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SOMEBODY by Stefan Kanfer


The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando

by Stefan Kanfer

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-4289-0
Publisher: Knopf

History of the legendary actor’s life.

Kanfer (The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage, 2007, etc.) portrays Brando as a man unconsciously at war with himself. He hated his profession but was unable to do anything else. Compelled by his gluttonous appetite for women, he indulged in numerous sexual conquests but was unable to maintain a long-term relationship. He was so uncomfortable with his physical beauty that he eventually destroyed it with junk food–induced obesity. The actor could be enormously difficult to work with, a moody, spiteful troublemaker, exacting swift vengeance for any perceived slight. Yet despite his hang-ups, Kanfer joins the ranks of biographers and fans who believe that Brando was the greatest actor of the 20th century. He had an irresistible intensity, and the force of his stage and screen presence warped many a script into orbit around his character, most famously with his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. His influence on younger actors such as James Dean and even Elvis Presley—indeed, on an entire generation of young men eager to emulate his tough, rebellious charm—was unmistakable. Still, after covering the initial years of rapidly rising stardom, this biography becomes a detailed register of Brando’s many successive failures: theatrical, financial, emotional and romantic. Kanfer’s thesis wavers little; he traces all of Marlon’s woes back to his malignant relationship with his father, whose praise Brando sought and never gained, leading to his notorious disrespect for acting in general and his own accomplishments in particular. Swift, witty prose keeps the narrative moving through a chronicle of every production with which Brando was involved. Kanfer skillfully weaves in Broadway and Hollywood history, and his behind-the-scenes analysis of Brando’s films will send you running to rent the classics, the reluctantly acknowledged cult favorites and even the bombs.

An inspiring, depressing, riveting story.