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Marlon Brando was born Marlon Brando, Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924. His parents were both alcoholics, and his mother was a sometime actress, and Marlon showed acting talent at a young age. His father had graduated from a military academy, and sent Marlon there, and he acted there, but he was suspended in his senior year, and he could have gone back, but he left. His two sisters had moved to New York, one to act, and one to study art, and he followed them there. He studied with Stella Adler, one of the proponents of the Stanislavski System, which wanted actors to literally become the characters they portrayed by thinking exactly as that character would (different from "method" acting, where one uses personal memories to help duplicate the characters thoughts and actions). In 1944, he made his Broadway debut as Nels in I Remember Mama, and he received excellent reviews. He was courted by Hollywood, but refused to sign a contract with any studio. He next appeared in Truckline Cafe on Broadway, and though the play flopped, Brando got great reviews. He next appeared in A Flag is Born about the birth of Israel. The play had just three actors, Brando, Paul Muni and Celia Adler, and they worked for the Actor's Equity rate, because all proceeds went to help Israel. Brando later wrote of being transfixed by Muni's acting ability in this play! Brando next played the lead in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway (the part had been first offered to John Garfield, but he demanded a percentage, and after Burt Lancaster also turned it down, Brando was hired). Brando went to Hollywood and starred in The Men, followed by a remarkable string of movies: A Streetcar Named Desire (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), Viva Zapata! (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), Julius Caesar (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), Sayonara (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), The Wild One, Dry White Season (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), and On the Waterfront (winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), his greatest role (although the movie was made primarily by those, with the exception of Brando, who had named names or co-operated with the HUAAC hearings, so it was hated by leftists as being a defense of stool pigeons). In the late 1950s, Brando's roles became increasingly odd, and while his performances equaled his earlier ones, the movies did not. He was hired to star in Stanley Kubrick's One-Eyed Jacks in 1961, but fought with Kubrick, who quit, and Brando took over the directing, which resulted in a weird movie that lost a lot of money. After he had a similar experience on Mutiny on the Bounty the following year, Brando's film choices became increasingly stranger. In 1972, Brando's star had sunk so low that he had to audition for the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather (winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), but he was superb, and the movie grossed the most of any movie to that time. After the odd Last Tango in Paris (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film) the same year, Brando proceeded to do parts solely for the money, such as playing Jor-El in Superman. Brando continued making movies until 2001, and passed away in 2004 at the age of 80. He had a tumultuous personal life, filled with many causes and much drama, and even the death of family members. The great film critic Pauline Kael thought his career was much like that of John Barrymore, in that, after a brilliant stage career and early film career, he squandered much of the rest of his career due to personal excesses. Still, it is hard not to see Brando as likely the finest film actor of the second half of the 20th Century, and his acting style had a huge influence on a high percentage of the actors that followed him.
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