How Marlon Brando nearly missed his defining role

1960s: Days of Rage


Sidney Lumet, Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams on the set of Fugitive Kind in 1959

“… Marlon Brando, who was 23 years old, had appeared without much critical attention in five Broadway plays. He was a beautiful, brooding specimen: mercurial, rebellious and rampant. Like Stanley, he was a ruthless man-child with reservoirs of tenderness and violence. … None the less, another witness to Brando’s memorable, ferocious psychic explosion, the critic Pauline Kael, thought to herself: ‘That boy’s having a convulsion! Then I realised he was acting.’ Brando wasn’t trying to act, at least not in the hidebound acting tradition hitherto practised on the American stage. … Brando’s acting style was the performing equivalent of jazz. The notes were there, but Brando played them in a way that was uniquely personal to him. In his ability to call out of dialogue a heightened sense of emotional truth, the freedom of his…

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