MARLON BRANDO: The Only Contender by Gary Carey

MARLON BRANDO: The Only Contender

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Carey's updated and revised 1973 paperback bio shows about three percent legwork and 97 percent scissors-&-paste. Notoriously, Brando's friends button up to reporters or else lose his friendship, which leads to cynical, steady recycling of information among Marion hunters, including worshipful star-trackers like Carey who sees Brando as ""the only contender"" for the title of greatest American actor of our time. A former film curator at New York's Museum of Modern Art, Carey at least could have interviewed some enemies ready to spill something new. But not a page breathes with fresh ideas nor is enlivened with venom, and the evidence hints that a fulfilling Brando biography--on the order of Cottrell's Laurence Olivier--may never be written while Brando lives. And the dullish approach taken here seemingly--or perhaps unintentionally--points up something lackluster in Brando himself: that the ore for a truly splendid biography just isn't there to begin with. Could that be true? Surely no. What we get is brooding Brando, the poor student and son of an overbearing father and alcoholic mother, the adolescent attention-demander with his drums in the living room, the magnetic actor, the prankster of Broadway and Hollywood with his pet raccoon, Marion the Slob, the Mumbler, the Hollywood recluse who dated waitresses and secretaries and lived in a bungalow, not a mansion. The great first period climaxes with On the Waterfront, then falls off through a string of interesting castings and miscastings, expensive flops, then a disastrous series of films when he sold his own production company to Universal and starred in such flops as The Ugly American, Bedtime Story, The Appaloosa, Chaplin's A Countess from Hong Kong and The Night of the Following Day. Then the great recovery with The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris, and another falling off, nigh disappearance. Ballooning up to 250 pounds, he nonetheless earned about $10 million for his last four appearances, which add up to around 30 minutes screen time. His marriage, mistresses, children and divorces are catalogued. Zip.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's