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Initial Thoughts: The first ever movie I had ever watched with Marlon Brando was Apocalypse Now. I was assigned to writing an essay on this movie by comparing it to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I remember that I spent most of the time with my hands covering my eyes (because I am that much of a wimp). Brando’s portrayal of Kurtz felt dead on to what I was imagining when I read Heart of Darkness. He was able to project an unwavering amount of charisma onto the screen. For once, I couldn’t look away.


Marlon Brando: The Way It's Never Been Done BeforeMarlon Brando: The Way It’s Never Been Done Before by George Englund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an intimate and exceptionally candid memoir of the reclusive superstar Marlon Brando and a portrait of his decades-long friendship with the author, George Englund. Since bellowing and blustering his way into the spotlight with A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando has been one of the most revered performers in the world. He was also incredibly reclusive, having shied away from the spotlight for decades. Marlon Brando, written by Brando’s close friend George Englund, offers an intimate glimpse into the life and death of the amazing theatrical legend and a portrait of the friendship the two men shared. This book is one of the most compelling inside views of an epic friendship between two dynamic, eloquent men that has ever been written. It is as unique as Brando was. The author wanted to write the book that Brando deserved — one that would do him justice and portray him as he really was. Marlon Brando honors Brando’s memory and paints a portrait of the true man behind the legend.

The Review


After watching Apocalypse Now, I ended up forgetting about Marlon Brando completely in spite of his performance. For me, he was just another brilliant actor. My interest in Brando was piqued when I watched Brando as Sky Masterson in Guys and DollsThis ended up triggering a phase where I have been reading and watching countless interviews about Marlon Brando, or by Marlon Brando himself. Marlon Brando was an enigma with a personality larger than life. The moment I think that I have been able to uncover what sort of person he was, I end up realizing that I was farther away from the truth than I thought.

George Englund’s biography of Marlon Brando is a but a fragment of who Brando was as seen through the eyes of his business partner and friend. Englund had been the director of one of Brando’s least popular films, The Ugly American in 1963. Englund’s vision of Brando is by all means not a definitive vision of Brando. What bugged me the most about this biography is Englund’s attempt to assure everyone that he was, indeed, friends with Marlon Brando. It is very clear that they were close based on the transcripts of phone calls and letters they sent to each other. However, I began having doubts about Englund’s role in Brando’s life when he began writing about Brando’s children. Although I genuinely believe that he and Marlon Brando were friends, I also believe that Englund overestimates himself as a prominent figure in Brando’s life.

In Marlon Brando: The Way It’s Never Been Done Before Englund takes us on a journey of their forty eight year friendship, through the highs and the lows. They met in 1956 at a party and had become inseparable until Brando’s death in 2004. The book was told in vignettes instead of in sequential order. One memory of Englund’s would lead to another. One moment, Englund was recounting an event that occurred in the sixties, then he would return to 2004 describing Brando in his last days. While I was able to follow the anecdotes, I found that I couldn’t place them on any sort of timeline in sequential order.

Englund also tends to talk a lot about himself, more than most biographers. At some point, he would describe Brando’s poor relationship with his father. Then suddenly, fifteen pages of the book was devoted to Englund’s meeting with his own estranged father. I began to forget that I was reading a biography about Marlon Brando until Englund would bring up how Brando reacted to this story. I began to see what held these two together in friendship, they both liked to venture off on tangents that sometimes would lead them away from their initial intentions.

All in all, this was an entertaining biography of Marlon Brando, full of life with anecdotes that had me giggling under my breath. Englund describes how Brando was forced to loose at least fifteen pounds before filming The Ugly American . Englund, as the director of the film, was enlisted to help Brando loose weight. When it seems as if Brando is behaving, Englund discovers that Brando has disappeared from a party. He then finds Brando stuffing his face with pie (an entire pie) with a glass of milk.

I would recommend this witty, and at times tragic, biography to those who are as fascinated by Marlon Brando as I am.

Final Rating:

A B 

About the Book 
Title: Marlon Brando: The Way It's Never Been Done Before
Author: George Englund 
Year Published: 2004
Genres & Subjects: Biography, non-fiction, Marlon Brando, film, celebrities, movies, actors, acting


Until Next Time,