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Marlon Brando (Penguin Lives) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 10, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

There have been many biographies of Marlon Brando, but Patricia Bosworth's succinct portrait, a worthy addition to the always cogent Penguin Lives series, will appeal to those more interested in the legendary performances that revolutionized American acting than in his offscreen shenanigans. A longtime member of the Actors Studio, Bosworth is especially well equipped to elucidate the introspective, emotionally charged acting style that electrified Broadway audiences in A Streetcar Named Desire, which opened in 1947 when Brando was only 23. Much of the material is familiar, but Bosworth often offers intriguing sidelights, such as the speculation that he modeled aspects of Stanley Kowalski on the play's driven, womanizing director, Elia Kazan. It's also interesting to learn that the actor he most admires is Paul Muni, who vanished into each characterization and had no "image" to plague him as Brando did after his star-making turns in The Wild One and On the Waterfront made him the quintessential 1950s rebel. (Bosworth suggests that The Godfather appealed to Brando because in the part of Don Corleone he could "hide completely" as Muni had done.) As in her biographies of Montgomery Clift and Diane Arbus, Bosworth examines with sympathy her subject's psychological difficulties, particularly his relationships with his alcoholic mother and brutal father; she skates lightly over later troubles like the murder trial of son Christian and suicide of daughter Cheyenne. The book essentially closes with Brando's early-'70s triumphs in The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris; the author frankly admits she's "still trying to figure out why this singular artist lost his way after [those] two great performances." Bosworth's appreciative account renews our dismay that this brilliant actor who so despises his profession couldn't be bothered to give more such performances. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Ever wonder how much of Brando was in Stanley Kowalski? When Brando's alcoholic mother followed him to New York, he would come over and urinate in her kitchen sink to annoy her, as she would complain to anyone who would listen, "why doesn't he stop this shit?" Acclaimed as a great, even magnificent actor after his Broadway debut in Streetcar Named Desire, only to ride a roller-coaster of artistic highs and lows since, Brando embodies all of the glories and contradictions of the American star/artist. Bosworth, author of acclaimed biographies of Diane Arbus and Montgomery Clift, has written an informative biography of Brando that, because of the limited format of the Penguin Lives series, hints at but cannot do justice to the great unruliness of Brando's career and life. She provides a fine, detailed sketch of his New York days when he took acting classes with "Harry Belafonte, Elaine Stritch, Gene Saks, Shelley Winters, Rod Steiger and Kim Stanley," and presents a great portrait of the craziness on the set of Last Tango in Paris (co-star Maria Schneider announced that they got along "because we're both bisexual"). But in only 228 pages, she can't approach the complexity of her earlier work. Yet even with these limitations, the book offers a vivid reminder of the personal and professional highlights of Brando's life, including his disastrous marriage to Anna Kashfi and its effect on his son, and how he resurrected his career (which had barely survived 10 flops) with Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. (Sept.)Forecast: Given Bosworth's prominence and past critical acclaim and the intrinsic interest of her subject this book is unlikely to be ignored.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Lives
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (September 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670882364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670882366
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was a revelation - a wonderful, wonderful biography
for which I am extremely grateful. It's touching, deft, and
I liked the fact that she focused on Brando the artist. I'm
sure he would like this book - I would, if I were him. It is
not at all condescending nor overly fawning.
I really felt for the man and the brilliant communicator of emotions, whose movies have always taught me about being an artist myself. Now I want to go and see all his films again. especially Mutiny on the Bounty. And my heart goes out to Marlon Brando, the neglected child of alcoholics, the big-hearted giver, the best friend of some very special people, including Wally Cox and Stella Adler,
the co-dependent son and father, the compulsive overeater who really should join O.A.
The book zips along, thanks to Bosworth's fine writing. And I'd like to say that it's a lesson in the efficacy of the brief biography. I'm so sick of trying to wade through tomes that tell you about everything from the kindergarten teacher who inspired the star to his toenail clipping habits. This little
book synthesized a complex life in a very dignified way.
Hats off to Patricia Bosworth.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Hechtlinger on October 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was a very quick and engrossing read. If, like myself, you know very little about Brando's life, this book will be a revelation. Brando is one of the most fascinating personalities of our time. This book does a good job of shedding light on the forces that helped shape his personality. His alcoholic mother and philandering and bullying father created a depressing family environment. It seems that he could never quite break free from their destructive influence despite years of psychotherapy. A sad story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A vivid portrait of the man and his acting genius. Bosworth does a bang up job depicting his life and the development of his enormous talent. He is one of the world's greatest artists and we get a clear unencumbered picture of the man and his life in clear, practical, prose. Really fascinating.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LadyWriter on July 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Marlon Brando" by Patricia Bosworth is a well written and intriguing biography. I enjoyed reading it very much and I enjoyed that it was fairly nicely balanced and included details of Marlon's on-screen and off-screen life.

