Thursday, January 19, 2012


Last Tango In paris - (1972).This was one of those seminal points in the life of Marlon Brando. Director Bernardo Bertolucci was just 32 years old and Marlon was 48 and at the height of his creative powers. The beautiful Miss Maria Schneider was just 20 years old and beginning her film career. Showered with money, adored by fans and indulged beyond belief Marlon was almost at the height of his career. I would imagine he had a serious bout of "Charlie Sheen-itis" about this time in his career. (Being ill used by the powers in Hollywood)

I believe Marlon was now losing his youthful illusions of Hollywood. Instead of the creative Mecca of the world Hollywood became the cold, sordid dry Business of Hollywood that was sucking him dry of his creative juices.

Marlon had finished making "THE NIGHT COMERS" (1971) the year before in which he took on the loathsome degenerate character of Peter Quint. A morally corrupt gardner in Victorian England. Here is the plot description of "NIGHT COMERS" from IMDB:

In Victorian England, the teenagers Flora and her brother Miles have just lost their parents in a car accident in France. Their tutor decides to leave the children alone in their huge mansion under the care of the old housekeeper Mrs. Grose, the governess Miss Jessel and the gardener Peter Quint.

Miles and Flore are very connected to Peter, who misleads their education with twisted concepts of love and death, but the orphans believe and are fascinated by his knowledge.

Peter is the lover of Jessel, and they have sadomasochistic sex. When Peter sees their kink bondage night of sex, he has a corrupted and perverted sexual initiation. When Mrs. Grose writes to the master of the house to fire Miss Jessel and Peter Quint, Flora and Miles plot a dark scheme to keep them together in the property.

Of course by today's standards this would be considered no more than "Rough Sex". Here's a scene from that encounter.....

The role of "Miss Jessel" was played by the beautiful English actress debuting in her very first major role opposite Marlon, Miss Stephanie Beacham. Stephani was completely deaf in one ear with only 75% hearing in the other and did a marvelous job here.

In later years she went on to become a rather beautiful and famous TV star in England.

(Click Pix to Enlarge)

Last Tango In Paris was released (1972) during a period extraordinary creativity by the powers that be in Hollywood. This was one among several that would have a powerful impact on the world in which we all lived. Before the internet TV was very censored and movies were still a powerful social force and not just a visceral visual stimulus meant to excite the young as they are today.

A few of the others released in '71-'72 include such titles as "A Clockwork Orange", "Straw Dogs", "The French Connection", "Harold and Maude", "Fiddler On The Roof", "Dirty Harry", "The Last Picture Show" and one of my personal favorites "Vanishing Point" with Barry Newman as Kowalski. Worldwide IMDB lists over 3,000 titles released in 1972.

Amazing as it might seem, Marlon filmed Last Tango while concurrently filming one of his greatest roles and darkest characters developed by Mario Puzo, Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (Also released in 1972). The three directors he associated with closely during this period were Michael Winner in THE NIGHTCOMERS, Bernardo Bertalucci in LAST TANGO and Francis Ford Coppola in THE GODFATHER. All very intense and demanding.

So one might ask how inhabiting the psyche and playing the role of such dark and twisted characters might alter one's view of the human condition? The impact was substantial on yours truly, especially from LAST TANGO. I will never be able to view the girl on Land O'Lakes Butter with toasty innocence again or spread butter on a well toasted english muffin without it degenerating into a somewhat lecherous smile of nostalgia, however fleeting.

In the opening scene, without a word being exchanged a mature Paul (Marlon Brando) is walking down a Paris Blvd. trying to come to grips with the unexpected suicide of his wife. Trying to resolve the conflicted feelings of guilt, love, lack of understanding much like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) over the death of someone he loved very much. At the same time a bright youthful carefree Jeanne (Maria Schneider) approaches from behind on this bright and beautiful Paris day. She is on her way to view an apartment for rent to be 'out on her own' for the first time. Paul spies the 'Apt For Rent' sign and seeing the same apt on the top floor judges it high enough for a suicidal leap.

Unknown to each other, they are on their way to the same place, destiny is waiting....

Brando playing a recent American widower whose wife had committed suicide; Schneider was the carefree Parisian engaged to marry a pompous young filmmaker (Jean-Pierre Leaud). Brando's Paul and Schneider's Jeanne meet at an apartment for rent, have a quick sexual encounter and decide to meet there again for anonymous encounters -- they know nothing about each other, including each other's name.

The most shocking scene contrived by Bertolucci occurs as Paul (Marlon Brando) grabs Jeanne and forcefully unbuttons her jeans and pulls them down while scooping up a handful of butter lubricating Jeanne's (Maria Schneider) anus just prior to intercourse with said orifice...

