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Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work


A groundbreaking work that reveals how Marlon Brando shaped his legacy in art and life.
When people think about Marlon Brando, they think of the movie star, the hunk, the scandals. In Brando’s Smile, Susan L. Mizruchi reveals the Brando others have missed: the man who collected four thousand books; the man who rewrote scripts, trimming his lines to make them sharper; the man who consciously used his body and employed the objects around him to ...

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Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work

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A groundbreaking work that reveals how Marlon Brando shaped his legacy in art and life.
When people think about Marlon Brando, they think of the movie star, the hunk, the scandals. In Brando’s Smile, Susan L. Mizruchi reveals the Brando others have missed: the man who collected four thousand books; the man who rewrote scripts, trimming his lines to make them sharper; the man who consciously used his body and employed the objects around him to create believable characters; the man who loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry.
To write this biography, Mizruchi gained unprecedented access to a vast number of annotated books from Brando’s library, hand-edited copies of screenplays, private letters, and recorded interviews that have never before been quoted in a biography. Original interviews with some of the still-living players from Brando’s life, including Ellen Adler, his one-time girlfriend and the daughter of his acting teacher Stella Adler, provide even deeper insight into the complex person whose intelligence belied the high-school dropout.Mizruchi shows how Brando’s embrace of foreign cultures and social outsiders led to his brilliant performances in unusual roles—a gay man, an Asian, a German soldier—to test himself and to foster empathy on a global scale. We also meet the political Brando: the civil rights activist, the close friend of James Baldwin, the actor who declined his Oscar to support Indian rights.More than seventy stunning—and many rare—photographs of Marlon Brando illuminate this portrait of the man who has left an astounding cultural legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mizruchi, a professor of English at Boston University, leaves no stone unturned in this cohesive biography of Marlon Brando. Brimming with colorful anecdotes and details, the biography dissects Brando's life and creative process, from his Omaha, Neb., roots and his acting schooling with Stella Adler and fellow student Elia Kazan, to stage roles such as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire and star turns in canonical films such as The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris, and Apocalypse Now. Mizruchi's academic portrait of the great actor who "slept every day until noon" and "buried himself in books" is at once microscopic and sweeping, intimately focused on unpacking his work role by role. A major part of her project is to overturn the "dismissal" of Brando's work in the 1960s, especially One-Eyed Jacks. Mizruchi also explores the actor's devotion to the cause of Native American rights, which "had roots in the history of his family in the state of Nebraska." This is a wonderfully cohesive work about Brando, both as an actor and a man. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
According to his latest biographer, Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was a voracious reader, social activist and insightful actor.Mizruchi (English/Boston Univ.; The Rise of Multicultural America, 2008, etc.) bases her study on considerable new sources: Brando's huge library of annotated books, film scripts and research notes, as well as interviews with friends and family members. "I can report," she writes, "that Brando's hunger for knowledge was as insatiable as his more legendary appetites for women and food." She believes that Brando was a victim of sexism; his good looks and gossip about "the endless women and romantic affairs" led to his being stereotyped as an intellectual lightweight. Mizruchi argues that he was a serious student of philosophy, literature, history, and Western and Eastern religions. In the 1950s, as his reputation was established by performances in A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront, his reading became "focused on three main areas: comparative philosophy and religion; Asian cultures, including their histories, languages, and arts; and social scientific theory (politics and psychology in particular)." His readings, Mizruchi asserts, influenced his choice of roles, in which he hoped to convey some social or political message. Although he was chided for outspoken political views that some deemed naïve, the author claims that Brando consciously "treated his celebrity as a means to public ends." His causes included Native American rights, civil rights for African-Americans, UNICEF and the environment. Mizruchi chronicles Brando's career, highlighting his deliberations over roles, his profuse annotations of scripts and his efforts to deeply understand his characters. Even when he took parts just for the money, "Brando sought to balance lucrative projects against those he did for idealistic purposes."Admitting that she has been obsessed with Brando since she was a teenager, Mizruchi paints a sympathetic and respectful portrait of a man far different from the self-absorbed, self-indulgent one who emerges in other biographies.
Tom Shone - Atlantic
“[Mizruchi is] the first to have access to Brando’s private archives, including his extensive library, film archives and research materials… Fascinating.”
Julia M. Klein - Boston Globe
“To understand the complete Brando…any future biographer will now have to take account of Mizruchi’s Brando as well—to somehow square the lover and the sensualist with the critical thinker.”
“Explores the Brando that was not visible to the world in order to better understand the one that was—a Brando that was independent of the public persona and often at odds with it.”
Greg Carpenter - Sequart Magazine
“The most amazing restoration work on an artist’s image that I’ve ever seen.”
Carrie Rickey - Philadelphia Inquirer
“Eye-opening . . . made me rethink my opinion of the actor. And rewatch his films with greater appreciation of his craft.”
Antonia Quirke - Financial Times
“An always interesting, addictive book (I didn’t move for two days).”
Scott Eyman - Wall Street Journal
“Forcefully reminds us of the actor’s guile and charm, as well as his reckless bohemian spirit. . . . [Mizruchi] has construct[ed]
something that is . . . more than I imagined possible.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393082869
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/23/2014
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 98,332
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan L. Mizruchi, a professor of English at Boston
University, specializes in American literature, cultural history,
and film.

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