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Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
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Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  198 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Stefan Kanfer, acclaimed biographer of Lucille Ball and Groucho Marx, now gives us the definitive life of Marlon Brando, seamlessly intertwining the man and the work to give us a stunning and illuminating appraisal. Beginning with Brando’s turbulent childhood, Kanfer follows him to New York where he made his star-making Broadway debut as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Nam ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2008)
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Andrewh
It is hard to justify the blurb's characterisation of this book as a 'definitive' book on Brando (there are dozens of others, of course, including Peter Manso's 1000-page monster), but it is certainly a well-written roadmap through a bizarre and extraordinary life. Brando is probably the most influential actor in the history of Hollywood (Streetcar, Waterfront, Godfather, Last Tango, Apocalypse Now) and also made more outright turkeys than any other leading actor (almost everything in the 1960s ...more
Melinda
I don't read many celebrity biographies, but this was a decent and fair look at an infuriating and fascinating subject. Literate, too; there were words in here that I didn't know, so it's written above the standard tabloid journalism. This has made me want to watch the good Brando films again.
Robert
Kanfer seems to have poured over all available research resources that include books and articles by and about Brando and interviews of those who were associated with him at various points in his life and career as well as any other relevant historical material that would help to establish a frame-of-reference for dominant influences and major developments in Brando's "reckless life and remarkable career." Kanfer offers a wealth of insights into Brando's most significant and invariably dysfuncti ...more
Kim
I thought Kanfer`s Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando was very articulate and well written. It is obvious that a lot of research went into the writing of this book. However, my problem is that it was way too depressing and centred more around the recklessness than the remarkable. I could hardly read from chapter to chapter without feeling total despair and impending doom lurking around every corner. On one hand, one could say, well, the truth is the truth. Nonethe ...more
Jeff
This book deals mainly with each of the films that Marlon Brando made throughout his career. It does get in some detail about his personal life. Brando was an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (so am I) his Mother spent his entire childhood drunk and his Father was a critical tyrant. Consequently Brando’s self-esteem from childhood on into adulthood suffered.

Knowing what this experience is like I have a lot of compassion for Brando and can understand his feelings of never being good enough, not able t
...more
Bart
This book is a well-reported specimen, but little more recommends it. If you know Marlon Brando as no more than a name and Vito Corleone, Somebody is a good place to start.

Much of this is rehashed and borrowed from the numerous other biographies and exposes of Brando, which is fine. It is a little awkward whenever author Stefan Kanfer goes the psychoanalytic route. It reads like something one might expect in a promotional spot on the “Oprah” set, but there we are.

It is not entirely Kanfer’s faul
...more
Robert Taylor
Stefan Kanfer wrote a detailed run through of Brando's life, which is almost impossible to mess up, considering all the amazing stories he lived through. Kanfer does has a tendency to lose track a bit in his storytelling, digressing into other stories sometimes, but what I most felt when finishing this book was MORE character study, including a lot more quotes. I didn't feel there were enough quotes. Somehow after reading Kanfer's biography, Brando remains a mystery to me. But maybe that's just ...more
Michael
The book was more even and fair than many other Brando biographies. Any criticisms I have are more toward some shoddy family research and a lack of some easily available public information. (example: Rebecca is not Tarita's daughter as he mentions a few times. And that Dad [Sam Gilman] isn't mentioned at all even though it's in the public record that Marlon, Dad and Wally Cox had their ashes spread together. Dad also appeared in many movies with Marlon starting with his first, "The Men.") Minor ...more
Ali
I appreciate a biographer who can present the facts of a person's life, theorize on the holes, and remain unbiased. Kanfer does an excellent job of that. While I consider myself a Brando aficionado, I learned a few things I didn't know (one of the more notable things can be found at the top of page 207--tell me you didn't laugh aloud when you read it!), and got more in-depth into points that I was already familiar with.
K. Euler
A well written account of a complex man. It begins with accounts of his youth growing up with an alcoholic mother and charts his developing career. The author claims there was acting before Brando and after Brando: Marlon revolutionized the art (though he would be loathe to call it that). As a huge Godfather fan, my favorite sections were the ones dealing with the film. It was an enjoyable read that I'm sure I'll return to.
Brian
Finished this a while ago, as well.. made me want to netflix (if I can verb that noun :)) all of Brando's early movies... the boo started well, and does an excellent job with Brando's early career and success, but much like its subject, gets lost and meanders in the middle and end. Not even the discussion of Apocalypse Now rescues the latter half of the book.
Eric
Apparently, Marlon had a very sad life. He loved too many women too much of the time, plus he didn't care about acting at all. His kids were a mess. He thought everything was a joke. The sad thing is that he was probably a genius. What I learned from this book was that Marlon was too smart for the film community.
Kenny
The story was OK, but I got lost a lot on so many tangents. It was a bit hard to follow.
David
Immensely gifted actor bursts on to the scene, changes his profession and then, with one or two triumphs that are almost immediately disowned or disavowed, proceeds to systematically squander his gifts for over 40 years.
Chris
I think Marlon Brando represents the turning point in movie acting. Actors are either before or after Brando like guitar players are either before or after Jimi Hendrix. But you sure wouldn't want to be him.
Richard
Marlon Brando was a complex person...Watched "On the Waterfront" again after reading this...Yeah, he was a good actor...but he created a lot of heartache but his lack of maturity and discipline.
Tim
As a Brando fan, I was disappointed to learn the inside story of his irresponsible and ultimately depressing and uninteresting life. A chatty, mediocre effort.
Seth
I'm pleased to read a Brando biography that is not tabloid-y and does not lose sight of his humanity. The book feels too short for someone of his stature, however.
Linda
Learned many new, interesting facts about Brando's life but became a bit disgruntled with the author's frequent psychoanalysis of what made Brando tick.
Matt
A concise, well-researched, compulsive read: Kanfer thinks Brando's self destructive, self-loathing streak was the key to his talent.
Jim
Extremely good bio and analysis of a troubled, talented soul. Very well written. And I hardly ever read books about movie stars.
Nannie Bittinger
Very interesting and debunks a lot of the sensationalism of others about this very talented tormented soul.
Nathan Rabin
Marlon Brando could have been somebody. He could have been a champ. Instead he was a bum.
Barbara
excellent bio -but also a great cultural and political history of the U.S. from the 30's to present
Papillon
Loved reading this book. It seemed to be pretty fair sided and well researched.
Ellen
Oh Brando. Such an interesting and emotionally crippled man.
Catriona
Jan 26, 2009 Catriona rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like movies
Duuude, this was kind of depressing, but kind of fascinating also.
Ashley
Honestly this book was so factual and boring and whatever.
Daniel Timms
Daniel Timms marked it as to-read
Jan 25, 2015
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Stefan Kanfer is the author of fifteen books, including the bestselling biographies of show business icons: GROUCHO; BALL OF FIRE (Lucille Ball); SOMEBODY (Marlon Brando); and TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN (Humphrey Bogart). He has also written many social histories, among them THE LAST EMPIRE, about the De Beers diamond company, and STARDUST LOST, an account of the rise and fall of the Yiddish Theater in N ...more
More about Stefan Kanfer...
Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart The Last Empire: de Beers, Diamonds, and the World The Eskimo Hunts in New York

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