.
Their child, a son named Christian, was born a few months after they married.
They separated the next year.
In nineteen sixty, Brando married Movita Castenada, a
Mexican-American actress. They had two
children before they separated in nineteen sixty-two. The same year, he married a Tahitian actress,
Tarita. The two had met while filming
the movie "Mutiny On the Bounty."
marriage to Tarita lasted ten years. But
his love of Tahiti never ended. In
nineteen sixty-six, he bought a small island near Tahiti. Brando divided his time between his island
and his home in California for the rest of his life.
say Marlon Brando began to suffer professionally during and after his work on
"Mutiny on the Bounty." Hollywood
directors and producers considered him difficult to work with. Some critics said the actor appeared to be
tired of acting.
that changed in nineteen seventy-two when Brando appeared in "The
Godfather." At first, the film studio
officials did not want Brando in the movie.
But the director, Francis Ford Coppola, chose him for the part. The film was a major critical and financial
success. Brando was praised for his
performance as the Godfather, Vito Corleone, the powerful head of a criminal
organization in New York City. He speaks
to a man who wants the Godfather to have someone killed.
VITO CORLEONE: "If you'd come to me in friendship then this scum that
ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself
should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you."
Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for "The Godfather." But he rejected it. He sent a woman named Sasheen Littlefeather
to speak for him at the Academy Awards ceremony. She said that Brando could not accept the
award because of the way the American film industry treated Native Americans.
The people at the Academy Awards ceremony did not like the speech. But some experts think the action helped
change the way American Indians were shown in movies.
Brando was also active in the civil rights movement. He spoke out against
racism often and forcefully. He marched
in demonstrations. And he gave money to
civil rights groups.
Brando had two family tragedies. In
nineteen ninety, his son, Christian, shot and killed a Tahitian man at the
family's home in California. The victim,
Dag Drollet, was the boyfriend of Brando's daughter, Cheyenne. Christian Brando said the killing was
accidental. He was found guilty of responsibility in the death and served
almost five years in prison.
the trial, Marlon Brando told the court that he and Anna Kashfi had failed Christian
as parents. He also apologized to the
Drollet family and said he wished he could trade places with their son.
nineteen ninety-five, Marlon Brando's daughter Cheyenne killed herself. She had struggled with mental problems and was
still depressed about the killing of her boyfriend.
Brando never made public statements about the death of his daughter. But reports said he blamed himself. He did
not attend his daughter's funeral in Tahiti.
In the following nine years, he made just four
more movies. And the parts he played
were small. But his influence on the
American film industry was huge. When
Marlon Brando died, many famous actors expressed regret. One of them said simply: "He was the best."
program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next
week for another People in America in VOA Special English.