Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando said in 1976, ‘Like a large number of men … I too have had homosexual experiences and am not ashamed.  I’ve never paid attention to what people had said about me’.  As his biographer adds, ‘For years, rumours linked him with novelist James Baldwin; actors Wally Cox, Christian Marquand, and others; and even Leonard Bernstein and Gore Vidal’.  There were also, famously, rumours of a photograph doing the rounds: ‘a close-up of Brando, his young profile recognizable, with his lips wrapped around an erect penis’.  While still at school, not only did he have a younger male lover, but he also had more casual sexual encounters with his fellow cadets.  While Tennessee Williams was working on The Glass Menagerie in Provincetown in 1945, Brando drifted into town and took lodgings in the cottage of a homosexual bartender, Clayton Snow.  Although gossip about their relationship has never been substantiated, Snow did once claim to have been fellated by Brando when they were both drunk after a beach party.  Later, when Brando was playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, the role of the young collector was taken over by the openly homosexual actor Sandy Campbell, lover of the writer Donald Windham and a good friend of such homosexual luminaries as Montgomery Clift, Tallulah Bankhead, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal.  Brando propositioned him, and although the detail of what ensued is not known, they were subsequently often seen holding hands in the wings.
At about this time, Brando also got to know Carl Van Vechten and Truman Capote.  Capote observed that Brando used to sleep with many men who were attracted to him, on the grounds that, in his own words, ‘I just thought that I was doing them a favor’.  He gives the impression of having passed through many hands in a spirit of Candidean wonder.  Jean Cocteau helped to make his reputation in France.  He wanted Brando to go there to reprise his role as Kowalski in French; a proposal by which the actor was strongly tempted, but which he eventually declined.  Much of his career – to an extent, like those of many film stars – was determined by such instances of sexual attraction.  According to Maria Schneider, his co-star on Last Tango in Paris, she and Brando and the film’s director Bernardo Bertolucci got on together extremely well, precisely because all three of them were bisexual.  When Ingmar Bergman saw the completed film, he read it as the narrative of an affair between an older and a younger man.  In his opinion, Bertolucci had not had the courage to cast a boy in the role that then went to Schneider.  There is no reason to suppose that Brando would not have been happy to appear in such a version of the film; it could hardly have been much more controversial than the version they did make.

[Source: Peter Manso, Brando: The Biography (NY: Hyperion, 1994)]

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