†††††††† Let us imagine that Marlon Brando died young. Is it possible? Can we disconnect ourselves from the bloated actor we know from The Godfather (1972), Superman (1978), or that horrible remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)? Imagine the only movies he ever made were A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1953), Julius Caesar (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954). He could have been a Kurt Cobain or a Grace Kelley or a James Dean. Instead he has become an old fat recluse with a murderer for a son and a stomach for a neighbor.

†††††††† Since we watched Streetcar (directed by Elia Kazan in 1951 and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play) in class, we can look toward it as Brando's career's crown jewel. After all, he only made the four aforementioned films before he was tragically run over by a Little Debbie truck. Please continue to use your imagination. Brando's portrayal of Stanley Kowalski is perfectly convincing. Stanley is a brute of a man, kind of like Julius Caesar and Terry Malloy and Hot Blood (the characters he played in his other films before his untimely death). These character choices from the short period of 1951 to 1954 leave me with the impression that Marlon Brando was an excellent character actor. He could play the disgruntled, down-on-his-luck Everyman with the best of them. Stanley is primal. Stanley is also flawed. This suited Brando, because he is flawed. Even in the 1950s when his physical beauty was at its most impressive, he seemed to have a speech impediment. If he was aware of this, I do not know. But, maybe this imperfection helped him bring realism into the roles he chose. I completely believed that this extremely handsome man with a bubble in his throat was sorry that he had hit his wife, and he wanted her to come home.

†††††††† I fully realize that Brando did not die young. He has gone on to make dozens of other, lesser movies. It seems that when his name pops up in the news, it is usually in the form of yellow journalism. Is he Courtney Love's half brother? Did his son really kill that guy? Should he pay his maid/lover palimony? I hope it is not a sad reflection of ournarcissistic society that we have no use for the old and worn out. Those once revered by the mainstream often fall out of its favor. Take one look at Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett. Both were once America's sweethearts; now they are America's embarrassments. But it is my presumption that, if Marlon Brando had died after On the Waterfront had wrapped, his legacy would be a shining star for American theatre.

Bo Fowler

Table of Contents