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Somebody Kindle Edition

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Length: 368 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This compulsively readable biography of the charismatic actor takes readers from Brando’s traumatic childhood through his glory days on Broadway and in Hollywood to his final years, which were marked by his struggle with weight and the travails of his children. Kanfer takes pains to reflect the events of the wider world at each stage of Brando’s life as well as the state of the movie business and Brando’s own ever-fluctuating interests, from conga drums to Tahiti to Native American rights. Where Kanfer excels is in his analysis of Brando’s contribution to the craft of acting; he is especially articulate about the revolutionary nature of Brando’s incendiary Broadway role in 1947 as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, which created a sensation. Seven years later, Brando did it again in Hollywood, playing longshoreman Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. Kanfer maintains that although Brando’s talent far outstripped his ambition, it was a bad contract that trapped him in a long string of inferior roles, although he also asserts that Brando’s work in a number of those films has long been undervalued and that his Academy Award–winning work in The Godfather should have come as no surprise. The pandemonium of his personal life—his compulsive womanizing and overeating, deep ambivalence about acting, and general self-destructiveness—is attributed to his treatment at the hands of a belittling, authoritarian father. This excellent biography is more even-handed than Peter Manso’s salacious  Brando: The Biography (1994) and offers a much more full-bodied treatment than Patricia Bosworth’s slim Marlon Brando (2002); Broadway credits and filmography included. --Joanne Wilkinson


“Well-researched and beautifully written, the book is as fascinating . . . as the subject himself.” —Los Angeles Times

“Miraculous. . . . A landmark in Brando studies.” —David Thomson

“[A] vivid chronicle. . . . The Marlon Brando story is a fascinating and tragic one, and Kanfer gives it the size and understanding necessary to provide an enthralling read.” —Peter Bogdanovich

“Stefan Kanfer strikes an original note by portraying him, albeit with great sensitivity and tact, as a man permanently teetering on the brink of madness–clearly part of his mesmeric screen presence.” —The Sunday Times (London)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1246 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Publication Date: November 4, 2008
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001JEGO88
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By LJL on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered if acting is truly something that is learned, or is it just that, an act? The book "Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando" answers alot of these questions. From his early childhood, till his death, this book does an excellent job of unpeeling the layers of Brando. Kanfer does quite a good job of delving into his psyche, exposing his strengths as well as his inability to connect on an emotional level. Brando had alot to speak about, this country, his causes, and at times his acting. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wanted to know more about possibly the greatest, and most disturbed actor of our time.
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25 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Richard Masloski on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
...but it's not. I saw Karl Malden on some interview on TV recently and he mentioned how Marlon called him a few times in the weeks or so before he died telling Karl how he'd been falling down lately and didn't know the reason. I nearly wept when I heard this: the great, powerful Brando, falling down as his body was failing him. But you won't find this tragic bit of information in the pages of SOMEBODY. There is a helluva lot you won't find in the pages of this book. If you want details, stick with the Manso book - even though the author of this one rather dismissively (and perhas a tad jealously) refers to it as a "doorstop of a book" because of its 1,000 plus pages and weighty size. He knocks it in other ways, too.

But for a subject like Brando you need weight (even if he, himself, didn't!) - and more pages. In Kanfer's quick read we get a page or two on certain Brando films, whereas in Manso's tome we get 20 or more pages per film. About the only thing SOMEBODY has going for it is coverage (albeit quick coverage) of the years after Manso's book was published which include Brando's death and some aftermath. But the Devil is in the details, and this book is not rich in detail. It ends up seeming like a boiled down, condensed, quick-read version of the Manso work; even moreso a linear accumulation of press clippings. Not much original homework was done on this one.

So - if you want a casual knowledge of Mr. Brando, this book is for you. If you want those devilish details, Manso's book is the one to read.

One further thought, since the book is entitled SOMEBODY, a better cover photo would have been of Brando as Terry Malloy at the moment he reflects on his failings in the famous cab scene with his brother from "On the Waterfront.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David P. Weber on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This does not set out to be an expansive cover-all-bases Brando bio. Rather, it provides a broad overview of Brando's life and works and is a perfect companion to his autobiography (which annoyingly skimmed over a lot of stuff).

It is unfair to claim a book is worthless because it reprints old material. Brando has been covered by writers across the gamut for decades, and some of those accounts are important for an understanding of what people were thinking about the man when he was at his peak-- or not.

The author has a refreshing, irreverent style and his writing made me laugh out loud more than once.

Personally, I disagree with his dismissal of two films in particular-- 'The Ugly American' and 'The Missouri Breaks'. In the latter film, the scene with the open coffin is priceless and should be included in any Brando 'showreel'.

But Marlon was a divisive character in many ways so it's appropriate that his works contiunue to challenge opinion.

My only real complaint would be that not enough ink is spent on later films, such as 'The Freshman', a great little movie which surprised many fans when it emerged. Yet such treatment seems to be the way with every bio of an actor who seemingly peaked in the mid-20th Century.

A fun-filled, informative read which can be safely recommended to anyone interested in the unique work of Marlon Brando.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John C. Bergeron on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
With "Somebody," Stefan Kanfer offers much more than a biography of America's greatest actor; it is also a tangential history of America working through one of its most artistically creative and socially challenging periods. Balancing relevant stories and astute observations that consistently avoid useless digression, this fine author gives context and clarity to the life of an extremely complex and gifted man. But as the unfolding of Brando's life reveals, time and again, talent is not necessarily synonymous with either success or peace of mind. Deeply wounded by unresolved issues involving an antagonistic father and alcoholic mother, Brando seems to have spent much of his life in a state of self-loathing. Frequent manifestations come in the forms of emotional abuse and a lack of professional cooperation, behaviors that alienated the women in his life, as well as producers, directors and co stars in his work. But perhaps it was Brando's love-hate relationship with his art that turned out to be his greatest obstacle of all. Again and again throughout his career he became frustrated in his attempts to find substance or satisfaction within his profession, causing him to look far beyond the boards of Broadway and movie sets. He escaped to remote islands, and into relationships that only seemed to complicate his life further. Brando also tried repeatedly to immerse himself in associations with socially progressive groups supporting, among others, African-Americans, Native Americans, and fighting against their victimization by (to paraphrase Vito Corleone) those "big shots" holding the strings. The inconsistent acceptance of Brando's films, both among the critics and the public, may leave the casual movie fan thinking that in the end his career was one of mediocrity.Read more ›
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