William Mann Explores Marlon Brando In New Biography
William Mann knows Hollywood.
The Middletown native, who now splits his time among Milford, New York City and Provincetown, is the best-selling author of the movie capital crime saga “Tinseltown” as well as insider biographies of Barbra Streisand, Katharine Hepburn and John Schlesinger, among others. For his latest book, “The Contender,” Mann takes on arguably the greatest actor of the 20th century — Marlon Brando, who died in 2004 at the age of 80.
“He fascinates me,” Mann says from his office at Central Connecticut State University, where he also teaches American history. “Incredibly, there’s only one major biography on him, and it was incredibly unsympathetic. I saw this as a chance to do something else, to tell his story with compassion.”
Mann received cooperation from the Brando estate “but without any strings. They gave me all his papers and tapes, which were revelatory. But I had no idea what I would find. When people think of Brando now, they think of a great actor — but they also think of him as this eccentric, weird, overweight guy who would kind of make a scene, who refused his Oscar and who was kind of a dilettante in politics.
“But he was a man who, as a young boy, was horribly traumatized by his parents and lived with it throughout his life. I think we have more compassion for him now that time has passed.”
In his years of extensive research, Mann found more than a few surprises for himself — and for the actor’s fans, too.
— Despite his numerous liaisons, Brando was not a #metoo candidate.
“He was not a sexual abuser,” Mann says. “He broke many women’s hearts, created a lot of co-dependent relationships and treated them terribly, but he was not someone who groped women or harassed them. Even [former lover] Rita Moreno in her memoir said that they were both basically co-dependent on each other and both were wounded people. Once you understand Brando’s woundedness, then you can understand the rest of it.”