Marlon Brando, Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American movie star and political activist. “Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema” according to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, 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.
Brando had a significant impact on film acting, and was the foremost example of the “method” acting style. While he became notorious for his “mumbling” diction and exuding a raw animal magnetism, his mercurial performances were nonetheless highly regarded, and he is widely considered as one of the greatest and most influential actors of the 20th century. Director Martin Scorsese said of him, “He is the marker. There’s ‘before Brando’ and ‘after Brando’.” Actor Jack Nicholson once said, “When Marlon dies, everybody moves up one.” He was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fourth greatest screen legend among male movie stars.
An enduring cultural icon, Brando became a box office star during the 1950s, during which time he racked up five Oscar nominations as Best Actor, along with three consecutive wins of the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He initially gained popularity for recreating the role as 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! (1952); Mark Antony inJoseph 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.
He won his second Academy Award for playing Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), a role critics consider among his greatest.
He finished out the decade of the 1970s with his highly controversial performance as Colonel Walter Kurtz in another Coppola film, Apocalypse Now (1979).