Marlon Brando: Hollywood Rebel

Applause. Apr. 2024. 280p. ISBN 9781493072507. $29.95. BIOG
One of the greatest actors of the 20th century, Marlon Brando (1924–2004) had a larger-than-life screen persona and a personal life dominated by his passions for acting, activism, and sexual activities. These are all well-documented in numerous biographies, including his memoir. But Kearns (Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood’s Real-Life Tough Guy) successfully manages to focus on the impact Brando had on a dizzying array of societal and cultural topics. It begins with his tweaking of Method acting (he never memorized his lines), which reinvented the profession and forged the path to stardom for everyone from Jack Nicholson to Ryan Gosling. His character in The Wild One influenced the careers of Elvis Presley and John Lennon, provided inspiration for Andy Warhol, and kicked off the punk rock culture. As he publicly worked through his internal dilemmas, Brando is credited with normalizing the discussion of psychoanalysis and breaking sexual boundaries. He was an early supporter of gay rights. His purchase of a French Polynesian island eventually led to the boom of ecotourism, and his willingness to protest for Indigenous peoples, support opportunities for Black people, and more brought attention to topics considered verboten.
VERDICT An entertaining and enlightening study of Brando’s impressive influence.
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