This Matinee Man has been a long time coming. Mostly because I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture the greatness that is Marlon Brando. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954), two films I’ve oft referenced on this blog, happen to be the two main films that began my obsession with the classics—and incidentally, my obsession with Brando. As Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar he was ruthless, unrefined and sexy. As Terry Malloy in Waterfront—for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar—he was vulnerable, conflicted and…sexy. The two performances were nothing short of brilliant. Even if you haven’t seen the movies, I guarantee you know their two most famous lines: “STELLLAAAA!!!” and “I coulda been a contenda…”
Of course, the man had his issues (all tortured artists do) and he didn’t always pick the best projects. More often than not he acted in crap. More likely than not because he thought acting was crap. Between Waterfront and The Godfather there wasn’t much to speak of, unfortunately. (And please don’t bring up his physical appearance in his later years. It pains me.) Brando just didn’t realize how great he was, and perhaps that is one of the main reasons why he was so great.
He once asked his Godfather co-star James Caan what he would want if his wishes came true. When Caan answered that he'd like to be in love, Brando said, "Me too. But don't tell my wife." (He was married 3 times.)
Here he is at the ripe old age of 23 during his first screentest!