Sunday, January 25, 2009


There are movie stars, and then there are actors: giants on both stage and screen who manage to captivate audiences with some kind of internal fire. We have three new biographies that focus on some of the most famous and powerful actors of their generation: Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Christopher Plummer.
They were all born within 5 years of each other, in three different countries, and they have left their own imprints on the craft of acting. Brando was born in Nebraska in 1924, Burton in a Welsh mining village in 1925, and Plummer was born in Toronto in 1929. Multiple wives, heavy drinking and explosive tempers added as much to the legendary auras of these three men as their acting skills. And, of course, for every Oscar-worthy performance and every classic stage play they have a corresponding clunker in their closet: Last Tango in Paris, Cleopatra and Star Trek VI. But hey, you need to make money for all those alimony payments.
The writing style of each book is somewhat different. Stefan Kanfer has produced a standard biography of Marlon Brando, with a bibliography & an index & a section of photos. Michael Munn's biography of Richard Burton is basically a collection of interviews and recollections from people who knew and worked with Burton. There are no photos whatsoever, although there is an index and list of Burton's plays and films. Plummer has written his own biography (or, to be precise, his autobiography), and he includes no index and the grainy photos are interspersed with the text.
"What does it matter if it has an index, or where the photos are?" I hear you ask. It doesn't matter, really. If you want to read about Richard Burton, the lack of photographs is a minor annoyance, not a hindrance. But if you're just browsing for a biography, little things like indexes and photos can hint at the quality of the work as a whole. Hint, hint...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog is terrific!

Here is the url for the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library if you would like to take a look: