Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer. – Vito Corleone
This is my second portrait of Brando, the first being a commission for a high-ranking Army officer I knew, who I knew to be a pleasant gentleman, but was sometimes hoarse from bossing weekend soldiers around on Saturdays. I accepted the general’s commission, so “don’t call me ‘Sir’ – I work for a living!” (As the cliché in Army movies goes.) He wanted me to push limits and even court controversy (moi?). “I want to see Marlon Brando crucified like Jesus Christ!” he barked, assuming the position. But I don’t like to make assumptions, and the Brando-martyr figure had already been done (Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now), so I opted instead for a pose from a scene in “Last Tango in Paris”, in which the subject, dressed as Stanley Kowalski, is reclining in bed and playing his harmonica, on the planet Krypton.
When I saw “Last Tango in Paris” in a student union in Cincinnati in 1975, the police, opining that the film was not wholesome enough for public consumption, cleared the theater, confiscated the film and arrested the projectionist. They repeated the procedure in subsequent weeks starting with “A Clockwork Orange” and followed by “Midnight Cowboy” and “Straw Dogs”. The poor projectionist was a quiet and unassuming 20-year old Jewish kid who loved movies and now had three arrests on his record.
In time, the misunderstanding was cleared up by Cincinnati’s mayor, Jerry Springer (yes, THAT Jerry Springer) and all three movies were re-screened for those of us who were waiting in suspense to find out what ever happened to the films’ main characters: Paul, Alex, and David or Ratso. (Sounds like a rock band, no?) Two of them were played by Dustin Hoffman, and one of those died on a bus on the way to Florida.