Born on this day in Omaha, Nebraska, Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was the child of alcoholics and "learned early to tread warily and speak ambiguously," explained biographer Richard Schickel.
This celebrated actor exploded on Broadway in 1947 with the powerful portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, then won his first Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954).
"An actorís a guy who, if you ainít talking about him, ainít listening," he said.
In 1972, with career faltering, he campaigned hard for a role that would nail him another Oscar--Don Corleone in The Godfather. "I know a lot of people in Hollywood say I'm washed up," Brando told the film's producer Robert Evans, "and I know you've heard a lot of stories about me, and some are true. But I can play this part, and I can do a good job."
For the screen test, Brando darkened his hair with shoe polish and stuffed Kleenex in his mouth. He got the role of a lifetime, a man he saw as "substance, tradition, dignity, refinement... who just happened to live in a violent world."
In 1994, the reclusive Brando revealed in the autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me that "making Mutiny on the Bounty (1963) in Tahiti led to the happiest moments of my life."
His life has featured too many tragedies and too much adverse publicity. Some have called him eccentric and difficult to work with. Others say different.
Director Elia Kazan called him "the best actor in the world." Actor Jack Nicholson credited Brando with giving other actors the freedom to act.
"The story of my life is a search for love," Brando has explained. "I have been looking for a way to repair myself from the damage I suffered early on and to define my obligations... to myself and my species."
"I don't stretch my hand out anymore, but I never get tired of waiting for the next magic."
More Film-Making Quotations
Accept success, but don't let it stop you.