02/11/2009 01:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Brando Matters - An Audio Book Review

Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career
of Marlon Brando

Stefan Kanfer
Former Time Magazine writer and editor, author of Groucho, Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball


15 hours, 12 CDs, Unabridged

Blackstone Audio

Armando Duran,
Che Guevera: A Revolutionary Life

Most everything you ever wanted to know about Marlon Brando and his impact on acting and America from a journalist who covers all the bases.

A figure of profound importance. Before Brando, actors acted. After Brando, actors behaved, says director Michael Winner, who directed the actor in the 1977 bomb, Nightcomer - one of several bombs sprinkled throughout the extraordinary career of the man many believe to be the best American film actor of all time.

For proof, his admirers point to the breadth of his screen roles from brutes to effites and everything in-between: longshoreman Terry Malloy, On the Waterfront; iconic Johnny O'Keefe, The Wild One; brutish Stanley Kowlaski, Streetcar Named Desire; Mexican revolutionary, Viva Zapata; haughty Fletcher Christian, Mutiny on the Bounty; singing Sky Masterson, Guys and Dolls; eloquent Marc Anthony, Julius Caesar; and, of course, the guy who put father in The Godfather.

Then, there are those who dismiss the actor as
a mumbling, self-destructive, self-indulgent lout with no social boundaries and enourmous appetites for sex and food. It's all ventilated, successes and excesses, on these 12 discs delivered with appropriate resonance and assurity by narrator Armando Duran.

Writer Kanfer has put together a comprehensive broadband of everything ever written about, or by, the actor whose weight gain over the years became a metaphor for his out-of-control life. Kanfer's printed source material is impressive - his writing style, not so much with over-ripe lines like ".....iron filings to a Brando magnet.

But if you want all of Brando in one spot, this is where you go. Tidbits abound. Brando beat out Sinatra for On the Waterfront and Frank never forgot. Brando was the third choice for Stanley Kowalski. He turned down the lead in Lawrence of Arabia. He turned down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He replaced Harvey Keitel as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now. A gonorrhea specialist was flown to Tahiti because sex was so rampant during the filming of Mutiny. Sand had to be exported onto the pristine Tahitian beaches because the real stuff was too dark for the camera. Awesome.

Listeners go through Brando's Nebraska upbringing, his emotionally withholding father, all his ex-wives and affairs, his troubled children and their tragedies, and his notorious disdain for acting, dismissing his life's work as "facile mimicry." The man had serious issues.

There is no denying Brando's significant influence on America's youth - Elvis openly emulated Brando. No doubt about his impact on most every New York- based, Actors' Studio, Stanislavski-trained actor who followed, including James Dean and Paul Newman.

The take-away question from this biography is whether Marlon Brando's long, productive and profound impact was - primarily - a result of his epic character flaws, or that it happened in spite of them. Each listener will have to decide.

An all-inclusive biography of one of the 20th Century's most intriguing and pivitol actors.