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melmac4ou

Brando and the musical

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I was wondering if anybody knew anything about the public's reaction to passionate tough guy, Marlon Brando, being cast in a musical. I know stereotypes around musicals weren't the same then as now... but you can't tell me that some fans weren't a bit disillusioned to see Terry from On the Waterfront singing in a musical.

 

I'm thrilled that he did, but were there any recriminations for casting Brando in a musical? I know that Sinatra loathed that he was passed over for Brando. (I also read that Kazan wanted Sinatra for the lead in On the Waterfront. Could you imagine!? In 1954, I wouldn't buy that skinny Sinatra was a former prize fighter... even if it were lightweights!)

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While I wasn't their when the movie came out (so I don't know the initial reaction) I do know that many now believe that Brando was miscast. Then again, some think that it was a good job by brando because it was so NOT him, but he did an ok job anyway.

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I remember seeing Burt Reynolds discussing Brando's "Guys and Dolls" performance on some talk show - this was probably 15 years ago or more. He said that he and his fellow actor friends, all of whom knew Brando, were very excited about Brando's having gotten the part of Sky Masterson, and that they were eager to see the finished product. He described in very funny terms their dazed and confused reactions to Brando's singing voice, which he proceeded to imitate. It was a riot.

 

So what. I think Brando did just fine for a non-dancer-singer. The role's main characteristic is charm, and Brando had plenty of that. I would have gone to Cuba with him in a New York Minute.

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I think Marlon Brando did very well in the film musical "Guys and Dolls"...he showed his versatility and wasn't afraid to try different parts. He had the charisma to pull off the role of Sky Masterson. Personally, I think Marlon Brando was the best looking man I've ever seen - in or out of the movies. He was riveting in every movie he ever played in - he was a terrific actor.

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That is a great story about Burt Reynolds! I wish I would have seen it, it sounds hilarious. Of course, tough guy Burt was also in a musical where he did some singing... The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

 

The only other tough guy I can think of that did a musical would be Clint Eastwood in Paint You Wagon.

 

Maybe when John Wayne went on Laugh-In in a pink bunny suit he could have sang something and then we would have more about which to talk.

 

"From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put" -- Churchill

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Burt Reynolds was also in the disastrous Peter Bogdonovich musical At Long Last Love, the final musical to ever use live singing rather than lipsynching with the vocal track.

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Just a tidbit about Burt Reynolds and Marlon Brando - apparently Marlon Brando couldn't stand Burt Reynolds and when they were going to cast Burt Reynolds to play Sonny Corleone in the Godfather, Brando threatened to quit unless Reynolds wasn't in the film and James Caan was cast.

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I don't know what the public's reaction was. But I don't think that it would have made Brando seem less tough, as his character in the film was quite alpha, and he had played much more vulnerable scenes in his dramatic work. I mean, if people had already seen him cry and make doe eyes at women then how would a little song and dance shock them?

 

I can see why Sinatra wanted the lead, as the supporting role involved a lot of cowering and losing of face. It was really a character part that played for laughs, and probably Sinatra was typecast because he had played a wide eyed sidekick in his films with Gene Kelly. By the way, I read that Gene Kelly had also lobbied for the role of Sky. I think the sidekick role worked for Sinatra with Kelly because in their films the characters shared friendship and affection, whereas "Guys and Dolls" was really about a **** contest which Sky's character was always winning.

 

I liked the movie though. My favorite part was "sit down you're rockin the boat!"

 

Does anyone know why when they spoke they did not use contractions?

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I can answer that. The language of the characters was a tool the writers used to show these low educated men (people who might be thought of as hoodlums or low brow) as trying to showcase their class and intelligence. Unfortunately they didn't have the proper training in the English Language, so their sentences sound odd and contrived.

 

Basically it was just a tool to show that these gamblers were emulating high class gentlemen through manners and speech. It is to give you the feeling they are civilized and have an honor code, despite your preconcieved notions of gamblers.

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Further to the language used by the characters in "Guys and Dolls" -

 

The story is based on a series of short stories by the journalist/writer Damon Runyan, who wrote about the characters he knew in the 20s and 30s who hung around the Broadway restaurants (that's Lindy'srepresented in the film - the one with the great cheescake - now long gone) and racetracks. These were the petty criminals, gamblers, hangers-on, slackers and smalltime showgirls and strippers of old Times Square/Broadway. Runyan gave them this stilted, almost classical way of speaking to give his stories a kind of timeless quality. These little people stood for all the foibles and small triumphs of all of us. In addition, as I remember it these stories were always told in the present tense (for example, "so Nathan goes to his tailor for a new suit, and the tailor says . . . ."), to give the sense of a storyteller giving us an insight into the human condition. I think the play and film capture the essence of the Runyan stories very well. And, by the way, Frank Loesser was the perfect person to put these stories into musical form.

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