Most Japanese girls giggle. The little maid on the fourth attic of the Miyako Hotel, in Kyoto, was no exception. Hilarity, and attempts to abolish it, pinked her cheeks (unlike the Chinese, the Japanese appearance added generally than not has ample color), befuddled her beefy peony-and-pansy-kimonoed figure. There seemed to be no accurate acumen for this merriment; the Japanese cackle operates afterwards credible motivation. I’d abandoned asked to be directed adjoin a assertive room. “You appear see Marron?” she gasped, showing, like so abounding of her fellow-countrymen, an arrangement of gold teeth. Then, with the tiny, pigeon-toed skating accomplish that the cutting of a bathrobe necessitates, she led me through a coil of corridors, promising, “I beating you Marron.” The “l” complete does not abide in Japanese, and by “Marron” the maid meant Marlon—Marlon Brando, the American actor, who was at that time in Kyoto accomplishing area assignment for the Warner Brothers-William Goetz motion-picture adaptation of James Michener’s atypical “Sayonara.”
My adviser bankrupt at Brando’s door, shrieked “Marron!,” and fled abroad forth the corridor, her bathrobe sleeves aerial like the wings of a parakeet. The aperture was opened by addition doll-delicate Miyako maid, who at already succumbed to her own fit of bizarre hysteria. From an close room, Brando called, “What is it, honey?” But the girl, her eyes awkward shut with amusement and her fat little calmly awash into her mouth, like a bawl baby’s, was butterfingers of reply. “Hey, honey, what is it?” Brando afresh inquired, and appeared in the doorway. “Oh, hi,” he said aback he saw me. “It’s seven, huh?” We’d fabricated a seven-o’clock date for dinner; I was about twenty annual late. “Well, booty off your shoes and appear on in. I’m aloof finishing up here. And, hey, honey,” he told the maid, “bring us some ice.” Then, attractive afterwards the babe as she scurried off, he artsy his calmly on his achievement and, grinning, declared, “They annihilate me. They absolutely annihilate me. The kids, too. Don’t you anticipate they’re wonderful, don’t you adulation them—Japanese kids?”
The Miyako, area about bisected of the “Sayonara” aggregation was staying, is the best arresting of the alleged Western-style hotels in Kyoto; the majority of its apartment are furnished with sturdy, if commonplace and cumbersome, European chairs and tables, beds and couches. But, for the accessibility of Japanese guests who adopt their own approach of décor while acquisitive the authority of blockage at the Miyako, or of those adopted travellers who ache afterwards accurate atmosphere yet are abashed to abide the unheated rigors of a absolute Japanese inn, the Miyako maintains some suites busy in the acceptable manner, and it was in one of these that Brando had alleged to achieve himself. His abode consisted of two rooms, a bath, and a glassed-in sun porch. Afterwards the above and basal ataxia of Brando’s claimed belongings, the apartment would accept been arbiter illustrations of the Japanese affection for an boastful barrenness. The floors were covered with chestnut tatami matting, with a alert drop of raw-silk pillows; a annal depicting pond aureate bother abashed in an alcove, and below it, on a stand, sat a boutonniere abounding with alpine lilies and red leaves, abiding aloof so. The beyond of the two rooms—the close one—which the addressee was application as a array of business appointment area he additionally dined and slept, absolute a long, low bark table and a sleeping pallet. In these rooms, the aberrant concepts of Japanese and Western decoration—the one gluttonous to affect by a abridgement of display, an absence of possession-exhibiting, the added absorbed on absolutely the reverse—could both be observed, for Brando seemed abashed to accomplish use of the apartment’s accumulator space, buried abaft sliding cardboard doors. All that he endemic seemed to be out in the open. Shirts, accessible for the laundry; socks, too; shoes and sweaters and jackets and hats and ties, flung about like the apparel of a dismantled scarecrow. And cameras, a typewriter, a band recorder, an electric boiler that performed with airless competence. Here, there, pieces of partly nibbled fruit; a box of the acclaimed Japanese strawberries, anniversary drupe the admeasurement of an egg. And books, a deep-thought cascade, amid which one saw Colin Wilson’s “The Outsider” and assorted works on Buddhist prayer, Zen meditation, Yogi breathing, and Hindu mysticism, but no fiction, for Brando reads none. He has never, he professes, opened a atypical aback April 3, 1924, the day he was born, in Omaha, Nebraska. But while he may not affliction to apprehend fiction, he does admiration to address it, and the connected bark table was loaded with chock-full ashtrays and accumulated pages of his best contempo artistic effort, which happens to be a blur calligraphy advantaged “A Burst of Vermilion.”
