Playwright Tennessee Williams dies after choking on a bottle cap in New York City, 1983. His work on the silver screen was uneven—a hit like Baby Doll (1956) often offset by a dud like Boom! (1968). Perhaps the best film version of any of his stories is A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), though the Broadway play was tamed considerably to appease the hilariously named Catholic League of Decency. The Production Code censors also raised a stink, requiring 68 changes to be made from the New York staging. Despite not all of the dialogue making it to Hollywood, Marlon Brando and eight other members of the original Broadway cast did, with Jessica Tandy, who played Blanche DuBois, the major exception. The producers wanted a bigger box office draw and instead hired Vivien Leigh for the role. Although Williams considered the final film “slightly marred by the Hollywood ending,” he was generally happy with the outcome.
Entries in marlon brando (9)
Frank Sinatra dies in Los Angeles, 1998. When it came time to make Guys and Dolls (1955), Sinatra lobbied hard for the part of Sky Masterson, which instead went to non-singer Marlon Brando; Sinatra ended up with the smaller role of Nathan Detroit. The two men did not get along during the shoot, with Sinatra referring to Brando as “Mumbles” and Brando reportedly flubbing a scene in which Sinatra eats cheesecake over and over again so that Sinatra would get sick of it. In adapting the Broadway show for film, three numbers were added, including "Adelaide," sung by Sinatra. To further increase his singing role, the actor was also included in the title tune. Brando, on the other hand, was at the mercy of audio editors, who had to patch his songs together from multiple takes.
Steve Reeves dies of complications from lymphoma in Escondido, California, 2000. "I only did two Hercules films,” the actor and bodybuilder once remarked about his most famous role, “but everyone seems to think I did ten." He made a total of 19 films; none were exactly classics, nor were his acting chops any threat to Marlon Brando, or even Sonny Tufts. But film is, of course, a visual medium, and on that front, he delivered with a handsome face and beautifully muscled physique, often scantily clad. The former Mr. Universe had small parts in Athena (1954) and Jail Bait (1954) before an Italian director named Pietro Francisci discovered him and put him in Hercules (1958). The film was a moneymaker and kicked off a series of cheap sword-and-sandals movies starring Reeves, none of which featured his real speaking voice.
A film like The Defiant Ones was merely an inadequate attempt by a white filmmaker to deal with a contemporary problem. James Baldwin has been very critical of me, and though it hurt, what he said is true. He said I captured all the intellectual and moral viewpoints of my age but didn’t capture the soul of the black man. Well, who the hell does he think I am? I’m not black. The fact is that I am a white man who made films about human beings who happened to be black. I understood the problems of black men and women morally, socially and intellectually, but the damn soul kept slipping between my fingers. It had to be spoon-fed to me secondhand because I didn’t feel it or know it enough.
There are so many areas into which I’ve stepped under the umbrella of what is sometimes amusingly called the Establishment, Hollywood style. The reason I’m defensive about my films is that sometimes—just to get the job done—not enough of the artist and too much of the political tactician and social worker prevailed. That’s where my area of sensitivity is. It’s just like undressing in front of you and saying, “Well, look, this is where I’m vulnerable. Stab me there.”
I’ve always been what is laughingly called an independent. I say “laughingly” because latitude is comparative. I have usually had some latitude when casting, something I enjoy doing, but sometimes the distributor screams that you have to do something. The Defiant Ones was written for Brando and Poitier. But Brando got tied up in Mutiny on the Bounty. I wanted to go with Poitier and a new actor, but United Artists said, “You’re chaining two guys together and one of them is black. You’ve got to give us some stars.”
At the time I approached Lancaster, Douglas, Mitchum. You know, I went down a lot of the guys. It needed to be a pretty big guy opposite Poitier. Time went by and we just couldn’t wait, so I ended up with Tony Curtis. Now, that didn’t seem to be a particularly brilliant piece of casting to anyone, including me, but I couldn’t get anybody else to play the role. I cut Tony’s hair, we straightened his nose. I think he did very well with the role, but it certainly wasn’t written for him.
Ursula Andress is born in Bern, Switzerland, 1936. No actress she, Andress was at least able to move her arms and legs and looked darned good doing it. She was primarily a sexy side dish, bringing a dull vivaciousness to 4 for Texas (1963), What’s New Pussycat? (1965) and Casino Royale (1967). Most notably, she emerged from the sea in a bikini in Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond movie to hit the silver screen, playing Honey Ryder opposite Sean Connery’s double agent. Cinema’s first Bond girl also had a long history of famous beaus, Jean Paul Belmondo, Ryan O’Neal, Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty among them. James Dean was another notch on her belt; the volatile nature of their relationship inspired one tabloid to report that Dean was learning German so they could argue in another language.