The Way It's Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando

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9780060786304: The Way It's Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando was the brightest, boldest, and most iconoclastic acting talent of our time. But while his courage and imagination as an artist brought applause and attention from around the world, Brando shunned nearly everything that goes with celebrity status. He was one of the most reclusive personalities in modern times and a legend beyond compare. He was also an equal opportunity provocateur -- a dazzling baffler -- be it on stage, on screen, or in his private life. Always true to his nature, he never failed to surprise. He did things his way -- The Way It's Never Been Done Before.

No one shared as much of Brando's private fields as his lifelong friend and business confidant, George Englund. For more than five decades, Brando and Englund were each other's most trusted ally and closest compadre. Even at their first meeting, at a Hollywood party in 1956 -- the kind of occasion where Brando was most on guard against any who would attempt to get close to him -- he and Englund forged close ties. From that initial meeting right up to the eve of the superstar's death in the summer of 2004, Brando and Englund were in nearly constant contact. They traveled together, worked together, and played together. They consoled and cajoled each other through their marriages and divorces, the births and tragic deaths of their children, good and bad business deals, and the onset of aging, concluding with Brando's death at the age of eighty.

"I remembered what Mark Twain wrote," Englund says, "'that everybody is a moon with a dark side he doesn't show anyone else.' I felt this was an appropriate hour for a book that looked at the other side of Marlon, that told of the man and friend and father he was. There has not been such a book in Marlon's lifetime, even including his autobiography, and I felt that after our long years of friendship, perhaps I should attempt to write it. I knew the difficulty I would encounter; to write about Marlon is to work with delicate glass, for he was, without question, the most complicated personality I ever met or knew about.

"I once thought what a grand time he and I would have writing the book about our friendship together. That possibility has passed away, for Marlon is gone now -- I must make the attempt to write of us alone. I summon to the task the sacredness, which, when we were at our best, Marlon and I laid upon our friendship."

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From Publishers Weekly:

Englund, producer and director of Brando's film The Ugly American, was friends with the superstar for 48 years. While he explains how he and Brando bonded over their relationships with their fathers—Brando hated his, Englund didn't have one—readers don't get a complete picture of the actor. After decades of camaraderie, Englund, now 78, finally recognizes Brando's slide from artistic icon to biased old man. Alas, a chronologically confusing narrative, perfunctory condemnation of Brando's parents and agonizing enumeration of trivial details rules out any multilayered insight. Englund prefers to detail Brando's hobby of humiliating women. He also enjoys casting himself as the actor's co-conspirator, whether Brando is farting in elevators or hijacking rickshaws in Hong Kong. When not reveling in immature hijinks, Englund chats about films (though his experience of directing Brando gets scant attention). He rarely ponders his friend's acting style, but excels at observing the Brando family's dynamics, intelligently discussing the pathology of despair and destruction that arose after Brando's son, Christian, shot his sister Cheyenne's boyfriend, and Cheyenne committed suicide. Unfortunately, this perceptive detour is short-lived; Englund soon returns to mind-numbing transcripts of financial negotiations involving Brando's autobiography (which was never realized). This disappointing book puts the spotlight on Englund's ego, not on Brando's place in film history. Photos.
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Producer-director Englund provides a relatively comprehensive summary of the late actor's life and work in this manly look at a manly actor that fairly drips testosterone and endeavors to probe beneath the surface, behind the scenes, and deep into the mind and passions of its subject. In this it succeeds fairly well, although the breathless urgency of Englund's celebration of all things Brando may wear on some readers. Others will just appreciate the strengths that make it a useful acquisition for collections concerned with movie stars. Brando was a powerful performer before he became a joke for talk-show monologues, and his old friend Englund (they met at a Hollywood party in 1956) is uniquely qualified to interpret the artistic side of his pal. For that purpose, the text's high manliness quotient helps insofar as it truthfully suggests Brando's approach to his best-known and most-appreciated roles. Okay, maybe it doesn't apply to his approach to Sky Masterson, but really, what could? Valuable for its contribution to film history, Englund's book is a sincere appreciation of Brando the artist and larger-than-life personality. Mike Tribby
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

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