Marlon versus Stanley

     Almost anyone will agree that Marlon Brando almost single-handedly created the criteria for the character of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, but how much of that was really acting? How far out of himself did Marlon Brando have to go to find Stanley Kowalski inside of him?

     What made Brando's performance of Stanley so attractive is the tender side of him he portrays. Brando's Stanley was kind until he became jealous of Blanche (Vivien Leigh on screen) and began to systematically tear her apart. Brando shows Stanley as a boy in a man's body who has frequent temper tantrums. But how much of this was acting, and how much was actually pieces of Brando personified on the screen?

     Throughout his career Brando has always been typecast as a certain kind of character--whether it was the self-deception and failure of a boxer in On the Waterfront, the madness of the major in Apocalypse Now, or most recently the doctor in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Somehow Brando has shown to people that he can do marvelous jobs with characters that are far from the norm. Look at Brando himself; he lives secluded on an island he bought for himself.

     How is Brando able to bring these far-from-normal characters to life? How is it that he is drawn to these types of roles? I feel that Brando himself is a man who is far from normal. I feel that Brando is able to pull out a piece of his own twisted mind and install it into the character he portrays. When Brando took the part of Stanley Kowalski, I wonder to what extent did Brando try to become Stanley, or to what extent did Brando portray his own feelings and emotions through the character of Stanley.

Shawn Rainey

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