Marlon Brando, Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American screen and stage actor.
Brando is widely regarded for bringing a gripping realism to film acting and is generally considered to have been one of the greatest and most influential actors of the 20th century. A cultural icon, Brando is most famous for his Oscar-winning performances as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), as well as influential performances in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), The Wild One (1953), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Last Tango in Paris (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979). Brando was also an activist, supporting many issues, notably the African-American Civil Rights Movement and various American Indian Movements.
He initially gained popularity for recreating the role of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a Tennessee Williams play that had established him as a Broadway star during its 1947–49 stage run; and for his Academy Award-winning performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954), as well as for his iconic portrayal of the rebel motorcycle gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild One (1953), which is considered to be one of the most famous images in pop culture. Brando was also nominated for the Oscar for playing Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata!; Mark Antony in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1953 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; and as Air Force Major Lloyd Gruver in Sayonara (1957), Joshua Logan’s adaption of James Michener’s 1954 novel. Brando made Top Ten Money Making Stars, as ranked by Quigley Publications’ annual survey of film exhibitors, three times in the decade, coming in at number 10 in 1954, number 6 in 1955, and number 4 in 1958.
Brando directed and starred in the cult western film One-Eyed Jacks which was released in 1961, after which he delivered a series of box-office failures beginning with 1962 film adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty. The 1960s proved to be a fallow decade for Brando, and after 10 years in which he did not appear in a commercially successful film, he won his second Academy Award for playing Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, a role critics consider among his greatest. The film, which became the most commercially successful film of all time when it was released—along with his Oscar-nominated performance as Paul in Last Tango in Paris—revitalized Brando’s career and re-established him in the ranks of top box-office stars, placing him at number 6 and number 10 in Top 10 Money Making Stars poll in 1972 and 1973, respectively.
Brando failed to capitalize on the momentum of his revitalized career, taking a long hiatus before appearing in The Missouri Breaks (1976). After this, he was content to be a highly paid character actor in parts which were glorified cameos in Superman (1978) and The Formula (1980) before taking a nine-year break from motion pictures. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brando was paid a record $3.7 million ($14,253,432 in today’s funds) plus 11.75% of the gross profits for 13 days work playing Jor-El in Superman, further adding to his mystique. He finished out the decade of the 1970s with his controversial performance as Colonel Walter Kurtz in another Coppola film, Apocalypse Now, a box-office hit for which he was highly paid and helped finance his career layoff during the 1980s.
Brando was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fourth greatest screen legend among male movie stars whose screen debuts occurred in or before 1950. Considered to be one of the most important actors in American cinema, Brando was one of only three professional actors, along with Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, named by Time magazine as one of its 100 Persons of the Century in 1999. He died on July 1, 2004 of respiratory failure at 80.