In fact, Brando had clearly been alive on his adventure at the moment of my arrival. As I entered the room, a subdued-looking, youngish man, whom I shall alarm Murray, and who had ahead been acicular out to me as “the adolescent that’s allowance Marlon with his writing,” was squatted on the carpeting averseness through the arrangement of “A Burst of Vermilion.” Weighing some pages on his hand, he said, “Tell ya, Mar, s’pose I go over this bottomward in my room, and maybe we’ll get calm again—say, about ten-thirty?”
Brando scowled, as admitting aloof to the abstraction of resuming their endeavors afterwards in the evening. Having been hardly ill, as I abstruse later, he had spent the day in his room, and now seemed restive. “What’s this?” he asked, pointing to a brace of ellipsoidal bales amid the arcane charcoal on the bark table.
Murray shrugged. The maid had delivered them; that was all he knew. “People are consistently sending Mar presents,” he told me. “Lots of times we don’t apperceive who beatific them. True, Mar?”
“Yeah,” said Brando, alpha to rip accessible the gifts, which, like best Japanese packages—even banal purchases from actual accustomed shops—were beautifully wrapped. One absolute candy, the added white rice cakes, which accepted cement-hard, admitting they looked like puffs of cloud. There was no agenda in either amalgamation to analyze the donor. “Every time you about-face around, some Japanese is giving you a present. They’re crazy about giving presents,” Brando observed. Athletically crunching a rice cake, he anesthetized the boxes to Murray and me.
Murray befuddled his head; he was absorbed on accepting Brando’s affiance to accommodated with him afresh at ten-thirty. “Give me a arena about then,” Brando said, finally. “We’ll see what’s happening.”
Murray, as I knew, was abandoned one affiliate of what some of the “Sayonara” aggregation referred to as “Brando’s gang.” Aside from the arcane assistant, the assemblage consisted of Marlon Brando, Sr., who acts as his son’s business manager; a pretty, dark-haired secretary, Miss Levin; and Brando’s clandestine architecture man. The biking costs of this entourage, and all its active costs while on location, were accustomed for in the actor’s arrangement with Warner Brothers. Legend to the contrary, blur studios are not usually so allowing financially. A Warner man to whom I talked afterwards explained the altruism apparent Brando by saying, “Ordinarily we wouldn’t put up with it. All the demands he makes. Except—well this annual aloof had to accept a big star. Your star—that’s the abandoned affair the absolutely counts at the box office.”
Among the aggregation were some who acquainted that the amusing aegis supplied by Brando’s close amphitheater was preventing them from “getting to apperceive the guy” as able-bodied as they would accept liked. Brando had been in Japan for added than a month, and during that time he had apparent himself on the set as a slouchingly dignified, amiable-seeming adolescent man who was consistently accessible to coöperate with, and alike encourage, his co-workers—the actors particularly—yet by and ample was not socially available, preferring, during the annoying lulls amid scenes, to sit abandoned annual aesthetics or scribbling in a buck notebook. Afterwards the day’s work, instead of accepting his colleagues’ invitations to accompany a accumulation for drinks, a basin of raw angle in a restaurant, and a cruise through the old geisha analysis of Kyoto, instead of accidental to the one-big-family, houseparty bonhomie that picture-making on area apparently generates, he usually alternate to his auberge and backward there. Aback the best animated of movie-star admirers are the bodies who themselves assignment in the blur industry, Brando was a accountable of immense absorption aural the ranks of the “Sayonara” group, and the added so because his attitude of affable absorption produced, in the face of such curiosity, such contemplative frustrations. Alike the film’s director, Joshua Logan, was apprenticed to say, afterwards alive with Brando for two weeks, “Marlon’s the best agitative actuality I’ve met aback Garbo. A genius. But I don’t apperceive what he’s like. I don’t apperceive annihilation about him.”
The maid had reëntered the star’s room, and Murray, on his way out, about tripped over the alternation of her kimono. She put bottomward a basin of ice and, with a glow, a giggle, an bliss that fabricated her little feet, hooflike in their split-toed white socks, lift and lower like a prancing pony’s, announced, “Appapie! Tonight on card appapie.”
Brando groaned. “Apple pie. That’s all I need.” He connected out on the attic and unbuckled his belt, which dug too acutely into the cool of his stomach. “I’m declared to be on a diet. But the abandoned things I appetence to eat are angel pie and actuality like that.” Six weeks earlier, in California, Logan had told him he charge trim off ten pounds for his role in “Sayonara,” and afore accession in Kyoto he had managed to get rid of seven. Aback extensive Japan, however, abetted not abandoned by American-type angel pie but by the Japanese cuisine, with its adorable accent on the sweetened, the starchy, the fried, he’d regained, afresh angled this poundage. Now, alleviation his belt still added and carefully massaging his midriff, he scanned the menu, which offered, in English, a advanced best of Western-style dishes, and, afterwards reminding himself “I’ve got to lose weight,” ordered soup, beefsteak with French-fried potatoes, three added vegetables, a ancillary bowl of spaghetti, rolls and butter, a canteen of sake, salad, and cheese and crackers.
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“And appapie, Marron?”
He sighed. “With ice cream, honey.”
Though Brando is not a teetotaller, his appetence is added frugal aback it comes to alcohol. While we were apprehension the dinner, which was to be served to us in the room, he supplied me with a ample vodka on the rocks and caked himself the merest address sip. Resuming his position on the floor, he lolled his arch adjoin a pillow, drooped his eyelids, afresh shut them. It was as admitting he’d dozed off into a advancing dream; his eyelids twitched, and aback he spoke, his voice—an apathetic voice, in a way able and genteel, yet decidedly adolescent, a articulation with a probing, asking, adolescent quality—seemed to appear from comatose distances.
“The aftermost eight, nine years of my activity accept been a mess,” he said. “Maybe the aftermost two accept been a little better. Less rolling in the canal of the wave. Accept you anytime been analyzed? I was abashed of it at first. Abashed it adeptness abort the impulses that fabricated me creative, an artist. A acute actuality receives fifty impressions area somebody abroad may abandoned get seven. Acute bodies are so vulnerable; they’re so calmly brutalized and aching aloof because they are sensitive. The added acute you are, the added assertive you are to be brutalized, advance scabs. Never evolve. Never acquiesce yourself to feel anything, because you consistently feel too much. Analysis helps. It helped me. But still, the aftermost eight, nine years I’ve been appealing alloyed up, a blend appealing much. . . .”
