Danger is the most important essence an actor can bring to the stage because it is nigh impossible to capture.  The most dangerous actor in the history of the American Theatre is Marlon Brando.


When Brando walked onto a live stage, you never knew if he was going to hit someone, start crying or begin a war within himself.  Every single second of him on stage seethed with rage and heartache.

Brando was always exploding and self-destructing and you loved every living moment of torment he created just for you in a moment never to be had again beyond the stage lights; you could not peel your eyes from Brando on a live stage because you feared for your fourth wall safety. 

Brando preternaturally brought tension, conflict and threats to the stage and that is why we always love and admire how he singlehandedly changed the landscape of American acting.  His danger transformed our every expectation.

Have there been other American actors who carried the same sense of danger and threatening on stage with them?  No.  Not Anthony Quinn or James Coburn or Jack Palance Robert De Niro or Al Pacino or even James Dean.  None of them could touch the danger in Brando.

In 1947, Marlon Brando found international stardom in the Ethel Barrymore theatre starring on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in the world debut of Tennessee Williams’ play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” 

Unfortunately, like so many American stage actors before him — and since him — once Hollywood called, Marlon never again returned to the live stage.  At the age of 23, and with the rest of our lives ahead of him, Brando abandoned the theatre forever to become a movie star.

The American stage has yet to recover from the loss of Marlon Brando on a live stage — and yet we’ll never be the same without him.

13 Comments

  1. I only saw the Hollywood version of A Streetcar Named Desire made in 1951 with said Marlon Brando. I wonder how different the two versions were. (I wonder if anyone who has seen both has gone on to write about the experience… online.)

  2. I have only seen Marlon Brando in movies but I think I know what you are talking about David, Indian theatre also witnessed lot of powerful losses like this. But fortunately there are movie-actors who still enjoy working in theatre…may be the desire is too powerful to overcome.
    I also think acting on stage and in screen demand two different style, fulfilling the two at the same time might be tough…

  3. Acting on the stage is much harder and more demanding than the movies. You have 8 live performances a week on Broadway and the whole production is set up to make a weekly profit only on that 8th show all the other shows go to pay the weekly nut. If you’re sick — and if you’re the star of the show — people can get their money back if you don’t perform. The live theatre is a big risk for everyone. In the movies, you can take breaks and do re-shoots and wait until you get the perfect take.