Thursday, July 08, 2004


“You know, we haven’t said anything about the passing of Marlon Brando to another plane of existence.” Raven smears butter on the top of his cinnamon roll, and nudges it into the toaster oven.

Another plane, huh? It’s true, the last time I saw him he could’ve filled most of the seats on a 727.

“This is not the moment for word games and sarcasm. He was a great actor, and I will miss him.” Raven is watching the butter melt on the roll and run down into the pan and burn.

I hope you’re planning on cleaning the drip pan, Rave. I hate those little burnt butter crusts.

“Not sure I see an apron in my future, but I thank you for buying the toaster. Now I can dunk fresher breads in my coffee.”

Where were you when I was lugging it back from Tuxtepec on the bus—it and a morral full of groceries—with a religious fanatic shouting in my ear?

“I was grieving the passing of an almost immortal actor. With candles. Who could ever forget, ‘Cha-ly, Cha-ly, I coulda bin a contenda’ in the back of that old car with Rod Steiger in ON THE WATERFRONT?”

Okay. I’ll get in the spirit. I will personally never forget “You scum-suckin’ pig” from ONE EYED JACKS, Brando’s one directorial effort. “Gob of spit” was pretty good, too. I had a very offbeat boyfriend from Walnut Grove, Mississippi, when I was at university—J.L. and I used to go to the drive-ins in the Seattle area whenever they showed ONE EYED JACKS, with a jug of vodka and a box of antibiotic lozenges, and wait to say those famous lines along with Brando.

“Geez, nothing like trivializing a great star. Some of these coconut threads on the top of the roll burned. Think I’ll use the lower rack position next time.”

Trivial! Your food obsession isn’t trivial?

“I’m sorry. I really am. Remember ‘What are you rebelling against, Johnny?’ And Brando says, ‘Whadda ya got?’ in THE WILD ONE.”

That was what we call a cheap shot. A good cheap shot. What he did with his eyes in VIVA ZAPATA was really silly, though. He was always up to some gimmick like that, or the chewed-up paper in his jaws in THE GODFATHER.

“He did something funny with his eyes in TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON, too, as I remember.”

That turkey! Excuse me, guy, I know I am not suppose to call things turkeys or say that people are crazy as loons, but sometimes they just slip out. TEAHOUSE had to be one of the worst pictures he ever made. Worse than THE APALOOSA—which at least had nice camera work.

“Well, he did start telling everybody he was only making movies for the money right about that time.”

And talk about silly lines and racist caricatures! When he gave that idiotic grin and said “Socks up, boss”. What an insult to Japanese people!

“I see your point. It was maybe a little too soon after Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be in impeccably good taste, but I sort of liked his Sakini character. There was something about him that was, I don’t know….”

Tricky. That’s what he was. And that’s why you liked him in the part. Because he was like you when you’re up to something devious.

“Maybe. But you could never top that scene in LAST TANGO IN PARIS where he talks to his dead wife in the casket in that cheap hotel with all those flowers around her.”

Probably not. No one but Brando could eat that many hortensias and survive to dance the tango with Maria Schneider.

“Are you saying he over-acted that scene?”

Let’s just say that one of the things Brando did exceptionally well was to chew scenery. He could do that Method Mumble to perfection—the high point probably coming in APOCALYPSE NOW. Don’t get me wrong, Rave—Brando was great. Two of his films are in my all-time Top Ten list. But with that Socks up, Boss routine he went way beyond over-acting into just plain mugging. And he was almost always on the edge of doing that. That was another unique aspect of Brando—he could distance himself from the character he was playing—even poke fun at the character he was playing-- and still convince us of his acting skill.

“As if he was both actor and film critic?”

Raven doesn’t look too convinced.

Maybe. Let’s put it this way—John Ford and Marlon Brando fascinated me in the 50s, inclined me to think about film and its relationship to reality. That’s one of the things film criticism does—sometimes. They did not incline me to be a director or an actor, however.

“Geez, that was pompous. Is that your final word?”

No. My final words are: WASH THE DRIP PAN, RAVE!

“And mine are: Socks WAY WAY up for Marlon Brando, THE actor of the 20th century.”

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