Brando for Breakfast


To paraphrase a line from one of his Oscar-nominated performances, I come to praise Marlon Brando, not to bury him. Jesse Walker noted his passing yesterday and here's the Washington Post's thorough, if unremarkable, obit. Lord knows that when you start working your way through Brando's filmography, he's got one helluva lot to answer for (his death scene in Mutiny on the Bounty alone should earn him a 1,000 years in purgatory).

Yet his films are less important than his life. Along with figures such as the Beats, Muhammad Ali, The Beatles, and Madonna, Brando's great contribution to society had less to do with anything he actually did and more with the way he did it. You can love or hate him as an actor, and he was certainly a troubled and at times odious human being, but he helped to open up American culture to all sorts of weirdness and individuality that is well worth celebrating.

And while he's being fitted for a triple-wide coffin, let me suggest some generally underappreciated Brando films (or more specifically, performances), all from his supposed period of decline (roughly the very late '50s through the early '70s): The Fugitive Kind , The Ugly American, Candy, and especially The Night of the Following Day, a great kidnapping-gone-wrong flick that manages to breathe life into the one-last-job-before-I-retire-from-a-life-of-crime cliche in a way that a more recent Brando vehicle, The Score, absolutely failed to do.