Sunday, March 15, 2009
Token Smokin' Hottie: Marlon Brando
I saw both Apocalypse Now and A Streetcar Named Desire for the first time in the same month.
What a terrible tragedy for a teenager. And what cruelty for my parents or teachers, or whoever was responsible, to let me!
It nearly didn’t happen: I was only watching Apocalypse Now because a boy I fancied had told me to and, being a bit dim, I managed to get a bit lost as to what was actually going on after about twenty minutes. Martin Sheen had a breakdown making that movie? I nearly had a breakdown flipping watching it. But I stayed the course and eventually I got to see Marlon Brando as Kurtz, fucking about in the forest. He looked insane. Not Marlon-Brando-playing-Kurtz-as-insane but INSANE insane, as in an-insane-Marlon-Brando-playing-Kurtz-as-insane.
I might have called him a genius, if I hadn’t been so busy thinking about that boy, but a token smokin’ hottie? I think not.
And then I saw A Streetcar Named Desire in which, of course, Brando is the impossibly ripped and utterly smoking Stanley, all tight t-shirted and simmering rage. Domestic violence never looked so hot: I would have let him backhand me into the kitchen cupboards twice before breakfast.
Except of course this Brando wasn’t real. Or, rather, I had seen into the future and knew where beautiful fucked up ol’ Stanley was going to end up: bald, fat and mad in a jungle. Not a bad analogy for life, maybe, but not something an impressionable young teenager should have to think about.
Naturally this depressed me, somewhat, and I found the movie tough to watch for that reason. But recently it occurred to me, rather belatedly you might think, that Marlon Brando is so unbelievably hot as Stanley precisely because of this contrast with how his life turned out. Stanley the character is constantly about two seconds away from Losing His Shit just as Brando, playing Stanley, is about twenty years away from losing his.
As a counter point, take Paul Newman. Also improbably delicious as a youth and a rarity among young hotties in that he aged both well and (apparently) happily. Even as he jowled his way into his sixties you could still, sort of, imagine going there and he was still capable of turning out a genuinely great performance in something like The Road to Perdition. And all this without (supposedly) fucking around on the side. There was a man who had his shit together.
By comparison Brando gives the impression of having lurched from one crisis to a next. Turning up to the set of Apocalypse Now massively overweight and underprepared. Turning up at all for shit like the Superman movies and the godawful Island of Doctor Moreau, in which his eyes read plainly Kill Me Now for the entirety of the film. Somewhere in there managing to both sire eleven children with about six different women and (allegedly) snog Laurence Oliver in Vivien Leigh’s pool. Niiiice.
If you were going to marry one of the two you’d have to back Newman. He’d give you a foot rub as you lay on the couch watching Lost In Austen and talk intelligently about… I don’t know, something, while he did the Times crossword. Marry Brando and you’re more likely to spend your nights cowering behind a locked door while he screams that you’ve ruined his fucking life you stupid fucking bitch.
But token smokin’ hottie status is not about getting married or picking someone to nip down to the IGA for you on a Saturday morning when you're hungover and require a diet coke immediately. It is about shameless deliciousness, guilty pleasures involving cheese-grater torsos and a few other things I’d go into in more detail about if my parents didn’t occassionally read this blog. And in that respect Brando ticks all the boxes: a tragic figure, maybe, and certainly a bit unhinged. But then, I’d argue, the best of us are. And his face could make a stone weep.