I have decided to tell the story of my life as best I can, so that my children can separate the truth from the myths that others have created about me, as myths are created about everyone swept up in the turbulent and distorting maelstrom of celebrity in our culture” – Marlon Brando, Songs My Mother Taught Me
Initial Thoughts: After reading George Englund’s biography of Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando: The Way It’s Never Been Done Before, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Brando’s biography. Finally, I thought, I am going to hear Brando’s story as told by the man himself.
Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had developed a fascination with Marlon Brando after seeing him as Sky Masterson in Guys & Dolls. For me, and for the rest of the world, Brando was an iconic figure larger than life. To me, Brando is different from other celebrities because, in spite of his success, he would be the first one to shun Hollywood for its artificiality.
Songs My Mother Taught Me, ghost written by journalist Robert Lindsey, reveals Marlon Brando’s life from his turbulent childhood, through the beginning of his fame on stage, his transition to film, and his later success. The only thing Brando did not reveal in his autobiography is his private life: his wives and children. In George Englund’s biography of Brando, he ventures into great detail of Brando’s son’s trial and his daughter’s tragic death. Although I was interested in how Marlon Brando reacted to the tragedies in his life, I am glad that in his autobiography, Brando did not mention his son’s trial.
Reading Brando’s autobiography was like sitting down with the real Marlon Brando as he took you on a journey from A to Z about his life, his fears, his beliefs and memories. I could hear his iconic voice in my mind narrating anecdotes about his life that made me pause and think (sometimes out loud) “could this be true!?” For instance, Brando was given a raccoon as a pet by his mother, which he named Russell. Of course, I had seen pictures of Brando with his pet raccoon, but I hadn’t realized that the raccoon had lived with Brando for a time. I could just imagine the sort of antics a raccoon living in a New York apartment could get up to. Honestly, this biography is worth the read for these crazy moments Brando recounts.
One of the aspects of Songs My Mother Taught Me that I admired was Marlon Brando’s introspective nature. His own insights about himself were fascinating. When explaining his own behaviour and motivations, he does not try to paint himself into a saint. Instead, he reveals the quality which makes him human and relatable. It was as if he were stripping back the celebrity and legend that is Marlon Brando to reveal a human being who was just trying to make his way in the world the best way he knew how. Although some of his actions were somewhat questionable, the fact that he recognizes the weaknesses in himself allowed for me to oddly connect with Brando, even though our realities were starkly different.
For those who are interested in film making and in the acting process, Brando does not take a lot of time to explain his techniques in his autobiography. He does go into a bit of detail on the making of certain films and how he had prepared for certain roles, however, the majority of his biography is dedicated to the growth of Marlon Brando the person, instead of Marlon Brando the actor. Therefore, I would recommend this book to those who are fans of Marlon Brando the person, rather than Marlon Brando the actor.
About the Book
Title: Songs My Mother Taught Me Author: Marlon Brando (with Robert Lindsey) Year Published: 1994 Pages: 468 Genre: Autobiography, biography, non-fiction, cinema, movies, film, Marlon Brando
Until Next Time,