MARLON BRANDO – FATSO
Morella and Segers back again with more dish on Marlon Brando and his weight problems.
By the 1960’s when Brando was in his 40’s he took to wearing a poncho in hot weather to conceal his by then flabby body.
In Brando’s autobiography (“Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me,” written with Robert Lindsey), the actor writes that he developed a love of fattening foods because “when I was a kid, I’d come home from school to find my mother gone and the dishes in the sink. I’d feel low and open the icebox, and there would be an apple pie, along with some cheese, and the pie would say: ‘C’mon, Marlon, take me out. I’m freezing in here. Be a pal and take me out, and bring out Charlie Cheese, too.’ Then I’d feel less lonely.”
Well documented is Brando’s girth upon arriving in the Philippines to shoot his memorable cameo in Francis Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”
Eleanor Coppola’s “Notes,” the director’s wife’s book about the making of the film, records the shock of the director and crew at how overweight Brando was. Considerable measures were made necessary to conceal his girth during the shooting. One estimate is that he weighed 250 pounds minimum at the time. No wonder Brando as the unhinged Colonel Kurtz is photographed from the neck up in darkly lit scenes.
By this time, Brando was 55, and the die was cast for the rest of his life. He was apparently resigned to his obesity much as another cinematic figure — also declared a genius very early in his career – was in his final years.
“Think of Orson Welles,” author David Thomson has said, “a midwesterner too, who lost his mother when he was nine, an orphan by sixteen, brilliant, far smarter than Brando. And somehow when he had ‘Citizen Kane’ on one arm and Rita Hayworth on the other, he ate himself to a size where he could not always get out of a limousine.”
At least Welles had the excuse that he dined on irresistible haut cuisine served in Europe for much of his middle career. By contrast, stories abounded that Brando late in his life would arrange to have sacks full of McDonald’s cheeseburgers delivered to his rambling, multi-structure spread high in the Hollywood Hills.
The only conclusion we can reach about all this: put a highly self-indulgent genius, a taste for the most un-nutritious food and, most importantly, no one around to say “no” and mean it, it’s a wonder Brando made it to 80. The cause of his death was reported as respiratory failure compounded by congestive heart failure, diabetes and liver cancer.
Still in all, fat or not, Brando left an enormous mark. As Joe and co-author Edward Z. Epstein wrote in their 1971 book, “Rebels: The Rebel Hero in Films,” the actor’s “impact as a rebel and as a movie star was so great that no other actor of the fifties and sixties could escape comparison.”
YESTERDAY’S PIC: Brando the hunk. Today’s photo shows the more mature actor. We just couldn’t bear to run a picture of the really obese Marlon Brando. Let’s remember him in one of his 50’s films, shall we?