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
From the Trade Paperback edition.