Entertainment Weekly's BIG FALL BOOKS PREVIEW Selection
Best Book of 2019 -- Publisher's Weekly
Based on new and revelatory material from Brando’s own private archives, an award-winning film biographer presents a deeply-textured, ambitious, and definitive portrait of the greatest movie actor of the twentieth century, the elusive Marlon Brando, bringing his extraordinarily complex life into view as never before.
The most influential movie actor of his era, Marlon Brando changed the way other actors perceived their craft. His approach was natural, honest, and deeply personal, resulting in performances—most notably in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront—that are without parallel. Brando was heralded as the American Hamlet—the Yank who surpassed British stage royalty Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson as the standard of greatness in the mid-twentieth century.
Brando’s impact on American culture matches his professional significance; he both challenged and codified our ideas of masculinity and sexuality. Brando was also one of the first stars to use his fame as a platform to address social, political, and moral issues, courageously calling out America’s deeply rooted racism.
William Mann’s brilliant biography of the Hollywood legend illuminates this culture icon for a new age. Mann astutely argues that Brando was not only a great actor but also a cultural soothsayer, a Cassandra warning us about the challenges to come. Brando’s admonitions against the monetization of nearly every aspect of the culture were prescient. His public protests against racial segregation and discrimination at the height of the Civil Rights movement—getting himself arrested at least once—were criticized as being needlessly provocative. Yet those actions of fifty years ago have become a model many actors follow today.
Psychologically astute and masterfully researched, based on new and revelatory material, The Contender explores the star and the man in full, including the childhood traumas that reverberated through his professional and personal life. It is a dazzling biography of our nation’s greatest actor that is sure to become an instant classic.
The Contender includes sixteen pages of photographs.
Biographer Mann (The Wars of the Roosevelts) presents an insightful and well-researched portrait of Marlon Brando. As Mann shows, Brando transformed acting with the "raw power" and vulnerability of his performances, yet he resented the fame he won and felt little passion for a skill that came naturally to him. Taking a cinematic approach, Mann swoops in on pivotal moments in Brando's life. He explores in depth Brando's traumatic childhood with two alcoholic parents, his 1943 arrival in New York City to study at the New School's Dramatic Workshop, his formative work with drama teacher Stella Adler and director Elia Kazan, his late 1950s and '60s period as a perceived Hollywood "sellout," his 1972 comeback with The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris, the refuge he found on an atoll near Tahiti, his struggles with anger and depression, and his complicated family life. Deeply drawn to social advocacy, Brando campaigned for the civil rights movement and refused his Godfather Oscar to protest Hollywood's depiction of Native Americans. Though sympathetic to Brando, Mann doesn't shy away from his flaws, such as his often callous treatment of women. The result is a thoughtfully considered study of a supremely talented, observant, and imaginative man who became a reluctant cultural icon.