Kevin Jackson

Not Just a Pretty Face

Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work


W W Norton 469pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

The alarm bell goes off in the middle of the subtitle: Brando’s ‘thought’? Who the heck is interested in Brando as a thinker? Few would question his right to be considered the most influential English-language actor of the 20th century, and many would concede that – neck and neck with Olivier? – he may well have been the greatest. To cite a few triumphs: One-Eyed Jacks, On the Waterfront, The Godfather, The Missouri Breaks. Yet even if Brando had been a mute inglorious Spinoza in his spare time, it would not have made a splinter of difference to his colossal gifts. Brando’s talent was akin to that of a great dancer, a great athlete, a great instrumental soloist, whose instrument was his entire body: he was fiercely intelligent, like a predatory animal, but not a systematic man of ideas. His was, if you like, a Shakespearean talent, rich in negative capability. And you don’t usually get that way by reading books.

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