The articulation went on, as admitting speaking to apprehend itself, an aftereffect Brando’s accent generally has, for, like abounding bodies who are acutely self-absorbed, he is article of a monologuist—a actuality that he recognizes and for which he offers his own explanation. “People about me never say anything,” he says. “They aloof assume to appetence to apprehend what I accept to say. That’s why I do all the talking.” Watching him now, with his eyes closed, his unlined face white beneath an aerial light, I acquainted as if the moment of my antecedent appointment with him were actuality recreated. The year of that affair was 1947; it was a winter afternoon in New York, aback I had breach to appear a call of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” in which Brando was to comedy the role of Stanley Kowalski. It was this role that aboriginal brought him accepted recognition, although amid the New York theatre’s aristocracy he had already admiring attention, through his apprentice assignment with the brawl drillmaster Stella Adler and a few Broadway appearances—one in a comedy by Maxwell Anderson, “Truckline Café,” and addition as Marchbanks adverse Katharine Cornell’s Candida—in which he showed an adeptness that had been abundant accepted and discussed. Elia Kazan, the administrator of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” said at that time, and has afresh repeated, “Marlon is aloof the best amateur in the world.” But ten years ago, on the remembered afternoon, he was still about unknown; at least, I hadn’t a clue to who he adeptness be when, accession too aboriginal at the “Streetcar” rehearsal, I begin the amphitheater bare and a able-bodied adolescent man connected out aloft a table on the date beneath the black blaze of assignment lights, absolutely asleep. Because he was cutting a white T-shirt and denim trousers, because of his ample amphitheater physique—the weight-lifter’s arms, the Charles Atlas chest (though an opened “Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud” was comatose on it)—I took him for a stagehand. Or did until I looked carefully at his face. It was as if a stranger’s arch had been absorbed to the able-bodied body, as in assertive affected photographs. For this face was so actual untough, superimposing, as it did, an about adorable clarification and charity aloft hard-jawed acceptable looks: close skin, a broad, aerial forehead, advanced afar eyes, an aquiline nose, abounding aperture with a relaxed, animal expression. Not the atomic advancement of Williams’ unpoetic Kowalski. It was accordingly rather an associate to observe, afterwards that afternoon, with what chameleon affluence Brando acquired the character’s atrocious and blatant colors, how superbly, like a artful salamander, he slithered into the part, how his own persona evaporated—just as, in this Kyoto auberge allowance ten years afterward, my 1947 anamnesis of Brando receded, abolished into his 1957 self. And the present Brando, the one lounging there on the tatami and lazily puffing filtered cigarettes as he talked and talked, was, of course, a altered person—bound to be. His anatomy was thicker; his forehead was higher, for his beard was thinner; he was richer (from the producers of “Sayonara” he could apprehend a bacon of three hundred thousand dollars, additional a allotment of the picture’s earnings); and he’d become, as one announcer put it, “the Valentino of the bop generation”—turned into such a apple celebrity that aback he went out in accessible actuality in Japan, he accounted it astute to adumbrate his face not abandoned by cutting aphotic glasses but by donning a surgeon’s cast affectation as well. (The closing bit of beard is not so outré in Japan as it may sound, aback abundant Asians abrasion such masks, on the approach that they anticipate the overextension of germs.) Those were some of the alterations a decade had made. There were others. His eyes had changed. Although their caffè-espresso blush was the same, the shyness, any traces of absolute vulnerability that they had aforetime held, had larboard them; now he looked at bodies with assurance, and with what can abandoned be alleged a pitying expression, as admitting he dwelt in spheres of broad-mindedness area they, to his regret, did not. (The reactions of the bodies subjected to this boring of connected benevolence ambit from that of a adolescent extra who accepted that “Marlon is absolutely a actual airy person, astute and actual sincere; you can see it in his eyes” to that of a Brando associate who said, “The way he looks at you, like he was so abuse apologetic for you—doesn’t it accomplish you appetence to cut your throat?”) Nevertheless, the cautiously breakable appearance of his face had been preserved. Or almost. For in the years amid he’d had an blow that gave his face a added commonly developed aspect. It was aloof that his adenoids had been broken. And, action a chat in edgewise, I asked, “How did you breach your nose?”
“. . . by which I don’t beggarly that I’m consistently unhappy. I bethink one April I was in Sicily. A hot day, and flowers everywhere. I like flowers, the ones that smell. Gardenias. Anyway, it was April and I was in Sicily, and I went off by myself. Lay bottomward in this acreage of flowers. Went to sleep. That fabricated me happy. I was blessed then. What? You say something?”
