He was extremely handsome, eccentric, moody, and prone to tantrums and bizarre behaviour…
But no-one could deny that Marlon Brando, along with Laurence Olivier, were considered the best actors in the world. Brando believed in method acting.
He took great pains to look and act the role. Rarely would one find Brando looking the same in any of his films. He lived the character, taking great pains over every aspect of his character.
There were films where he mumbled his lines and insisted that people had come to see him act and not hear his vocal skills. Yet his dialogue delivery as Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar won him accolades and he was mentioned in acting manuals as an example of exemplary dialogue delivery.
Here are five Brando films which underlines his magnificent contribution to cinema. You have to see these classics to understand his vast repertoire of talent in Brando.
A Street Car Named Desire (1951)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Vivian Leigh, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
Director: Elia Kazan
An ageing teacher Blanche DuBois (Leigh) dumps her aristocratic life in Mississippi and arrives at a squalid area of New Orleans to stay with her sister.
Caught between reality and her imagination she slowly becomes an unsteady individual, causing a lot of pain to her younger sister Stella Kowalski (Hunter). Stella’s husband Stanley (Brando) is a brute of a character who finds Blanche suspicious.
He treats her badly but Blanche gets attracted to him. A friend, Mitch (Malden), likes Blanche but old skeletons keep falling from the cupboard.
This Tennessee Williams story is intense and it launched Brando as an actor to reckon with. Hunter, Leigh and Malden won Oscars except Brando.
On The Waterfront (1951)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J.Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning
Director: Eli Kazan
This crime drama is set on the waterfront where a mob boss Johnny Friendly (Cobb) keeps his workers in a tight grip. Dockworker Terry Malloy (Brando) is enticed by his brother Charley (Steiger), who is Friendly’s right hand man, into the world of crime.
Terry resists after a fellow dockworker Joey not to testify against Friendly when he is made to lose a bout for money. But Joey is killed and Terry comes in contact with her sister Edie (Saint) who shames dockyard priest Father Barry (Malden) over the killing.
Terry gets bouts of conscience and finally decides to take on the mob boss. This high-voltage drama received 12 Oscar nominations. Brando won Best Actor, Saint Best Supporting, and Kazan Best Director.
The Godfather (1972)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, John Cazale
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
One of the greatest films in world cinema, The Godfather was a big comeback film for Brando and it won him an Oscar, an offer which he refused. Brando actually had to undergo a screen test for the part as most of the producers were against Brando for his eccentricity.
Brando was hardly paid for it and actually lost some money for it. But as the Godfather, Brando was simply excellent. Despite being much younger than the character, Brando’s make up and general appearance was exactly what Mario Puzo imagined when he wrote the book.
The plot revolves around five New York Mafia families who are facing a change. Don Corleone (Brando) tries to bring them together. He loses his son Sonny (Caan) in the bargain. This prompts his younger son Michael (Pacino) to follow his footsteps. One never gets tired of watching this masterpiece. To take a line from the film – Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishbourne, Sam Bottoms, Fredric Forrest
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Captain Bejamin Willard (Sheen) goes on a mission to kill the lunatic Captain Walter Kuntz who has set up his own set-up in Vietnam.
Willard goes upriver in search of the dangerous Kuntz but is trapped and caught by the maniac. He is imprisoned and lectured about warfare by Kuntz. But Willard finds an opportunity to complete his task in darkness.
This Vietnam War-based film faced huge problems as Brando was overweight and Sheen frustrated which lead to a near fatal heart attack for him. But upon release it won critical praise.
Julius Caesar (1953)
Cast: Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Louis Calhern, Deborah Kerr, Edmund O’Brien
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
The oft repeated William Shakespeare play has Brando playing Mark Anthony and initially this was met with scepticism. The Mumbler Brando, however, took great pains to get his delivery right with the help of the late John Gielgud.
Brando did a magnificent job and impressed in the role so much so that veteran Mason, who played Brutus, actually asked the director to shift the focus from Brando to him.
However, better sense prevailed and Brando, after threatening to pull out, stayed and won plaudits.