It may well be the most outlandish road trip since the wheel was invented: a cross-country dash featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The trio reportedly took turns driving, with Brando allegedly fueling himself on a diet of junk food.
He was only an actor, and as he pointed out actors are no more than dishonest entertainers, frauds, pretenders, liars - he could be relentlessly hard on himself. But was it then any defence that he acted so seldom, that he had deserted the stage he had himself brought to life, or that he had come to regard movies with the hurt feelings of a Kong, hiding in his lair, unwilling to make a cheap spectacle of himself for those exploiting showmen? Why trust acting or films, he sometimes said, for these things emerge from the pit of our corruption.
The actor’s reputation as a bad boy had preceded him, stories of his nose-picking, shabby dress, foul language and grumbling interviews having traveled all the way from New York to Los Angeles. But, LIFE wrote, “however infantile or irresponsible Brando may be in his personal life, he is a totally conscientious artist in his work. Unlike some of Hollywood’s pretty people, he was never late on the set, never indulged in a tantrum, never required endless retakes.”
Brando had not yet made the cover of LIFE — a magazine that prided itself on capturing and reflecting the nations’ obsessions and interests, week after week after week.
Brando spent more than five years working with Costanza on schematic drawings. Production designer Jack Connor made custom drum parts. Then, in 2002, Brando was awarded the first of four patents for various parts of his design.
The Oscar-winning actor was also an amateur drummer and an inventor with four patents to his credit. Costanza says Brando was a regular reader of Scientific American magazine and had a seemingly endless stream of ideas.
During the 1940s, Warner Brothers bought the rights to Robert Lindner’s book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, and began turning it into a film. A partial script was written, and a 23-year old Marlon Brando was asked to do a five-minute screen test in 1947.
It was shocking to hear Marlon Brando, the acclaimed actor and champion of civil rights, invoke the anti-Semitic canard that "Hollywood is run by Jews, it is owned by Jews..." and blame Jews for exploiting stereotypes of minorities, "but we never saw the kike because they know perfectly well that's where you draw the wagons around."
While still in demand with the studios, Brando's success at the box office gradually began to decline, even as stories of his eccentricities and difficult on-set behavior grew to mythical proportions. Just as it seemed the actor would be relegated to the status of Hollywood has-been, Brando enjoyed an unprecedented career rebirth with his Oscar-winning portrayal of Don Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" (1972).
Was reportedly so broke he tried to land a job as a daytime TV presenter on the QVC shopping channel shortly before his death in a bid to boost his bank balance.
Far from the athletic figure he cut in his youth, Brando ballooned to enormous girth and his almost androgynous good looks suffered with his seeming indifference to his physical gifts. He also became known for his reclusive existence on the Tahitian island he purchased after filming "Mutiny on the Bounty," and, later in life, at his home above Beverly Hills.
Marlon Brando first made his name as an exponent of 'The Method', an acting style based on the teachings of Constantin Stanislavsky. Method acting rejected the traditional techniques of stagecraft in favor of an emotional expressiveness ideally suited to the angst-ridden atmosphere of postwar American society.
In the nearly 60 years since Marlon Brando first won acclaim, on Broadway and then in films, younger audiences came to know him as a tabloid curiosity, an overweight target for late-night comics, not as what he once was: a truly revolutionary presence who strode through American popular culture like lightning on legs.