Hollywood’s New Sex-Boat
“Marlon Brando the new movie sex-boat? Why, that’s ridiculous!” protested a guest at my party. “He positively gives me the shudders!”
Instantly Marlon’s name spread over my living room like a flash fire. “Marlon Brando? He’s exciting!” “Marlon Brando! He’s coarse, he’s vulgar!” “Marlon Brando, he’s male! High time someone like him came along. . . .”
Hollywood citizens are at odds about Marlon. Jean Peters, his co-star in “Viva Zapata,” says, “I think Marlon’s very sexy. But not for me.” Plenty of the Hollywood girls agree only with the first half of Jean’s comment. A dozen or more I could name went through all sorts of elegant and supposedly subtle didoes to attract him. But Marlon wasn’t having any. He simply wouldn’t bother to get dressed up and take them out, said he did not have the right clothes, anyhow.
However, although his habitual costume was levis, a T-shirt and moccasins worn without socks—with no item of this wardrobe in very spruce condition—he could, upon occasion, find other clothes. At Photoplay’s party for “Choose Your Star” winners, of which he was one, he was both well groomed and charmingly mannered. And at the party Vivien Leigh, his co-star in “Streetcar Named Desire,” and her husband, Laurence Olivier, gave for the English set, Marlon turned out to be the only man correctly dressed for a Sunday afternoon, all the Britishers having arrived in old beat-up flannels and tweeds.
Both Vivien and Laurence liked Marlon tremendously—quite contrary to what had been expected. With Vivien, you see, Marlon was as delightful as he can be because he admires her greatly. “She charms me,” he says glowingly. “She is all woman. I have a complete appreciation of her as an actress and as a person.”
Except for his impersonal delight in Vivien Leigh, his Hollywood preferences ran to the girls he met in the studio offices or the girls who served him in shops.
“I like intelligent women,” he says, “who have a sense of humor.”
Usually he does not, like most gentlemen, prefer blondes. Redheads seem to be his favorites. On a Texas location for “Zapata” he paid considerable attention to a little redhead. And his real girl in New York is said to have titian hair. This girl, however, he will not discuss. “She is a friend from way back, no Hollywood character,” is the most he will say.
And when Marlon shows a disinclination to talk it is safer to drop the subject—or prepare for a shock treatment. Sidney Skolsky and any number of other writers who must ask formula questions because of the nature of their stories have taken his shock treatment. At the questions asked for a Skolsky tin-type interview Marlon became grimmer and grimmer. Finally, asked if he preferred a tub or a shower, he said, “Oh, I just spit ’way out into the air and then run under it.”
Another time he answered every question a reporter put to him in excellent, fluent French—of which the reporter understood not one word.
He is—even those who like him best admit it—no rose. . .
On the “Streetcar” set he carried about a big black fake spider, for the fun of dropping it suddenly on unsuspecting persons who sat chatting on the sidelines.
When Kim Hunter shut herself in her set dressing room for a nap he would come along, shake her portable room furiously and yell “Earthquake!” Considering Kim’s inordinate fear of being caught in one of the shimmy dances for which the California earth is famous, this caper always caused a satisfying stir.
His pet raccoon, Russell, was another set problem. Marlon would look with pity upon those not partial to raccoons while he carefully fed Russell pablum and milk out of a bottle. Once, when a bolder member of the company insisted such devotion must be an act, that no one could possibly love a raccoon that much, Hollywood’s new sex-boat looked aggrieved. “Russell,” he said in gentle reproof, “is not only my best friend but also my mistress.”
I personally doubt that Marlon’s brand of love-making will take the place of the various romantic techniques used by great screen lovers of the past. But I must admit he has rugged individuality. I must admit, too, that whether he is acting like a twelve-year-old boy or his twenty-eight years, he is always intensely male and vital, quite a contrast to some of the young men—“cold rice pudding” youths, I call them—who have sought to establish themselves as the screen’s lovers.
“A grubby Peter Pan,” a studio writer calls him. But the assistant director on “Viva Zapata!” had a much stronger phrase to describe him the day he lost the $500 contact lenses he was supposed to wear in this picture. Whether he lost the lenses deliberately or accidentally no one will ever know. However, since it would have taken many days to replace the lenses, he played Zapata without them—proving, as he had insisted all along, that his slate-gray eyes would photograph just about the same as dark brown contacts.
Marlon never is stupid. He’s just offbeat. “Because,” as one of his devoted friends explains, “he’s one of those rare natural guys. He doesn’t even stop to think whether he’s being different.”
Marlon honestly doesn’t believe money and fame are too important, unless you can win these things by doing what you want to do the way you want to do it.
“People get real feverish about becoming successful,” he says, sadly, “and frustrate themselves, always wanting to make more money, more money, more money.
