Marlon Brando, R.I.P.

KPHO Phoenix (CBS) — Marlon Brando Dies at Age 80

The man called the greatest actor of all time has died. CBS 5 News has learned Marlon Brando passed away Thursday in Los Angeles. Brando may be best known for his roles in “The Godfather” and “On the Waterfront”. He won oscars for his work in those 2 films.

The cause of death is still unknown. Marlon Brando was 80 years old.

I’m not sure who called him “the greatest actor of all time,” but it’s a shame he’s dead in any case.

UPDATE: CNN — Marlon Brando dies at 80

Marlon Brando, the stage and screen actor whose performances in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “On the Waterfront” and “The Godfather” earned him plaudits as one of the greatest actors of all time, has died, his attorney told The Associated Press. He was 80. Brando died in Los Angeles. The cause of death is unknown.

Brando shot to fame in the late 1940s with his groundbreaking performance in Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” as the brutal, animalistic yet shy Stanley Kowalski. Brando, a devotee of the Method, gave a raw, vital performance under Elia Kazan’s direction that had critics swooning. Using the technique, fostered by the Russian director Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, actors draw on their own psychology and experience in creating roles.

Brando’s first film, “The Men” (1950), earned raves, but it wasn’t until the 1951 film version of “Streetcar” that he became a major movie star. Three years later, Brando won his first Oscar for his performance as ex-boxer Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront,” also directed by Kazan. One of his lines from the film, “I coulda been a contender,” has been widely imitated. His roles in “Streetcar,” “Waterfront” and “The Wild One” (1953) established him as an icon of the 1950s. He followed those parts with hits in “The Teahouse of the August Moon” (1956) and “Sayonara” (1957), but his career went into decline in the 1960s, particularly after his mannered performance as Fletcher Christian in 1962’s big-budget flop “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

His career revived, however, with perhaps his most famous role, that of Don Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972). Director Francis Ford Coppola had only Brando in mind for the role, a decision not favored by producers, who almost fired filmmaker over the decision. Coppola was rewarded when the film became a huge hit — it was the highest-grossing movie of all time until “Jaws” came along — and Brando’s quietly regal, brooding performance as a Mafia kingpin was the film’s centerpiece.

The actor followed up “The Godfather” with a role in a different kind of film, Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris” (1973), in which he played a depressed American expatriate who strikes up a charged affair with a young Paris woman (Maria Schneider). Brando and Schneider were nakedly fearless, both physically and emotionally; the film was rated X upon its release.

The man was 80 and has been a huge tub of lard for as long as I can remember. Is his cause of death that elusive?

AP — ‘The Godfather’ Actor Brando Dead at 80

Marlon Brando, who revolutionized American acting with his Method performances in “Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront” and went on to create the iconic characterization of Don Vito Corleone in “The Godfather,” has died. He was 80.

Brando died at an undisclosed Los Angeles hospital Thursday, attorney David J. Seeley said Friday. The cause of death was being withheld, Seeley said, noting the actor “was a very private man.”

Brando, whose unpredictable behavior made him equally fascinating off the screen, was acclaimed the greatest actor of his generation, a two-time winner of the Academy Award who influenced some of the best actors of the generation that followed, among them Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.

He was the unforgettable embodiment of the brutish Stanley Kowalski of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the mixed up Terry Malloy of “On the Waterfront” (which won him his first Oscar) and the wily Corleone of “The Godfather.”

Fox News — Actor Marlon Brando Dead at 80

Marlon Brando, who turned 80 years old just two months ago, is dead, the actor’s sister and a close family friend told’s Roger Friedman on Friday morning. Brando, termed the greatest living actor by most of his peers, is most famous for his roles in “The Godfather,” “On the Waterfront,” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Brando’s sister Jocelyn, exclusively confirmed the actor’s death and a family friend in Palm Springs, Calif., told that Brando died last night at 6:20 p.m. in a Los Angeles-area hospital after being taken there on Wednesday night. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

Brando became a movie idol in the early 1950s and popularized the jeans-and-T-shirt look well before James Dean did. But soon, the theatrically-trained actor began shunning his teeny bopper image by accepting serious roles like that of Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar†(1953). He won the Best Actor Oscar for “On the Waterfront†(1954) and took on a wide range of roles after that, garnering popular and critical acclaim as one of the greatest cinema actors of the late 20th century.

Born Marlon Brando Jr. in Omaha, Neb., on April 3, 1924, he grew up in Illinois. After he was expelled from the military academy he attended, Brando dug ditches until his father offered to pay for his education. Brando moved to New York and studied with famed acting coach Stella Adler at Lee Strasberg’s Actors’ Studio, where he adopted the “method approach,” which emphasizes characters’ motivations for actions.

