Longevity in an actor’s career is only ever granted through hard work, lots of risk-taking and often times, taking on roles that continually challenge and break the actors out of their comfort zones. But, to land your name among the greats – Hepburn, McQueen, and Monroe – there is this undeniable star-quality that you would have to have been born with. A legend worthy of those ranks is Marlon Brando, who’s impressive body of work alone demonstrates how both his charisma and talent would capture cinema-goers for decades.
Celebrities of his caliber, as the public is well-aware, experience their fair share of despair and drama in their personal lives all while under the glamorous spotlight. Behind Brando’s charming smile lies a dark and troubling back story, but one which ultimately makes Brando’s success story one to admire.
Marlon Brando took the plunge into the world of acting after deciding to take advantage of his observant eye and knack for studying everyday people. He would spend his nights sleeping on the streets of New York until he found himself on Broadway center stage in a leading role, playing the iconic Stanley Kowalski in the Tennessee William’s play “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Not only did this role gain him respect in the industry, but it is in this role where Brando understood how to use his previous struggles with alcoholic parents and abusive father and channel it to make for a more authentic performance.
With all of his performances going forward, Brando continually took this approach, creating magic from darkness, and found ways to bring meaning to the movies he was a part of making. This would later ring most true during the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony when Brando was called on stage to receive his Best Actor in a Leading Role award for his work in The Godfather. To the surprise of those in the room and those watching at home, it was not Brando who was seen receiving this award, but Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather. While proudly donning her indigenous garb, Littlefeather nervously yet bravely read aloud a statement from Mr. Brando stating his decline of the award due to the mistreatment of Native Americans in the film industry.
To turn down such a prestigious award, for a role that would remain a pivotal performance in cinematic history, in order to speak to the rights’ of others demonstrated Brando’s true motive in making films. Brando showed how despite experiencing 19 box-office failures prior to the release of Coppola’s masterpiece, no damaged or idealized reputation can get in the way of putting purpose above any commercial interests. To this day, with his complicated family life and plethora of personal issues, Brando remains a mysterious man but who’s work would inspire many generations of actors later to pursue their dreams.
Author: Raazia Rafeek
Raazia Rafeek lives in Toronto writing, painting and studying to complete her final year of her Honours English degree. With an interest and passion for everything creative, she wishes to see her career through in Marketing or hopefully, film and production. Check her work out at www.raaziarafeek.wordpress.com.