Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Marlon Brando: Reflections in a golden sty
Many artists are instantly recognized by the mere mention of a word or catchphrase. Jerry Lewis screams "LAAAAAAAAAAAA-DY!" Marty Allen greets the world with, "Hello, dere!" Everyone was Tallulah Bankhead's "Daaahhling." What would Bobby Bittman be without his "How are ya'"?
Marlon Brando's box office bravura afforded him the unique ability to retool the work of quality (or not) screenwriters. Years before he morphed into one, Brando foresaw his literal and figurative transformation into America's biggest actor through his self-reflexive insistence on working "pig" dialog into his repartee. After an exhaustive (and exhausting) Brando marathon, I am at last prepared to publish my initial findings in the form of a cheap Top Ten list.
Starting at the bottom, the ancient, sticky at the sides Image Entertainment Laserdisc copy of Michael Winner's The Nightcomers stressed the reconditioned laser player almost as much as it did me. Striking "pig" pay dirt on side two inspired me to move forward, defiantly!
Stops on the pilgrimage to the eye of Brando's swine hurricane yielded several pig-less, but nonetheless piggish performances.
The third cue mark in Guys and Dolls found me wanting to extricate a few teeth with a pair of pliers by way of distraction. In the interest of cinema, science and self preservation, I began substituting "doll" with "pig." Once the transition, and a bale of Goodfellas kush, took hold, I was able to plow through the other seven reels of Joe Mankiewicz's monumentally arid, under-conceived, and over-stylized clothes-lining of a great Broadway show.
The trail of "pig" talk led me to a rigorous examination of Eddie Dmytryk's all-star Third Reich romp The Young Lions (1958). While the word never crosses Marlon's lips, it was the thought that counted when a two-bit Parisian starlet, never to be heard from again, spat it in his face.
A pair of "pigs" await in the Technicolor production, Mutiny on the Bounty, directed by Lewis Milestone, Carol Reed, John Huston, Billy Wilder, David Lean (rumored), George Seaton, Fred Zinnemann, and whoever else happened to be on the MGM lot that week looking to pick up a paycheck.
After days of sniffing without so much as one truffle, I sought refuge by scanning through the poetic "pig" prose of such familiar childhood favorites as Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now, and One-Eyed Jacks. Tango, a porcine paradise, has more "pigs" than there are Bacons under the opening credits.
After days of debilitating research, I am proud to share with you, in preferential order, my findings.
10.) The Young Lions (1958)
At a Parisian cafe, handsome Hun Marlon shares a glass of wine with fellow goose-stepper, Mayberry regular, and the man who trained Fuller's White Dog, Parley Baer, blond bimbo Dora Doll, and her resistance worker galpal, Liliane Montevecchi. When Ms. Montevecchi asks how many Frenchmen he killed for the cause, the peroxided Brando says, "If I have to sacrifice a few lives for peace, I vill do it." Before spilling her glass of vino, Ms. Montevecchi stands, locks gazes with Brando and declares, "Now I have seen a pig up close."
9.) Apocalypse Now (1979)
During one of his brilliant improvised monologues as Col. Kurtz, Brando muses, "We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army."
8.) This one doesn't come from a screenwriter. Let's call it one of Marlon's personal manifestos: "I have eyes like those of a dead pig."
7.) Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
The first great squeal. In Streetcar at the dinner table, as Stanley desecrates a chicken, angry Stella protests that "Mr. Kowalski has been too busy making a pig of himself..." And then Stan the Man, first clearing his side of the table like Hitler taking Poland, delicately remarks that certain words "have been used too much around here. Pig. Polack. Disgusting. Vulgar. Greasy....."
6.) Last Tango in Paris (1973) #1
Addressing his dead wife: "You're worse than the dirtiest street pig anybody could find, and you know why? You know why? Because you lied."
5.) The Nightcomers (1972)
Brando picks a Winner! In a pathetic attempt to keep their S&M relationship alive, a pervy Marlon asks school teacher Stephanie Beacham to live with him. Matching him pig for pig she grunts, "To live with you in your pigsty?" After a beat, and in his best Moe Howard he grunts, "I'll give you a pigsty" before proceeding to pimpslap her silly. Go to 6:00 for a "pig" and a poke.
4.) Last Tango in Paris (1973) #2
From a dialog scene between Marlon and the always up for everything Maria Schneider:
Brando: I'm gonna get a pig...and I'm...I'm gonna have the pig f#@k you. I want the pig to vomit in your face and I want you to swallow the vomit. Are you gonna do that for me?
Brando: I want the pig to die while...while you're f#@king him. Then you'll have to go behind him. I want you to smell the dying farts of the pig. Are you gonna do all of that for me?
Schneider: Yes, and more than that!
Brando: And worse!
3.) One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
One of the all-time great Brando-isms: "Get up! Get up, you scum suckin' pig!" Find it at 1:44:55.
2.) Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
What better way to kick off a mutiny than with a pair of back-to-back "pigs?" After having had a bellyful of breadfruit, Marlon takes the gloves off and turns on Captain Bligh: "You remarkable pig. You can thank whatever pig God you pray to that you haven't quite turned me into a murderer."
Don't have the patience to sit through a 179 minute feature? They were considerate enough to include the "pigs" in the trailer!
1.) Last Tango in Paris (1973) #3
Brando brings home the bacon as he leans in to his wife's corpse and improvises the essence of his soul: "You pig-fu#@er! You goddamn, fu#@ing, pig-fu#@ing liar."
EXTRA BONUS FOOTAGE: Marlon on Burt Reynolds, a pig by any other name.