Marlon Brando

  1. John Derek, Knock On Any Door, 1948. Among the star groupies calling at Brando’s Broadway dressingroom during A Streetcar Named Desire, was Humphrey Bogart offering a film debut as Nick Romano – in his Sanatana’s company first production. “We can make beautiful music together.” (By 1954, they were up for the same role!). Marlon lost interest but loved Nick’s coda: “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”  James Dean did. Brando didn’t.
  2. William Holden, Sunset Blvd, 1949. “Too much of unknown,” said the studio!  Director Billy Wilder then looked at Montgomery Clift, Gene Kelly, Fred McMurray before voting Holden.  A perfect choice  as a string of flops ruined  his  decade earlier  Golden Boy fame. Rather like Gloria Swanson’s gigolo Joe Gillis, Holden had hit zero – and the bottle.
  3. Kirk Douglas, The Glass Menagerie, 1949. The first Tennessee Williams play to be filmed. By Elia Kazan?   Not at all.  Irving Rapper got the gig, having moved up from, dialogue director to full-time helmer – and surviving three battles with the irascible Bette Davis. Gertrude Lawrence and Jane Wyman played Amanda and her handicapped daughter, Laura (based on the playwright’s mother and sister). Brando was in the mix (with Montgomery Clift and Ralph Meeker) for Jim O’Connor – Laura’s famous “gentleman caller.”  Over the years, he has also been played by such actors as George Gizzard, John Heard and Rip Torn. Later films were way better, even those made in Bollywood and Iran.
  4. Anthony Quinn, The Brave Bulls, Still hedging his movie bets, “the old lamplighter,” as Brando called himself , director Robert Rossen: “Offer the role to Anthony Quinn. He wants to be me, anyway.”
  5. Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve, France-India-USA, 1950.  The obvious first choice of legendary French realisateur Jean Renoir at the end of his US career – “a film about India without elephants and tiger hunts.” In his seventh and final film, the largely unknown ex-Marine, Tommy Breen, had an asset that no Methodist could match. He’d lost a leg (at Guam)  just like novelist Rumer Godden’s creation of flyer Captain John. However,  not even Renoir could extract a decent performance out of… the son of (unknown to Renoir), Hollywood’s film censor:  head of the Motion Picture Production and Distributors.
  6.  Dick Haymes, St Benny the Dip, 1950. Brando had yet to make a movie – when the Dazinger brothers led the fight to get the Broadway sensation from A Streetcar Named Desire during 1947-1948.  Edward J and Harry Lee wanted him to head a gang of small time hoods hiding out as priests. Brando passed. The Dazingers gave Benny to the singer Haymes. Another reason why they ended their days  making 76 quota quickies in London.  Christopher Lee said if shooting went beyond three days, the budget was used up!
  7.  Kirk Douglas, The Big Sky, The only time Howard Hawks ever envisaged Brando in one of his films was for AB Guthrie Jr’s Western “love story” of Boone Caudill and the older Jim Deakins.
  8.  Dewey Martin, The Big Sky, 1951. The Silver Fox mused upon Brando in either role opposite Sydney Chaplin, Robert Mitchum or, more explosively, Montgomery  Clift (!). But he was too expensive at $125,00 (exactly the salary of Douglas a year later) and Hawks slid downwards into Douglas and Dewey Martin.
  9.  Gary Cooper, High Noon, 1951. Sidney Lumet called it ”a romantic version of real life.” Producer Stanley Kramer’s backer, a lettuce tycoon, said Cooper – or, no lettuce. Coop beat Brando’s Zapata to the Oscar on  March 19, 1953. Kramer still brought Brando to Hollywood first – for The Men.  Among those greeting him at the old Santa Fe rail station (he was afraid of flying), was a young  MCA rep who drove him around town. When asked by the chiefs which top agent should handle him, Brando said “the kid from the mail room.” And Jay Kanter became the guy that  Brando trusted most in the world. Not vice-versa.  Not after Kanter found Marlon screwing the estranged Mrs Kanter: Roberta Haynes. 

10 – Jack Palance, Sudden Fear, 1952.   

Tallulah Bankhead warned her off the “pig-ignorant slob” but  Joan Crawford visited Brando on Broadway for her (very average)  thriller. “I always audition the new boy in town.”   She  got his stage understudy. And made it clear she’d never work with him again. “She accused me of copying Brando,” said Jack. “The cameras were rolling when… getting out of character, she shouted: If I had wanted Marlon Brando to do this scene with me, we would have hired him.”  Actually,  he had refused. Finally understanding Bankhead, Crawford called hm a “shithead.” Anyway, to paraphrase Hamlet: The best is Palance.  He was, after all,  Brando’s understudy and eventual successor in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. Palance scored a Oscar nomination for his “big break.” Not to mention  an affair with co-star Gloria Grahame.

11 – Gregory Peck, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1951.   Brando, Bogie, or outsiders Richard Conte and Dale Robertson – didn’t matter who was Harry Street. Because author Ernest Hemingway disliked the movie for swiping chapters from his other novels to pump up  this  simple tale of a dying Peck  mulling over a wasted career.  Hemingway, however, adored Ava Gardner. “And the hyena!” 

12 – Montgomery Clift, Stazione Termini  (US: Indiscretions of an  American Wife), Italy, 1952.   Brando considered the Zavattini script – in English. When nothing came of a French version for Gérard Philipe and Ingrid  Bergman, producder David Selznick won it for his wife Jennifer Jones and  Clift, directed by Vittorio De Sica.

13  – James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.

14 – Gérard Philipe, Le Rouge et le noir, France-Italy, 1953.     Producer Paul Graetz sued for $150,000 when Brando quit some days before becoming Julien Sorel – because of problems with right-wing realisateurClaude Autant-Lara. Plus an MGM call for Julius Caesar. Philipe was never happy with the first French Technicolor film, hating that it was only ever made because he agreed to it.  Marlon softened his Nazi character in The Young Lions into “my chance to play Julian Sorel in another version.”     


15 – Farley Granger, Senso, Italy, 1953.    

When director  Mario Soldati planned it as Uragano  d’estate, his  dream team was Marlon and Ingrid. And, of course, when Visconti  made his move on the project,  he also wanted Brando – the Italian maestro had already created the Kowalski look in the sweaty-macho-in-a- vest-shape of Massimo Girotti in Obssessione, in 1942,  five  years before Brando (or Tennessee Williams or Elia Kazan) copied it for A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway in December 1947.  Marlon tested – in close-ups, not costumes. Yet Italian maestro Luchino Visconti (a) hardly recognised him, “so short was he,” recalled scenarist Suso Cecchi d’Amico, and (b) he could not raise enough  backing  for… Brando and Ingrid Bergman! (Much less, Brando and Micheline Presle who became Granger and Alida Valli) ). Marlon was keen, not because of Ingrid being an ex-lover, but that his Paris lover was due to play his pal: French actor Christian Marquand. Visconti’s bravura ideas collapsed when Brando  learned the maestro  was also seeking.,.. Tab Hunter!  After  another row with Visconti, Granger flew home, and the maestro had to finish shooting with a double hiding his face.

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  • Birth year: 1924
  • Death year: 2004
  • Casting Calls:  171