Marlon Brando, Oscar Winning Actor, Is Dead at 80

posted 2004-07-02 13:09:23 by beth



Marlon Brando, the stage and screen actor whose performances in "A Streetcar Named Desire," "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather" earned him plaudits as one of the greatest actors of all time, has died, his attorney told The Associated Press. He was 80.



Brando died in Los Angeles. The cause of death is unknown.



The actor was perhaps the most influential of his generation, noted the AP's Bob Thomas.



Brando shot to fame in the late 1940s with his groundbreaking performance in Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire" as the brutal, animalistic yet shy Stanley Kowalski.



Brando, a devotee of the Method, gave a raw, vital performance under Elia Kazan's direction that had critics swooning. Using the technique, fostered by the Russian director Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, actors draw on their own psychology and experience in creating roles.



"There had never been such a display of dangerous, brutal male beauty on an American stage -- its influence can still be felt, in fashion photography and sport as well as acting," wrote David Thomson in his "New Biographical Dictionary of Film."



The actor was as famous for his off-screen actions as his on-screen performances. He could be intensely private, and yet earned reams of publicity for his eccentric behavior and sometimes outlandish salary demands. On "The Score" (2001), he refused to be on the set at the same time as director Frank Oz; he received $4 million for 10 minutes of acting in "Superman" (1978); he sent a woman who called herself Sacheen Littlefeather to decline his Oscar for "The Godfather" (1972).



But Brando was always held in esteem, always sought after -- even for a small part for the opening of "Scary Movie 2," which he turned down for health reasons.

Widely imitated



Brando's first film, "The Men" (1950), earned raves, but it wasn't until the 1951 film version of "Streetcar" that he became a major movie star. Three years later, Brando won his first Oscar for his performance as ex-boxer Terry Malloy in "On the Waterfront," also directed by Kazan. One of his lines from the film, "I coulda been a contender," has been widely imitated.



His roles in "Streetcar," "Waterfront" and "The Wild One" (1953) established him as an icon of the 1950s. Over the course of his career, he was nominated for eight Oscars, winning two -- for "Waterfront" and "The Godfather" (1972).



He followed his early '50s films with hits in "The Teahouse of the August Moon" (1956) and "Sayonara" (1957), but his career went into decline in the 1960s, particularly after his mannered performance as Fletcher Christian in 1962's big-budget flop "Mutiny on the Bounty."



His career revived, however, with perhaps his most famous role, that of Don Corleone in "The Godfather." Director Francis Ford Coppola had only Brando in mind for the role, a decision not favored by producers, who almost fired the filmmaker over the decision.



Coppola was rewarded when the film became a huge hit -- it was the highest-grossing movie of all time until "Jaws" came along -- and Brando's quietly regal, brooding performance as a Mafia kingpin was the film's centerpiece.



The actor followed up "The Godfather" with a role in a different kind of film, Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" (1973), in which he played a depressed American expatriate who strikes up a charged affair with a young Paris woman (Maria Schneider). Brando and Schneider were nakedly fearless, both physically and emotionally; the film was rated X upon its release.



In the late '70s, he played the mad Col. Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," a film racked by dissent and difficulties.









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