From Library Journal
A scandal-loving biographer's dream, Marlon Brando has led a tumultuous life, complete with unhappy childhood, an active and varied sex life, troubled children of his own (son Christian is now in prison for killing daughter Cheyenne's lover), and a long history of eccentric behavior on and off the set. Surprisingly, Brando hasn't caught Kitty Kelley's eye, but journalist Manso (Mailer: His Life and Times, LJ 4/15/85) corrects that oversight with this massive tome. Based on seven years' research, Manso's biography is a treasure trove of juicy details that the star might prefer not to have revealed, but readers hoping for real insight into Brando's acting talent and career may be disappointed. The publicity surrounding Brando's own book-Songs My Mother Taught Me (Random, 1994), which the star is rumored to have penned in retaliation for Manso's work-will guarantee demand for this title as well, but Brando also has some value as the most complete, up-to-date biography currently available.David C. Tucker, DeKalb Cty. P.L., Decatur, Ga.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Marlon Brando is an icon of American cinema. He's up there with Chaplin, Garbo, De Niro, Pacino--all those one-named actors (not Cher). In our times, with our inordinate thirst to be entertained by thrashing our icons, the appearance of a tell-all, no-holds-barred biography of Brando is big news. In the first 100 pages, Manso, through interviews with a cast of thousands (not Brando), reveals that Brando's father was an outcast, always fighting for acceptance; his mother was a drunk; and his sister found the father inept. Of Brando himself, we learn that he was both extremely sensitive and a brawler in school; that he used his fists to defend his friend Wally Cox; that he bullied his high-school teachers and was a manic-depressive; and that he was expelled from military school for pranks that would put the characters in Rebel without a Cause
and Animal House
combined to shame. In the next 100 pages, in extremely intimate detail, Brando is found guilty of being a lying, filthy, profligate satyr--but a very sensitive one. Organized chronologically in specific time periods or events, from "Omaha: 1893-1930" to "The Shooting: 1990-1994," the text is easy to follow, smoothly incorporating the author's seven years' worth of research. Piling eyewitness account on top of eyewitness account--including testimony from Brando's daughter Cheyenne--Manso develops his theme of Brando as a controller to the point where readers may wonder who did kill Cheyenne's husband, Dag Drollet--her brother (convicted of the crime), her father, or both.
According to Manso, Brando is so afraid of this book that he is writing his own, Songs My Mother Taught Me, an autobiography from Knopf scheduled to be published on September 11. [Knopf has refused to distribute galleys to prepublication review media.] Both books are certain to be much discussed in the coming months. Readers bothered by tabloid-style sensationalism may toss Manso's extremely raw book aside as if burned, but others will read it just to find the dirt. Librarians, of course, will be obligated to give the public what it's bound to want. Bonnie Smothers