Friday, May 22, 2009

Brando Rating his Movies - 1950-1953

244. The Men (1950)

Why Brando Took the Role
His First Hollywood movie, Brando had finished Streetcar on Broadway and liked the idea of a socially relevant movie the focused on the plight of disabled vets. Also to his liking were Kramer's terms - $40,000 for one picture with no options.

Brando Performance
Brando is completely, vividly, real as the disabled vet adjusting to life in a wheelchair. And at 26 he was the right age. His forte was vulnerable-tough guys so this role was perfect for him. His chemistry with Wright is excellent. Rating ***1/2 stars

The Movie
Released 2 weeks after the start of the Korean War, the movie was a box office flop but a critical success. While the two leads give good performances, the movie sufferers from a mediocre script and a TV-movie of the week plot. Jack Webb plays a supporting role. Repeating his role from "Best Years of Our Lives" good old Ray Teal shows up to harass the crippled Brando. Watched today only because of Brando. Rating **1/2

245. Streetcar Named Desire 1951

Why Brando Took the Role
An easy gig repeating his Broadway plus working with Kazan. Brando signed for $80,000 & no options..

Brando Performance
The iconic Brando role. Nominated for an Oscar. Tennessee Williams was impressed -from then on, Brando was offered the lead role in all of his plays. Williams actually wrote several with Brando in mind. Brando's performance changed Hollywood's conception of acting. From then on everyone wanted to be Brando not Tyrone Power. Tuxedo's were out, T-shirts were in. Rating **** stars

The Movie
A great adaptation of the 2nd best Williams' play. A Box office smash. Kazan's direction is superb and Malden and Brando were born to play their roles. However, the real star is Vivien Leigh, who plays the ultimate Blanche. Olivia De Haviland was offered the role but wanted $175,000 so Warner went with Leigh. Rating ****

246. Viva Zapata 1952

Why Brando Took the Role
An excellent, liberal script (by John Steinbeck) & a chance to work with Kazan. Zanuck wanted Tyrone Power for the lead bu Kazan refused and demanded Brando. So, Brando got the role and $100,000. In return, Brando was forced to do a screen test and sign a multipicture deal with 20th century Fox.

Brando Performance
Brando gives it a good try, but comes off as an American wearing a Sombrero, pretending to be Mexican. However, he convincingly portrays Zapata's internal conflict and bursts of anger. Brando was nominated for an Oscar - but his Zapata is too soft and too Anglo. Rating ***

The Movie
An earnest liberal, but dull, take on the Mexican Revolution. Zanuck was afraid it would labeled "Communist", but nobody cared about its politics or the movie. Not a box office success but loved by critics.

Zapata has some fine acting, and some excellent dramatic scenes. But the movie is historically inaccurate and suffers from a condescending desire to rewrite Mexican history. Further, havng American actors pretending to be Mexican - just doesn't work anymore . Kazan directs the drama well - the action scenes not so well. Quinn gives excellent support - and should have played the lead. Rating **1/2

247. Julius Caesar 1953

Why Brando Took the Role
In 1952, John Houseman, Joe Mank, and MGM decided to do a prestige production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. A blend of British and American actors were chosen to play the roles, including James Mason as Brutus, John Geilgud as Cassius, Louis Calhern as Caesar, and Deborah Kerr and Greer Garson. But Houseman wanted Paul Scofield as Anthony; while MGM wanted Stewart Granger. Finally Mank broke the deadlock and offered Brando the role, Brando jumped at the chance. At that time, Brando was afraid of being typecast as a "blue-jeaned slobbermouth" - and wanted to prove his critics wrong. Brando signed for $40,000 and top billing; Geilgud got $20,000..

Brando PerformanceBrando was nominated for his 3rd Oscar and deserved it. Brando is magnificent and his precise diction is a far cry from the mumbling Stanley. Geilgud was so impressed he invited Brando to England to do Hamlet. However, I think Charlton Heston was tailor made for the role, and probably would have done as well. Rating ****

The Movie
Julius Caesar was a critical and box office success. Although Brando is praised for his performance, the true stars are Mason and Geilgud both of whom are stunning. Everyone else does an excellent job - except for Calhern as Caesar whose too "American" and lacks the gravitas necessary to play Caesar. Slow in parts, and made in B&W, the movie still holds up after 56 years. Rating ***1/2

3 comments:

Trooper York said...

Brando is of course one of the most interesting actors you will ever see. I thought his One-eyed Jacks was a damn good movie.

rcocean said...

Trooper, agree on One-eyed jacks, one of my favorite westerns. Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson get to show another side.

Thanks for the post.

Trooper York said...

Ben Johnson is one of my top ten favorite actors along with Lee Marvin, Ernie Borgnine and Warren Oates. You almost never go wrong if one of those dudes are in a flick.