“All I want is to have the feeling, when I wake up in the morning, that I’m glad to be alive. My happiest days haven’t been the result of any success or money I’ve made . . . Like when I walk around New York in the early, early morning and get a funny feeling—knowing the whole city’s sleeping. I feel like Hamlet’s ghost and sometimes I even begin to spout a bit of Shakespeare and then I think of Larry Olivier’s performance and clam up like a turtle pulling in its head. I know my limitations,” says he, and that’s one statement I believe.
“Like my trip back to Broken Bow, Nebraska, where my dad and I are partners, raising cattle for breeding purposes at The Penny Poke Ranch. . . The people in Broken Bow are wonderful. The men stopped me on the street and shook hands and asked me into their homes to meet their families. . . They were all so friendly and hospitable, so wonderful and refreshing. . . They gave me a horse and I rode around the rolling hills. My mother came from the prairie country; it’s from her, I guess, that I like the feel of the wind blowing and the prairie flowers growing all over the ground.”
All of this, of course, contradicts the theory that Marlon is anti-social, a theory which got about, naturally enough, when he refused practically every party invitation while he was in Hollywood.
“They’re crazy if they say I’m antisocial,” he will tell you. “I have fun with my own friends. I just don’t like parties where a lot of people are not having a good time, where a lot of people adopt the vacuum cocktail manner: talk, talk, talk about nothing. They remind me of poker players, the way they conceal their vital thoughts waiting for the next guy to reveal first.”
One thing about Marlon I want to make clear. He does not do the things he does with any thought of publicity. He is indifferent to the public’s reaction. When he was asked to pose for a cover for Life he laughed. “Why would I want to do that?” he asked. The studio publicity man had a fit and almost a nervous breakdown setting up the appointment, Marlon simply didn’t believe the public was panting to see his face on a cover.
The first time I met him he paid no more attention to me than if I had been a fly sitting there. Gazing far away in a pose reminiscent of Rodin’s “The Thinker” he was deep in a mood of intense concentration. With a snap of the finger I brought him back to earth and said, “Young man, I just addressed a remark to you.” He looked at me as if I had two heads and replied, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you. I was concentrating on the next scene.” If he wanted publicity he would make a little more effort to charm a lady columnist.
His father, an extraordinarily charming man, says his son always has been exactly the way he is now. Unless Marlon is interested in what he is doing or fascinated by it, he cannot do it at all.
Well, Marlon is both interested in and fascinated by acting. That’s certain. He believes acting is in all of us, beginning in childhood when we escape from those things that make us unhappy by going into a world of fantasy. “Acting,” he says “is disciplined fantasy, a sort of hocus-pocus you work on yourself.”
In Hollywood and on Broadway he is known as an “actor’s actor,” the implication being that only one of his art possibly could know what a truly fine performer he is. And at the New York Actors Studio Elia Kazan’s acting group in which MarIon is very active, everyone turns out any time he appears in a play. One of the projects of this studio allows each member to do a bit from a play or movie in which he believes he never, in a thousand years, would be cast. Kim Hunter, another member of this group, says Marlon has given performances here that would surprise any audience or any critic. The finest thing he ever did, according to Kim and his fellow actors, was the sophisticated gentleman in “Reunion in Vienna,” a far cry from his roles in “The Men,” “Streetcar Named Desire” or “Viva Zapata!”
Yes, and a far cry from the late Jack Barrymore, who was superb in the film, “Reunion in Vienna.” I don’t for a second believe that Brando will ever be compared with Barrymore. Even when Jack was at his worst, his charm of manner came through. Brando’s attitude is more like a gorilla looking at another gorilla.
While playing “Streetcar” on the stage he used to go down under the stage, where he had a punching bag set up, and while other actors were doing their scenes he’d punch the bag—and that rat-tat-tat sound used to drive them crazy. I was told that not even Irene Selznick could make him stop. When he’s hungry he eats; when he’s sleepy he sleeps—even if he happens to be in the middle of a dirt road; and when he wants exercise he takes it. Just a child of nature who won’t conform and doesn’t want to grow up.
Marlon’s acting pals like to tell other stories about him, too; stories that have nothing to do with his greatness behind the footlights or before a camera—stories about him as a man. Take, for instance, his pal who had an early morning call for an extra job out at the Columbia ranch but no car to get there.
Around two o’clock in the morning this pal heard a racket outside his bedroom window and a whistle. He opened the window. Below stood Marlon. “Catch!” he yelled. He threw up the keys to his car which he had parked in the driveway. Then, before his pal could gather his wits to thank him, Marlon took off.
He laughs, uproariously, at the notion that he’s the screen’s new sex-boat. “Tell me I’ve got sex appeal and I have to laugh,” he says. “Girls never turn around to look at me on the street. It’s only when I’m identified as Marlon Brando, the actor, that women take notice of me.”
Perhaps! But for his third movie, “Viva Zapata!” he was paid $150,000, three times what he got for his first, “The Men.”
Which means that the ladies, shuddering, sickened, or sighing, line up at the box offices of the theatres when his movies are being shown.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1952