He made his Broadway debut in John Van Druten’s sentimental “I Remember Mama†(1944). Two years later, New York theater critics voted him Broadway’s Most Promising Actor for his performance in “Truckline Café†(1946). And in 1947, Brando played his greatest stage role, Stanley Kowalski — the brute who rapes his sister-in-law, the fragile Blanche du Bois — in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.â€

When Hollywood called, Brando answered, making his film debut in “The Men†(1950) and a year later playing Stanley Kowalski once again, this time in the 1951 film version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.†Other Brando movies include “Viva Zapata!†(1952), “The Wild One†(1954), “Désirée†(1954) and “Guys and Dolls†(1955). In fact, he was voted by movie exhibitors to be one of the top 10 box-office draws in the country from 1955 to 1958. But in the 1960s, his career took a nose dive — with the lowest point being the disastrous MGM 1962 remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty,†which wasn’t able to earn back even half of its monstrous budget. It was during the filming of “Mutiny,†in which Brando plays Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable’s role in the 1935 original), that he began engaging in self-indulgent, self-destructive behavior on and off the set. At work, he threw on-set tantrums and tried to change the script. When he wasn’t filming, Brando was eating excessively, having a string of affairs and keeping away from his fellow cast members.

Brando’s career was reborn in 1972 with his depiction of Mafia chieftain Don Corleone in “The Godfather.†He refused his Academy Award for Best Actor as a protest of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans. Brando proceeded the following year to the highly controversial yet highly acclaimed “Last Tango in Paris,†which was rated X. After that, he received huge salaries for playing small parts in such movies as “Superman†(1978) and “Apocalypse Now†(1979). Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “A Dry White Season†in 1989, Brando also appeared in “The Freshman†with Matthew Broderick. In 1995, he costarred in “Don Juan DeMarco†with Johnny Depp. In early 1996 Brando costarred in the film, “The Island of Dr. Moreau.†Entertainment Weekly reported that the actor was using an earpiece to remember his lines. Brando’s years of self-indulgence became apparent later in his life. He weighed well over 300 pounds in the mid-1990s.

Brando’s personal life has been marred by unhappiness. As the son of alcoholic, distant, sexually promiscuous parents, Brando had a troubled childhood. He has been married three times to three ex-actresses and has at least 11 children ranging in age from two to 38. Five are the children of his ex-wives, three are those of his Guatemalan housekeeper and three are from his other affairs. One of his children, Christian, served a 10-year sentence in California state prison for voluntary manslaughter in the death of his sister Cheyenne’s fiance, Dag Drollet. Christian claimed Drollet was physically abusing his pregnant sister and said he accidentally shot Drollet in the face during a struggle. Brando, in the house at the time, gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Drollet and called 911. Brando’s daughter Cheyenne, in and out of drug rehabilitation centers and mental institutions, later was declared too depressed to raise her child, custody of whom was given to her mother. Cheyenne hanged herself on Easter Sunday in 1995.
“I tried to be a good father,” People magazine reported Brando as saying on the witness stand during his son Christian’s trial. “I did the best I could.”

I’m surprised so few of the reviews mention “Apocalypse Now” and “Superman.” Surely, his turn as Jor-El was the defining moment in his career?

UPDATE: Editor and Publisher — Who Was 1st With Brando News?

What newspaper was first to report the unexpected death of actor Marlon Brando?

The winner, by a wide margin, appears to be the New York Post, if only in an unconfirmed manner.

In its Friday morning edition, on page 11, the Post printed a small story, with a picture of Brando from “The Godfather,” under the headline: “Brando is dead: TV report.” It cited a bulletin on the Web site of Phoenix-based KPHO-TV, of all places. The paper said police had not confirmed the death but claimed that relatives were gathering at the actor’s Los Angeles home.

At mid-morning today, the DrudgeReport trumpeted the news, while confirming it was unconfirmed. An hour or so later, The Associated Press, Bloomberg and other wires announced it as fact.

According to Google News, newspaper sites that got to the news especially quickly included USA Today, the Daily News of New York, Newsday of Melville, N.Y., and The Dallas Morning News.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. whattaya got says:

    Definitely Brando’s performance in Godfather and On the Waterfront are probably his most famous and ones for which he got oscars. His role in superman was playing second fiddle to christopher reeves’ Superman. But what I am more impressed about Brando is his fight on behalf of Native Americans. I hope he did them more good than harm. Take it easy Brando!