I think Marlon took some serious and unfair hits in his life - personally, with tragedies that befell him and his family and, professionally, as a result of other peoples' misjudgments regarding his having taken stands for important humanitarian causes and against social injustices. He was a human being that cared deeply for others and one who tried to put that caring into positive action. He was also the greatest actor ever to grace the stage or screen.

It is sad to me that Marlon was alone at the end of his life. He had his children who loved him and cared about him, but he reportedly lived alone. I have always wondered if the rejections he suffered throughout his life marked him so deeply that he felt unworthy and, thus, rejected the idea of having someone there loving him, caring for him, and supporting him physically, emotionally, and spiritually through his illness at a time in his life when things may not have been as "pretty" as they once were. He WAS worthy, despite his possibly not knowing that at the time.

I appreciate Marlon's statement that people who are deeply sensitive are more easily brutalized than most. I think this is very true. Pain is felt much more deeply and is more deeply internalized by those who are the most sensitive. It can leave one feeling unworthy and untrusting and all of the money and fame in the world cannot repair the damage. It is a spiritual thing, not a thing of earthly possessions or material accomplishments.

Marlon was a sensitive soul who needed to be cared for differently than he was during so many parts of his life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roger Wittig on October 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
it pierces the heart of the man. a genius who was very uneducated. always probing to find out who he was. when he finally did his view in the rear view mirror glimpsed too much reckage and too much pain. oh if only he had been guided by true mentors with his true interest at heart .. if he reads this himself he will surely ache and see himself.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Patricia Bosworth writes in an easy, engaging style, and tells her story about the life and career of Marlon Brando, as fascinating an actor as American movies have ever featured, briskly. Too briskly, I'd say. She's good on his growing up and breakthrough-in-New York years, especially on his iconoclastic and iconic production role in A Streetcar Named Desire. But she becomes consistently less interested in his work and the movies he appeared in. It may be said in her defense that Brando became less interested in his work, too -- the few minutes he appeared in Superman truly don't require much explication. But there must be quite a lot more to be said of his methods for creating The Godfather and his follow-up genial spoof of the role in The Freshman, Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and even Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. I'd like to know more about how he interacted with some of the great directors of his time and his co-stars, not for personal gossip but rather in a critical/analytical way. The author is not up for that. She recognizes with The Wild One, On the Waterfront and Last Tango in Paris as his important performances, but Brando's failures, near misses and even the provocative potboilers are worth a look and must have much more to offer about acting and filmmaking if an author delves in with interest. She is dutiful and little more about Viva Zapata, The Men, One-Eyed Jacks, Julius Caesar, Mutiny on the Bounty, Reflections in a Golden Eye and Burn! She all but ignores everything else. The man had a longer life and left more indelible portrayals than interest her. Too bad. There are other bios on the market (as she acknowledges) and I'll turn to them for a more detailed and engaging view of this willful, perhaps self-destructive genius.
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