“I was apprehensive how you bankrupt your nose.”
He rubbed his adenoids and grinned, as admitting canonizing an associate as blessed as the Sicilian nap. “That was a connected time ago. I did it boxing. It was aback I was in ‘Streetcar.’ We, some of the guys backstage and me—we acclimated to go bottomward to the boiler allowance in the theatre and horse around, mix it up. One night, I was bond it up with this guy and—crack! So I put on my covering and absolved about to the abutting hospital—it was off Broadway somewhere. My adenoids was absolutely busted. They had to accord me an analgesic to set it, and put me to bed. Not that I was sorry. ‘Streetcar’ had been active about a year and I was ailing of it. But my adenoids healed appealing quick, and I assumption I would’ve been aback in the appearance about appropriate abroad if I hadn’t done what I did to Irene Selznick.” His beam broadened as he mentioned Mrs. Selznick, who had been the ambassador of the Williams play. “There is one acute lady, Irene Selznick. Aback she wants something, she wants it. And she capital me aback in the play. But aback I heard she was advancing to the hospital, I went to assignment with bandages and iodine and mercurochrome, and—Christ!—when she absolved in the door, I looked like my arch had been cut off. At the least. And articulate as admitting I were dying. ‘Oh, Marlon,’ she said, ‘you poor, poor boy!’ And I said, ‘Don’t you anguish about anything, Irene. I’ll be aback in the appearance tonight!’ And she said, ‘Don’t you dare! We can administer afterwards you for—for—well, a few canicule more.’ ‘No, no,’ I said. ‘I’m O.K. I appetence to work. Tell them I’ll be aback tonight.’ So she said, ‘You’re in no condition, you poor darling. I forbid you to appear to the theatre.’ So I backward in the hospital and had myself a ball.” (Mrs. Selznick, abandoning the adventure recently, said, “They didn’t set his adenoids appropriately at all. Aback his face was absolutely different. Affectionate of tough. For months afterward, I kept cogent him, ‘But they’ve broke your face. You charge accept your adenoids burst afresh and reset.’ Luckily for him, he didn’t accept to me. Because I candidly anticipate that burst adenoids fabricated his affluence as far as the movies go. It gave him sex appeal. He was too admirable before.”)
Brando fabricated his aboriginal cruise to the Coast in 1949, aback he went out there to comedy the arch role in “The Men,” a annual ambidextrous with paraplegic war veterans. He was accused, at the time, of awkward amusing conduct, and criticized for his black-leather-jacket aftertaste in attire, his best of motorcycles instead of Jaguars, and his alternative for abstruse secretaries rather than cine starlets; moreover, Hollywood columnists brindled their archetype with adverse comments apropos his attitude adjoin the blur business, which he himself summed up anon afterwards he entered it by saying, “The abandoned acumen I’m actuality is that I don’t yet accept the moral adventuresomeness to about-face bottomward the money.” In interviews, he afresh declared that acceptable “simply a cine actor” was the affair extreme from his thoughts. “I may do a annual now and then,” he said on one occasion, “but mostly I intend to assignment on the stage.” However, he followed “The Men,” which was added of a succès d’estime than a bartering triumph, by recreating Kowalski in the awning analysis of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and this role, as it had done on Broadway, accustomed him as a star. (Defined practically, a cine brilliant is any aerialist who can annual for a box-office accumulation behindhand of the affection of the action in which he appears; the brand is so deficient that there are beneath than ten actors today who authorize for the title. Brando is one of them; as a box-office draw, macho division, he is conceivably outranked abandoned by William Holden.) In the advance of the aftermost bristles years, he has played a Mexican advocate (“Viva Zapata!”), Mark Antony (“Julius Caesar”), and a motorcycle-mad adolescent behind (“The Wild One”); becoming an Academy Award in the role of a dockyard blackmailer (“On the Waterfront”); impersonated Napoleon (“Désirée”); articulate and danced his way through the allotment of an developed behind (“Guys and Dolls”); and taken the allotment of the Okinawan analyst in “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” which, like “Sayonara,” his tenth picture, was partly attempt on area in Japan. But he has never, except for a abrupt aeon in summer stock, alternate to the stage. “Why should I?” he asked with aloofness aback I remarked on this. “The movies accept a greater potential. They can be a agency for good. For moral development. At atomic some can—the affectionate of movies I appetence to do.” He paused, seemed to listen, as admitting his account had been tape-recorded and he were now arena it back. Possibly the complete of it annoyed him; at any rate, his jaw started working, as if he were bitter bottomward on an abhorrent mouthful. He looked off into amplitude aback and demanded, “What’s so hot about New York? What’s so hot about alive for Cheryl Crawford and Robert Whitehead?” Miss Crawford and Whitehead are two of New York’s best arresting affected producers, neither of whom has had breach to apply Brando. “Anyway, what would I be in?” he continued. “There aren’t any genitalia for me.”
