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a gloss on a great actor's career -- better at its start than thereafter
on February 22, 2013
Patricia Bosworth writes in an easy, engaging style, and tells her story about the life and career of Marlon Brando, as fascinating an actor as American movies have ever featured, briskly. Too briskly, I'd say. She's good on his growing up and breakthrough-in-New York years, especially on his iconoclastic and iconic production role in A Streetcar Named Desire. But she becomes consistently less interested in his work and the movies he appeared in. It may be said in her defense that Brando became less interested in his work, too -- the few minutes he appeared in Superman truly don't require much explication. But there must be quite a lot more to be said of his methods for creating The Godfather and his follow-up genial spoof of the role in The Freshman, Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and even Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. I'd like to know more about how he interacted with some of the great directors of his time and his co-stars, not for personal gossip but rather in a critical/analytical way. The author is not up for that. She recognizes with The Wild One, On the Waterfront and Last Tango in Paris as his important performances, but Brando's failures, near misses and even the provocative potboilers are worth a look and must have much more to offer about acting and filmmaking if an author delves in with interest. She is dutiful and little more about Viva Zapata, The Men, One-Eyed Jacks, Julius Caesar, Mutiny on the Bounty, Reflections in a Golden Eye and Burn! She all but ignores everything else. The man had a longer life and left more indelible portrayals than interest her. Too bad. There are other bios on the market (as she acknowledges) and I'll turn to them for a more detailed and engaging view of this willful, perhaps self-destructive genius.