A photograph of the late actor Marlon Brando is
framed by a portion of the Academy Awards bestowed upon films from movie studio
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., on display at the studios Los Angeles office, in this
file photo taken March 8, 2006. [Reuters]
A new documentary about Marlon Brando shows he still mesmerizes fans who
remember his range and raw emotion during a stunning career that saw him evolve
from sex symbol to political activist to obese recluse.
"Brando," premiering at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, argues he remains
the standard against whom actors are measured three years after his death and 60
years after he wowed Broadway with his performance in "A Streetcar Named
The festival, which ends May 6, was created by Brando protege Robert De Niro
and is attended by experts familiar with Brando's work.
Yet the audience at Thursday night's two-hour and 45-minute screening howled
with laughter at the humorous clips from Brando's most famous films and sat in
stunned silence in the more poignant parts, such as his "I could have been a
contender" scene from 1954's "On the Waterfront."
Producer Leslie Greif, who created the documentary along with writer Mimi
Freedman, said the word "icon" was overused but nonetheless apt for Brando.
"That's what Marlon Brando is and was, because he was the first. He was an
actor who stripped down, became raw," Greif said in an interview. "He wasn't
afraid to take real emotion and real human angst and suffering and compassion
and put it on film."
"Brando" will air in two parts on TV's Turner Classic Movies May 1-2.
Cinema greats such as director Martin Scorsese and actor Al Pacino appear in
the documentary, still awed by a career that includes Brando's portrayal of
sexy, volatile Stanley Kowalski in "Streetcar," and his later days as obese
Many of the 54 celebrities, childhood friends and relatives interviewed
remain fascinated by Brando's range, subtlety and raw emotion.
"He was theatrical without being theatrical," said actor Martin Landau.
"He releases so much stuff it's like a walking sore," Dennis Hopper said.
Regarding Brando's breakthrough performance on Broadway in "Truckline Cafe"
in 1946, Eli Wallach remarked, "We were left empty, empty, and wounded by this
The documentary chronicles Brando's stunning early films from "The Men" in
1950 to "On the Waterfront" in 1954, a mid-career slump, and revival in "The
Godfather" and "Last Tango in Paris" from 1972 and "Apocalypse Now" in 1979.
It also examines Brando's career-threatening political activism in favor of
civil rights and Native Americans, which Black Panther Bobby Seale and Lakota
activist Russell Means called unprecedented among white American celebrities.
When Brando refused his best actor Oscar for "The Godfather" and sent Sacheen
Littlefeather to the stage in his place during the awards ceremony, Means said,
"That was the finest moment for us in the 20th century."