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Marlon Brando

Tribute to Marlon Brando

When 80 year-old Marlon Brando recently passed away, his long-time friend, Jack Nicholson, said that the world lost its most "impeccable, influential actor ever." Marlon Brando, whose stage and screen performances in A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and The Godfather, earned him plaudits as one of the greatest actors of all time. Brando had suffered from congestive heart failure and was overweight. The exact cause of death was withheld. His attorney, David Seeley, noting the actor, "was a very private man."

Brando, whose unpredictable behavior made him equally fascinating off the screen, was acclaimed the greatest actor of his generation. A two-time winner of the Academy Awards, he influenced some of the best actors of the generation that followed, among them Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Jack Nicholson. He played the mixed up Terry Malloy of On the Waterfront (which won him his first Academy Award) and the wily Corleone of The Godfather (which won him his second.) He also had memorable roles in Guys and Dolls, Mutiny On The Bounty, Last Tango in Paris, and Apocalypse Now.

Born in Omaha, Neb. in 1924, Marlon Brando, Jr. grew up a pudgy, mischievous boy called Bud. He was a distant, conservative man of French, English, and Irish stock. The original family name was Brandeau.

At 19, he moved to New York and studied acting with Stella Adler. After a week, Adler declared,"Within a year, Marlon Brando will be the best young actor in the American theater." Brando shot to fame in 1947 with his groundbreaking performance in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire as the brutal, animalistic Stanley Kowalski. Brando, a devotee of the Method, a technique fostered by Russian director Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, gave a raw, vital performance under Elia Kazan's direction.

The actor was as famous for his off-screen antics as his on-screen performances. He could be intensely private, and yet, he earned reams of publicity for his eccentric behavior and sometimes outlandish salary demands. His private life may best be defined by a line from The Wild One in which Brando, playing a motorcycle gang leader, is asked what he's rebelling against:

"Whattaya got?" was his famous reply.

Millions of words were written about his weight, his romances and marriages, his tireless -- and, for some, tiresome -- support of the American Indian and other causes, his battles with film producers and directors, and his refuge on a Tahitian isle. His most famous act of rebellion was his refusal in 1973 to accept the Best Actor Academy Award for The Godfather. Instead, he sent a woman, who called herself Sasheen Littlefeather, to read a diatribe about Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans.

Brando's private life turned tragic years later with his son, Christian, was convicted for killing the boyfriend of his half sister, Cheyenne Brando in 1990. Five years later, Cheyenne, still depressed over the killing, committed suicide. She was 25. When he died, he left nine children from three marriages and numerous relationships.

Still, the undying spotlight never made him conform. "I am myself," he once declared, "and if I have to hit my head against a brick wall to remain true to myself, I will do it."
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