Friday, July 02, 2004

R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

“The horror. The horror.” - The last words of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando, APOCALYPSE NOW, 1979) 

I’ve just learned the sad news that the great Marlon Brando has just passed away at age 80. Causes are unknown at this moment, but rumors of heart trouble are all over the internets. 

The legendary actor, well regarded as one of the finest of the 20th Century, last acted in Frank Oz’s crime thriller THE SCORE in 2001.

Brando, a master of method acting, became a star for ruling the screen in Elia Kazan’s ‘50s classics STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, and ON THE WATERFRONT, for which he won his first Academy Award. His comeback in the ‘70s with Francis Ford Coppola’s THE GODFATHER (2nd Oscar , boom!), and Bernardo Bertolucci’s LAST TANGO IN PARIS presented the public with an older fatter Brando much parodied by the likes of Saturday Night Live and Mad Magazine.

It goes to show how much of an influential icon Brando was by the mid '70s that a now classic episode of SNL had host Peter Boyle and cast member John Belushi trading off their best Brando impressions in the sketch “Dueling Brandos” to the accompaniment of the plucking banjo from DELIVERENCE.

Brando's extremely expensive glorified cameos in Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN and Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW made headlines about the man making millions for just minutes of work. The comic consensus was that he was walking through these roles with no prior research or care. It seemed like he wanted to just go live on an island somewhere. So that's just what he did.

The cartoonish image of a morbidly obese Brando going crazy living on a tropical island somewhere is one that sadly stuck. Even after he started doing movies again (THE FRESHMAN, A DRY WHITE SEASON, DON JUAN DEMARKO) he seemed to be phoning it in.

Acting did appear to be a serious craft to the man anymore. His half-assed screen presence broadcasted to even the cheap seats that his appearance was just for an occasional payday. 

Brando’s role in John Frankenheimer’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996) at least seemed more sincere because of course it was about going crazy living on an island somewhere! Still, the role won Brando a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor so it was yet another indicator of how far the mighty one had fallen.

This glib blog is no place to go into the darker areas of Mr. Brando's life - this is a scribbling about the silver screen site not a tabloid trash forum - so for Marlon's sake we'll stick to babbling about just his movies. Coming soon: 10 Kick-Ass Brando Movie Moments.

R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

More later…

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