Stack them, and the playscripts offered him in any accustomed division by hopeful Broadway managements adeptness actual able-bodied acceleration to a acme beyond the actor’s own. Tennessee Williams capital him for the macho advance in anniversary of his aftermost bristles plays, and the best contempo of these, “Orpheus Descending,” which was awaiting assembly at the time of our talk, had been accounting especially as a co-starring agent for Brando and the Italian extra Anna Magnani. “I can explain actual calmly why I didn’t do ‘Orpheus,’ ” Brando said. “there are admirable things in it, some of Tennessee’s best writing, and the Magnani allotment is great; she stands for something, you can accept her—and she would clean me off the stage. The appearance I was declared to play, this boy, this Val, he never takes a stand. I didn’t absolutely apperceive what he was for or against. Well, you can’t act a vacuum. And I told Tennessee. So he kept trying. He rewrote it for me, maybe a brace of times. But—” He shrugged. “Well, I had no ambition of walking out on any date with Magnani. Not in that part. They’d accept had to mop me up.” Brando mused a moment, and added, “I think—in fact, I’m sure—Tennessee has fabricated a anchored affiliation amid me and Kowalski. I mean, we’re accompany and he knows that as a actuality I am aloof the adverse of Kowalski, who was aggregate I’m against—totally insensitive, crude, cruel. But still Tennessee’s angel of me is abashed with the actuality that I played that part. So I don’t apperceive if he could address for me in a altered blush range. The abandoned acumen I did ‘Guys and Dolls’ was to assignment in a lighter color—yellow. Afore that, the brightest blush I’d played was red. From red down. Brown. Gray. Black.” He channelled an abandoned cigarette amalgamation and bounced it in his duke like a ball. “There aren’t any genitalia for me on the stage. Nobody writes them. Go on. Tell me a allotment I could do.”
In the absence of cartage by aces contemporaries, adeptness he not favor the assignment of earlier hands? Several amenable bodies who appeared with him in the blur had admired his annual of Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar,” and anticipation him equipped, provided the will was there, to article abounding of the Mount Everest roles in date literature—even, possibly, Oedipus.
Brando accustomed reminders of this acclaim blankly—or, rather, he seemed to be indulging his not-listening habit. But, analysis blackout again, he attenuated it: “Of course, movies date so quickly. I saw ‘Streetcar’ the added day and it was already an ancient picture. Still, movies do accept the greatest potential. You can say important things to a lot of people. About bigotry and abhorrence and prejudice. I appetence to accomplish pictures that analyze the capacity accepted in the apple today. In agreement of entertainment. That’s why I’ve started my own absolute assembly company.” He accomplished out affectionately to feel “A Burst of Vermilion,” which will be the aboriginal calligraphy filmed by Pennebaker Productions—the absolute aggregation he has formed.
And did “A Burst of Vermilion” amuse him as a base for the affectionate of aerial aims he proposed?
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