Tags: Hollywood | marlon brando | roles | define | career

The 3 Roles That Defined Marlon Brando's Career

By    |   Monday, 04 May 2015 09:13 PM

Marlon Brando focused his talents on the big screen after leaving the bright lights of the Broadway stage in 1949. To this day, American actors are measured against one Marlon Brando performance among the roles that defined his career. Brando’s acting has influenced generations of actors more than 50 years after playing Stanley Kowalski in the movie "A Streetcar Named Desire."

But, there are other Marlon Brando roles that stand out and defined his career also, making him a cultural icon.

1. Stanley Kowalski, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)

Movie producer Irene Selznick originally chose Academy Award winner John Garfield to play the lead role of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire." According to Vanity Fair, the director, Elia Kazan, insisted she cast Marlon Brando.

"Look, I love Julie [Garfield's real name], I was with him onstage in 'Golden Boy,' and he's a hell of an actor. But in 'Truckline Cafe' we had a kid who's just this much better. There's something in him I can't describe, some unique kind of magic. I want the kid. His name is Marlon Brando," Kazan said.

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Selznick preferred the star power of Garfield, but Kazan threatened to quit if Brando was not given the role. Kazan won the battle and Brando was cast in a role that instantly catapulted him into stardom.

Before the movie adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ "A Streetcar Named Desire" was released in 1951, actors would portray violence and feelings with restraint and modesty. Brando’s unrestrained, raw acting as Stanley Kowalski stood out and dominated Hollywood.

The acting style was referred to as “The Method,” according to Roger Ebert, and Brando claimed it was used to create a convincing, more realistic performance.

2. Terry Malloy, "On the Waterfront" (1954)

Brando and Kazan partnered again for "On the Waterfront," a hard-hitting drama about union violence and corruption that won eight Academy Awards, including Oscars for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture.

According to Roger Ebert, the movie is a story about conscience, and is summed up in a line delivered by Brando in the film: “Conscience. That stuff can drive you nuts.”

Brando’s acting continued to change the tone of American movie acting during the 1950s in this powerful and influential movie. He delivered fresh, quirky acting techniques that relied on often unexpected physical gestures, which created realistic moments and evoked emotion from the audience.

“If there is a better performance by a man in the history of film in America, I don't know what it is,” Kazan later wrote about Brando in his book, after directing "On the Waterfront.

3. Vito Corleone, "The Godfather" (1972)

Brando's success as an actor flagged in the '60s, but the '70s brought a resurgence to his legacy and arguably the most iconic role of his career.

According to Vanity Fair, there was resistance from the studio on casting Brando and it wanted to see a screen test. Director Francis Ford Coppola visitied with the legendary actor at his home to capture some footage of him in makeup to take back to the studio.

“When [executive Charlie Bluhdorn] saw it was Brando, he backed away and said, ‘No! No!’” But then he watched Brando become another person and said, “That’s amazing,” said Coppola. “Once he was sold on the idea, all of the other executives went along.”

But, Brando's stature as an actor mirrored that of his mafioso character Don Vito Corelone among the younger actors on set.

“When we were young, Brando was like the godfather of actors,” said Robert Duvall, who played Tom Hagen in the film. “I used to meet with Dustin Hoffman in Cromwell’s Drugstore, and if we mentioned his name once, we mentioned it 25 times in a day.”

“The first day we met Brando everybody was in awe,” said James Caan, who played Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather."

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To this day, American actors are measured against one Marlon Brando performance among the roles that defined his career. Brando’s acting has influenced generations of actors more than 50 years after playing Stanley Kowalski in the movie "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951).
marlon brando, roles, define, career
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2015-13-04
Monday, 04 May 2015 09:13 PM
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