Sooooooooo, instead of long individual posts for Brando's movies, I'll squeeze three movies into a single post.
This post contains: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), and Guys and Dolls (1955).
|The defining scene of Stanley and Stella's volatile relationship|
Starting with A Streetcar Named Desire from 1951, directed by Elia Kazan! This is the crowning glory of Brando's career, and he'd barely even begun his career so that tells you how incredible he is in this movie. Streetcar declares the rawness of human degradation and loneliness in a cruel world that just doesn't care. Brando is Stanley Kowalski, the brutish, desirable husband to Stella (Kim Hunter), brother-in-law to Blanche du Bois (Vivien Leigh), the frail Southern girl who lives in a world of dreams, pretending to be something she is not, in a word, respectable. Stanley is cruel and hard, shaped by the society in which he lives, but he and Stella are happy together until Blanche arrives to stay and reminds Stella of their proud roots. Only when Stella begins degrading Stanley, chastizing him, does the situation start to turn ugly.
This movie is not for the faint of heart. Lost souls always move me to compassion, which is why I watch, and yes, even enjoy Streetcar. It's not easy, and it's not fun, but it is an interesting look at lower society in Louisiana in the 1940s. This film is about a barbaric, gorgeous man and the woman who cannot bear to leave him. For the fullest experience of this story, watch the movie first and then read the play. I had the glorious opportunity to see the play performed live a few weeks ago, staring one of my friends as Stella, and it renewed my love of it all the more. So, watch the film, read the play, and be surprised at the little changes that were made to the story in order for it to be socially acceptable to the censors.
And keep in mind that the Stanley you see in the film is the same Stanley that was on the stage. Brando brought Stanley to life on the stage, and the film was born out of the play's phenominal success. Marlon Brando is Stanley Kowalski, and no matter how good any other version of the character may be, none can ever, ever top him.
|Terry and Edie in On the Waterfront|
On the Waterfront is a defense of Kazan's actions. He stood up against corruption and testified in court against members of the communist party. And he was forever blacklisted because of it. In the same vein, our simpleton hero, Terry Malloy, is called upon to do the right thing, to name names, to squeal on the guilty. I use simpleton to describe Brando's Terry because that's what he is, a simpleton. Terry's a boxer, none too smart, one too many hits in the head, and now he's relegated to a thug for corrupt union bosses because he took a dive and lost a fight. When Terry witnesses a murder, he finds himself caught in a web by people who want to stop the corruption, one of which is the girl (Eva Marie Saint) Terry likes who is also sister to the murdered young man, and the local Catholic priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden). Terry just wants to forget anything happened, but the few good people in his life won't let him.
Where do I start proclaiming the glories of this movie? Okay, first, there is Father Barry. He is strong and forthright, preaching the gospel of righteousness to anyone and everyone who will listen to him and it's partially because of him that Terry testifies in court. I love seeing Christians in a positive light as Hollywood so rarely portrays them. Then there is Terry. Brando was sexy and volatile in Streetcar, slow and plodding in Waterfront. Roles that are polar opposite of one another, which is really what defines the brilliance of Brando's acting. This movie always has me on the edge of my seat, desperate to keep the good guys safe and put the bad guys behind bars. Brando sucked me in to liking Terry, cheering as he struggled with the concept of doing the right thing, grieving with him in his fear of being on the bullying end of the union bosses.
If you were to watch any of Brando's films, the two I recommend above any of his other filmography are On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. These are his best roles, winning him an Oscar for Waterfront and a nomination for Streetcar. You just can't go wrong with either of these films.
|Sergeant Sarah delivering a kiss to Sky Masterson|
The character basics are these: Sky Masterson, who will never give up gambling, EVER, takes it upon himself to fall in love with virtuous, spiritual Sergeant Sarah. He woos her and wins her affection, and even flies her to Cuba for an evening of dining and dancing, albeit to fulfill a bet, where he really does fall in love and she loosens her oh-so-tightly wound morals to accomodate him. Sky and Sarah are the typical scoundrel/virtuous woman romance, although really, Sky isn't that much of a scoundrel, just a compulsive gambler. Where Nathan Detroit is concerned, he has been engaged to Miss Adelaide for somewhere around fourteen years, long enough that she actually fabricated a wedding and children to tell her mother back home in Rhode Island. Needless to say, Mumsy never warrants a visit! The plot of the film revolves around Nathan needing to find a place for his craps game because all the gamblers in New York are desperate for a little action. However, these types of gambling arenas are illegal, and the crackdown is so tough that Nathan's having a pretty hard time finding somewhere that'll take him. Woe is him!
What I LOVE about this musical are the songs. I mean, these are incredible musical numbers, from Marlon Brando's shockingly polished Luck, Be A Lady Tonight to Jean Simmons' rendition of If I were a Bell to the ever-popular Fugue of the Tinhorns topped off Frank Sinatra nailing it with his Guys and Dolls number! These are incredible songs! I just wish the the story itself had less moral ambiguity. How does a religious girl just walk away from her values to marry a gambler? I don't care if he does look like Marlon Brando! So, the acting is superb, the songs are terrific, but the storyline (for a Christian at least) leaves a little something to be desired. So why do I still own this movie? Because, despite all of the cons, I still LOVE IT!