Monday, 15 June 2015

Truman Capote`s The Duke in his Domain

In 1957, Marlon Brando was staying at the Miyako Hotel in Japan with his entourage, his father Marlon Senior, a secretary and a writing companion.  Truman Capote was charged with interviewing him for The New Yorker.  Brando, at the height of his fame, was in Japan to film Sayonara.  Brando brought his entourage with him:  his father, Marlon Senior, his secretary and his writing companion.  According to someone in the entertainment business, the film company foot the bill because this picture just had to have a star.  Sequestered in his hotel room, the famous actor had to don a disguise just to go out in public.  Such was not always the case.

Ten years earlier, Truman Capote had first interviewed Brando on the set of the play A Streetcar Named Desire.  He was just starting to make a name for himself.  In his blue jeans and his white t-shirt he looked a lot like James Dean.  Both played the role of the rebel:  they rode motorcycles, played the bongo drums and dressed rowdy.  Brando sported a Charles Atlas figure at the time.  When not rehearsing for A Streetcar Named Desire he could be found in the basement boxing.  It was there that he broke his nose.  Irene Selznick said the injury gave him sex appeal.  He looked too beautiful before.

According to Brando, he didn`t always want to be a star.  But after two months of doing A Streetcar Named Desire, he heard the roar -- and he was hooked.  He started to dream of being the next Spencer Tracy or Cary Grant.  His star rose rather quickly with parts in movies like Viva Zapata!, The Wild One, Julius Caesar, On the Waterfront and Guys and Dolls.  He could account for a movie`s success at the box office, regardless of the quality of the film, according to an industry expert.

But as Marlon Brandon complained to Truman Capote in the Miyako Hotel, Too much success can ruin you as surely as too much failure.  He struggled with excess:  he smoked too many cigarettes and overindulged in food.  Even though he was on a diet, he ordered beefsteak and French-fried potatoes and spaghetti from room service when Truman Capote interviewed him.  Brandon wanted to get married and start a family, but admitted that he had trust issues.  He seemed to have an affinity for children, showing a special interest in the Japanese children he met while on location.

After the interview, Truman Capote walked the streets of the Japanese city.  It was so late that the cabanas were shuttered and the only people out were the drunks and the red light ladies and a ragged musician.  All of a sudden the writer spotted Brandon, 60 feet tall, splashed on a billboard for The Teahouse of August Moon.  It was a spectacular ending to a first rate piece.

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