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Marlon Brando, A Man of Our Times

Marlon Brando, A Man of Our Times

By Norma Sherry

Marlon Brando is dead. He was born in my parent's time yet he was the actor of our time. For many of us he defined our time. As an actor, he epitomized excellence, as a citizen, he was ruled by his conscience. I find myself with a knot in my throat and my eyes, misty as I lament the loss of this man, this actor.

He was a character and a newsmaker, even when he didn't try to be either. I remember him in A Streetcar Named Desire, ("Stella, Stella"), in On the Waterfront ("I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody"), in Mutiny on the Bounty, in the Manchurian Candidate, as Julius Caesar in Cleopatra, in The Godfather, in Apocalypse Now, in Last Tango in Paris (who will ever forget his, "pass the butter" line), as Superman's father, in Don Juan De Marco with the new young heart-throb, Johnny Depp. Without a doubt, as an actor he defined every role he ever played.

I will forever regret that I never got to meet him in person. What is it about people of notoriety that make us feel as if we know them? All we really know is that he was a man, a father, an actor, a man of great social conscience. We truly only know the persona we were allowed to glimpse. Yet, for many of us, we feel as if we have lost a part of us.

He was a beautiful young man with an exquisite body. From the beginning, he was an eccentric, a one of a kind. He made mumbling an art form. As an older man, he was exceedingly overweight, yet he even made that part and parcel of his character making us think there was something sinister or unknown even to us, the viewer. He loved his privacy and protected it vociferously. He seemed a tortured soul as if he never quite found true happiness. Surely, his life, as we know it, was rapt with sadness and disappointments. He survived his daughter, Cheyenne; he felt guilt and responsibility for his son's misguided life and subsequent arrest, trial, and imprisonment. He said as much on the stand in his son, Christian's trial in 1991. One can only surmise what might have been if the younger Brando's trial was in the days and times of Dream Teams.

As baby boomers, all around us are the signs of life passing by. Our parents are aging and our roles have reversed themselves. For many of us, we now are the caregivers, the parents. The legends of our times are departing leaving behind a void that can never be filled. Our world is changing rapidly and in so many frightening ways. It is times such as this that our hearts are stilled and we are given a moment to reflect on what was and what will be.

If we are to take anything from the loss of this man, Marlon Brando, let us take his courage to our hearts. Let us take his strong sentiments of right over wrong and undoing that which needs undoing. Marlon loudly proclaimed his disdain for our mistreatment of our American Indian brethren. He detested the oppression of others. He put his feelings and concerns on the line and in the American consciousness whenever the opportunity arose. We are in times that require we step up to the plate and make our voices heard. Each and every one of us can make a difference - we don't need to be a person of notoriety to affect those around us.

Let us honor his memory by replicating his loud and boisterous concerns for our world. Marlon Brando, we shall miss you.


© Norma Sherry 2004

Norma Sherry is co-founder of, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer and host of television program, The Norma Sherry Show, on WQXT-TV, Florida.

Email Norma:

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