Marlon Brando Jr. (April 3, 1924 July 1, 2004) was a legendary American method actor who broke out in the early 1950s, appearing in two Elia Kazan films, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, as well as less arty projects such as The Wild One and the screen adaptation of Guys and Dolls. He later created and forever owned the role of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, as well as performed notable cameo roles in several high-profile films, including Jor-El in Superman and Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
Brando eventually became regarded as something of a joke for his exorbitant demands and prima donna behavior on film sets, which put many directors at odds with him. He eventually went into a self-imposed seclusion, from which he emerged only to appear in films far below his demonstrated talent.
He was voted in the UK's Empire Magazine in 1997 as one of the five greatest living actors. He passed away in 2004.
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) — reprising his stage role
- Viva Zapata! (1952)
- Julius Caesar (1953) — one hell of a job with the "Friends! Romans! Countrymen!" speech
- The Wild One (1953)
- On the Waterfront (1954)
- The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956)
- Sayonara (1957)
- One-Eyed Jacks (1961) — also his sole film as a director
- Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
- Morituri (1965)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Last Tango in Paris (1972)
- Superman: The Movie (1978)
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
- The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) (1996) — Legendary Troubled Production
- The Score (2001)
Tropes associated with Marlon Brando and his characters include:
- Big Eater: Even before his weight gain, he was known for his insatiable appetite.
- Bi the Way: He revealed in his biography The Only Contender from 1976 that he had homosexual tendencies, even though he was married to several women and had children with them. He apparently had an affair with comedian Richard Pryor according to Pryor's widow.
- Brilliant, but Lazy:
- Al Pacino said that he would work his ass off in acting only to come short of what Brando could do in his sleep. The man was also famous for refusing to memorize lines and often had cue cards on set◊ or just improvised. Bear in mind that Brando started in theatre so he knew perfectly well how to memorize lines. He used cue-cards on set not out of laziness so much as to provide a more spontaneous performance (which considering that movies were shot out of order helped make every scene fresh).
- Elia Kazan admitted that this was Brando's style. Give him a part and attract his curiosity and tell him what you want from the scene. He would then go in a corner and come up with something unique and brilliant, and better than the original idea. Some directors accepted this, others who preferred total obedience to their directions had problems accepting this and this created conflict on some of his later films.
- Case in point: Superman. He was only there for the money, read his lines off cue cards and baby Kal-El's nappy (refusing to learn them) and had a fairly small role. And it is one of the best performances in the film. Moreover, he was the one who suggested that Superman's logo be the family sigil, which eventually became part of the Superman mythos.
- He also suggested to Richard Donner that he play Jor-El as "a green suitcase", which Donner admitted years later that he still wasn't entirely sure if he was serious or not.
- In Apocalypse Now he came in very late to a production already very tumultuous, he was asked to lose weight (as Kurtz was supposed to be a legendary special forces soldier) but instead arrived obese and hadn't even read the script or original novel. Coppolla worked with dramatic lighting and chest-high camera angles, with Brando improvising his dialogue and interactions with the rest of the cast. The end result is considered one of the best character introductions and performances.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He enjoyed pulling pranks on his co-actors and the director, refused to learn his lines, effectively sabotaging the very movies he appeared in. In Apocalypse Now he appeared on set while being seriously overweight. Francis Ford Coppola had to solve this problem by showing him in shadows, which actually worked out well for the scene.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Regretted that a couple of his bad boy roles got this treatment. Stanley in A Street Car Named Desire especially — Brando loathed the character as an abusive rapist, and was horrified that some audiences romanticized him.
- Hidden Depths: His activism for the Civil Rights Movement and Native American rights. He also studied with a voice teacher and did his own singing in Guys and Dolls. He's not mind-blowing, but he more than holds his own against his co-star, Frank Sinatra.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: Trope Namer via On the Waterfront.
- I Was Quite a Looker: As he gained weight and didn't age well, it was hard to compare him to the picture atop this page.
- Large Ham: While he usually fell more on the Cold Ham end of the spectrum, he could be a truly monumental example of this when he got going. Just ask Stella.
- Mr. Fanservice: During The '50s and The '60s with a bit of Even the Guys Want Him.
- Older Than They Look: For much of his life. Much makeup had to be applied to him in The Godfather though he was only six years younger than Vito Corleone. In Superman, he certainly doesn't look like he's nearly thirty years older than Christopher Reeve.
- One-Book Author: His directorial debut One-Eyed Jacks which resulted in Executive Meddling and is regarded by some critics as evidence that He Really Can Direct. His bad experience on it, put him off directing for good though he planned further films.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Missouri Breaks, where his Wild West hit man character lapses in and out of a stereotypical Irish accent.
- Sue Donym: Appropriately for a Large Ham, he took up ham radio as a hobby after settling in Tahiti, but got his license under the name "Martin Brandeaux".
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Stayed in touch with Eli Wallach (who was a Nice Guy by comparison) for about thirty years, even after they did an improvisational scene together where he hurled Wallach across the room, elevating a stage fight into a brawl.
- The Gadfly: Basically his sense of humor. Brando would often say things and make suggestions that he knew directors would shoot down as a way of entertaining both himself and others. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.
- Troll: One of his favorite hobbies in his later years was to go on the internet and start arguments in chat rooms.
- Troubled, but Cute: Many of his early roles.
- Unkempt Beauty: Famously portrayed a very masculine and attractive man who was constantly sweaty and dirty.
- Vocal Dissonance: He's one of the Trope Codifiers for the Hunk, and yet his voice is... jarring, to say the least. Especially with his thick accent and lisp which gave the impression that he was slurring his words.
- Yellowface: Portrayed an Okinawan in the theatrical adaptation of The Teahouse Of The August Moon. The Yellowface is somewhat softened by 1) Brando delivering a typically charismatic performance and 2) Brando's character being the smartest person in the movie. In fairness to him, Brando did such intense research on Okinawan customs and accent in order to get it right that actual Okinawans were convinced that he was the genuine article.
Brando in fiction
- Marlon Brando is a godlike figure in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Literally. Commander Badass worships him. And do not compare him to Chuck Norris.
- Mentok the Mindtaker's backstory in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law parodied Superman's origin story. His father, Big L, was a parody of Marlon Brando. But later life Marlon Brando.
- Appeared as a guest referee in an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, for the Al Pacino vs Robert de Niro fight. The Beastie Boys eventually use him to plug the exhaust of the Backstreet Boys giant robot in the main event fight.
- Frequently parodied on The Critic, targeting his late career obesity and paycheck roles. Among other appearances, Brando stars in a musical version of Apocalypse Now (called Apocalypse Wow!), portrays Mr. French in a Family Affair remake as Vito Corleone and complains about having to lose weight to play Barney The Dinosaur.
- Victim of a Take That! in the Animaniacs episode "Hooray for North Hollywood!""Brando's mad, says screenplay's bad!/Means someone else was offered the role!"