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Marlon Brando: Intellectual

Photo of Carrie Rickey By Carrie Rickey | Thompson on Hollywood July 21, 2014 at 5:19PM

With considerable skepticism I came to "Brando’s Smile," Susan Mizruchi’s unexpectedly empathic and involving intellectual biography of the actor. The Boston University professor read between – and next to – the lines of the 4,000 volumes and dozens of scripts in Brando’s personal library. His handwritten marginalia reveal aspects of the man unknown to most. “As the first biographer to have reviewed Brando’s archives,” Mizruchi reports in her eye-opening account, ” . . . I can report that Brando’s hunger for knowledge was as insatiable as his legendary appetites for women and food.” And how.
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Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando? Really?


Haven’t his life, sex life, innovative acting, alcoholic mother and abusive father, drug-dependent children, and countless attachments been strip-mined by so many authors that there is nothing left to extract?

With considerable skepticism I came to "Brando’s Smile," Susan Mizruchi’s unexpectedly empathic and involving intellectual biography of the actor. The Boston University professor read between – and next to – the lines of the 4,000 volumes and dozens of scripts in Brando’s personal library. His handwritten marginalia reveal aspects of the man unknown to most.

“As the first biographer to have reviewed Brando’s archives,” Mizruchi reports in her eye-opening account, ” . . . I can report that Brando’s hunger for knowledge was as insatiable as his legendary appetites for women and food.” And how.

The volumes at his bedside when he died attest both to his wide range of interests and also to his subversive side. Of the former: "Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols," "The Pentagon Papers," "Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time." The latter: Books “borrowed” from public libraries, and from his sisters and psychiatrists, and never returned.

Read the rest of my review here.

The Brando moment that you can watch over and over again?

This article is related to: Marlon Brando, Books


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.