Unlike the three quickie-cheapie accounts within the last year (Often, Morella and most recently old friend Fiora), reporter- biographer Thomas has at least managed to get Brando together, as nearly as he'll ever be. This is assembled from all the available materials and if Brando has always loathed publicity, still he's provided the press and this book with some of the best copy around (when asked how he bathed -- ""I spit in the air and then run under it""). Thomas has not featured Brando's transient, obligatory, messy marriages or his chauvinist puissance or his T-shirt slobdom, but he has made good use of the man (visceral, asocial, ne plus neurotic) in conjunction with his unsteady career from instant success in Streetcar and Waterfront to the darker decade of the '60's when he declined in negligible vehicles and one profligate fiasco -- not at all helped by his surly presence or his disappearances or his militant activism. Finally Godfather and the Last Tango where he exposed inner as well as outer aspects of his difficult self have made him more of a star property than ever, even if Brando has by no means forgotten the long hiatus of failure when ""all you can do is stick a lampshade on your head. . . and hope nobody hires you."" Since Thomas places Brando somewhere between Rock Hudson (that's nowhere) and Spencer Tracy, it's hard to justify ""the artist"" of the subtitle. In spite of the flaunting theatricality on and off the screen, Brando is a serious working actor -- a fact perhaps obscured by his ill-tempered nonconformism and above all his conspicuous machismo.