Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando” as Want to Read:
Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  293 Ratings  ·  35 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Somebody, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Somebody

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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
Apr 08, 2012 Melinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Jan 17, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Extremely good bio and analysis of a troubled, talented soul. Very well written. And I hardly ever read books about movie stars.
Apr 13, 2015 L'aura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios
It's very hard to keep my thoughts on Brando separated from my thoughts on the book. I can't quite put a finger on how accurate it is since it's the first I read on him, but meanwhile I'd read articles and another bio thingy (Sophia Loren's autobiography, which is what made me curious about Brando in the first place) and in those I found additional information, some contradicting those that were in this very book: for instance, was Monty Clift his rival, his friend or-wait for it-his lover? Did ...more
Dec 10, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On early Brando:
Kirk Douglas:"I went up for a part in Truckline. I didn't get it. Bitter, I went to see the play, watched another actor play my role. I loved the first two acts-he was terrible. I congratulated myself on how much better I would have been. Suddenly, in the third act, he erupted, electrifying the audience. I thought, 'My God, he's good!' and looked in the programme for his name: Marlon Brando."
John Huston, after a screening:""Christ! It was like a furnace door opening-the heat came
Feb 02, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2013 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 07, 2009 Bart rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 20, 2012 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
Apr 22, 2011 Bixbi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 12, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Fair and well-written biography of one of the great actors of the 20th century, someone who pushed the art form forward even as he held contempt for the film business. Brando was an intelligent man but ultimately rather shallow in his personal life, someone who could never seem to get out of his own way in order to fulfill what could have been a more serious legacy.

-3 stars-
Mar 07, 2009 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 03, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting story about the actor, the time, and the journey of the human spirit as it tries to overcome the weight it inherits from the world. Some of the best writing I've read in a while.
Oct 20, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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.
Sep 28, 2010 David rated it really liked it
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.
Nannie Bittinger
Oct 12, 2009 Nannie Bittinger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and debunks a lot of the sensationalism of others about this very talented tormented soul.
Oct 09, 2016 Kay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-biographies
This book is utter crap! The detail kill's it. you only find out about him as a adult near the end.
I liked the pictures though.
Oct 17, 2009 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 20, 2013 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 22, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise, well-researched, compulsive read: Kanfer thinks Brando's self destructive, self-loathing streak was the key to his talent.
Apr 03, 2009 Seth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Alex J.  Mann
Alex J. Mann rated it it was amazing
Jan 01, 2014
Mike rated it it was amazing
May 05, 2010
Jimmy Uldbjerg
Jimmy Uldbjerg rated it really liked it
Nov 19, 2014
Jared Harris
Jared Harris rated it liked it
Jul 22, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • David Lynch: Beautiful Dark
  • Iron Man and Philosophy: Facing the Stark Reality
  • An Improvised Life
  • Conversations With Scorsese
  • The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies
  • Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film
  • Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson
  • Songs My Mother Taught Me
  • Images: My Life in Film
  • Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder
  • Steve McQueen: A Biography
  • Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach
  • Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers
  • It's Only a Movie: A Personal Biography of Alfred Hitchcock
  • If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth
  • Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him
  • The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice
  • The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe
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...

Share This Book