At their next 'encounter' and a tribute to gender equality, Paul has Jeanne clip her fingernails on her first two fingers quite short and insert them deeply into his, you guessed it, same orifice on him. This was long before proctological exams or colonoscopies were popular and combined with Jeanne's anger over her recent anal violation, it must have been a painful event for Paul.

On the up side this encounter culminates in a delightful scrub down of the youthful voluptuous Jeanne...

Marlon was a new kind of actor, trained in the realism of Stanislavski. He combined the bruised, rebellious street poetry of his predecessor John Garfield, the sensitivity of his contemporary peer Montgomery Clift and the raw sexuality of Brando himself.

The repetition on stage doing the same show night after night bored Brando, and when he was done with the Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, he was done with theater. It was off to the Hollywood big screen and the movies in his breakthrough role as Stanley Kowalski in “Streetcar”.

His first four years on the big screen infused post war Hollywood with new energy as his roles alternated between romanticism and realism in productions such as “The Men” (1950) when he was just twenty six years old, “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), “Viva Zapata” (1952) and of course “On The Waterfront” (1954).

Richard Burton, an intellectual with a keen eye for observation if not for his own film projects, said that he found Brando to be very bright, unlike the public perception of him as a Terry Malloy-type character that he himself inadvertently promoted through his boorish behavior. Brando's problem, Burton felt, was that he was unique, and that he had gotten too much fame too soon at too early an age. Cut off from being nurtured by normal contact with society, fame had distorted Brando's personality and his ability to cope with the world, as he had not had time to grow up outside the limelight.

If memory serves, Marlon did only one more film in which he was the principal player. His character Lee Clayton was played with contempt and careless disregard. I seriously doubt there many many bounty hunters in the old west that quoted Shakespeare and dressed up in various costumes.

He went on to appear in many cameo roles but his creative nature was now gone as age took it's toll and time left him in it's wake. In later years he would closely resemble the character Norma Desmond played by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. (1950).

Norma Desmond was a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max who was once her director and husband has become her self-contained world. Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis, a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness.

Maria did not fair very well after this production and bitterly complained that she wanted to be appreciated for her acting and not be treated as a sex object. This is a common lament of many who achieve success as a sex object even Marilyn Monroe. To quote Maria...

"...When I read Last Tango In Paris, I didn't see anything that worried me. I was 20. I didn't want to be a star, much less a scandalous actress - simply to be in cinema. Later, I realized I'd been completely manipulated by Bertolucci and Brando. Bertolucci is more of a gangster than a movie director. He's one of my enemies. I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol, I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown."
...Maria Schneider

Abandoning a film set in 1975 and becoming a voluntary patient at mental hospital in Rome in order to be with her girlfriend photographer Joan Townsend. This was at a time before recognition of visiting rights in same sex relationships by hospitals and institutions.

Esther Anderson went out with Marlon Brando and was with him when he starred in Last Tango in Paris in 1972. She became great friends with the 19yr old Maria...

"...I was with Maria when she saw the film for the first time,' says Esther. 'She was absolutely shocked. She had no idea what they were going to do with her. She ran from the cinema screaming and I had to run after her into the street and comfort her. That film ruined her life...".
...Esther Anderson

On the left is Maria in 2010 and on the right in 1972

Maria passed away in early February of 2011 at 59 yrs old of cancer while Marlon left us in July of 2004 at the ripe old age of 80. They left this film for us behind them.....

Got a Pic related to this Blog you'd like to see published here? Upload it right here and please be sure to tell me exactly who it is and any other info you may have. I'll be glad to include it right here with your name or website!

Movie Classics

Click Pic Above for Main Menu

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the span of about fifteen minutes – from the start of the opening credit sequence until Paul and Jeanne make love against the window and then leave the apartment they will spend a great deal of the movie in together – this film is cinematic glory at its greatest. The possibilities for the motion picture as a full blown art form are exploited to spectacular advantage in almost every way possible before the flick, unfortunately, starts a gradual slide into cliché, sensationalism, and melodramatic slop, as well as a real slowdown in the sheer virtuosity of the filmmaking. But what a start!!

About Me

My photo
We love Vintage Hollywood! The likes of Errol Flynn, Richard Widmark, Cary Grant, Sterling Hayden and those magnificent ladies of yesteryear!
.glossymenu{ list-style-type: none; margin: 5px 0; padding: 0; width: 170px; border: 1px solid #9A9A9A; border-bottom-width: 0; } .glossymenu li a{ background: white url( repeat-x bottom left; font: bold 13px "Lucida Grande", "Trebuchet MS", Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: white; display: block; width: auto; padding: 3px 0; padding-left: 10px; text-decoration: none; } * html .glossymenu li a{ /*IE only. Actual menu width minus left padding of A element (10px) */ width: 160px; } .glossymenu li a:visited, .glossymenu li a:active{ color: white; } .glossymenu li a:hover{ background-image: url(; } body {background-color:#404664 ;