son killed a man, his daughter, Cheyenne, committed
suicide, and his last few movies flopped--but Brando is
still a legend. Because of him, method acting,
"Stella!!!," torn T-shirts, "I coulda been a contender,"
motorcycle jackets, and "I made him an offer he couldn't
refuse" are engraved on the global psyche.
Inconceivably handsome, his notable 1944 stage debut
in I Remember Mama preceded a 1947 performance in
Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire that
was so riveting in its naturalism and charisma that the
acting profession has never been the same. Astounding
movie roles rapidly followed in The Men, the
movie version of Streetcar, Viva Zapata!,
Julius Caesar, The Wild One, and On the
Waterfront, for which he won every possible award.
Brando was the perfect icon for the beat generation.
Remarkably, his rebellious posturing, feverish
womanizing, and disastrous marriage to Anna Kashfi never
interfered with his sublime characterizations. A decade
of losers followed and then ended, in 1972, with another
Academy Award, for The Godfather, and raves for
the steamy Last Tango in Paris. Brando's
political activism peaked when he sent a Native American
to refuse his Godfather Oscar.
Though nominated in 1989 for a supporting part in
A Dry White Season, Brando gave his last
significant performance in Apocalypse Now (1979).
Over the years, his physical stature has grown to match
his legend. He's that big. Inflated grocery bills and
the high costs of owning a Tahitian atoll battered his
finances, as did legal fees when his son, Christian,
murdered his pregnant half-sister Cheyenne's fiancÚ. To
recoup, Brando published a tell-nothing $5-million
autobiography in 1994, and in 1995 he turned in a
pleasant performance in Don Juan DeMarco. Less
pleasant was his mad scientist turn in the 1996 remake
of The Island of Doctor Moreau.
The New York Post reported in September of
1995 that Brando was seeking Irish citizenship because
Tahitian gangsters have placed a contract on his life;
they supposedly blame him for the 1990 murder of
islander Dag Drollet and the tragic 1994 suicide of
Brando's half-Tahitian daughter, Cheyenne (her death
sent him into seclusion and a deep depression). Brando's
statements about his belief that Hollywood is "run by
Jews" led to charges of anti-semitism, and his star on
Hollywood's Walk of Fame was defaced with a swastika. He
later apologized for the remarks.