Monday, January 07, 2008

Ross Andru vs Marlon Brando

This was written for inclusion in the Andru & Esposito: Partners For Life book but I'm not sure if it made it as I've yet to read the finished product - nothing sinister, I rarely, if ever, read anything that's published under my own name. I figure that, if I wrote it, then I have more than a rough idea of what it's about and what it says and my ego isn't that large that I need to sit and read my own work. However this story has always tickled my fancy somewhat and I remember clearly when Mike told it to me. I couldn't stop giggling and the idea that one of the 20th century's finest actors would cross paths with one of the 20th century's finest comic book artists has always fascinated me. Such divergent paths, yet for a fleeting second in time they met up, squared up and went their respective ways. I'm not sure if this article made the final cut of the book, if it did and you own a copy then you've read it. If not then read on, you might just enjoy this, and when you're done go and track down a copy of the book - as far as I'm aware Mike's being paid for it, which is a damn good thing (but don't think I'm shilling here - I'm not being paid for copies sold of the book. I've not been paid in the past and I'll probably not ever be paid, but as long as Mike gets his cut I can live with that).

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ROSS ANDRU vs. MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando. He coulda been a contender. Brando was one of, if not the finest American actors of the entire 20th century. Blessed with skills that made acting appear to be all too easy, Brando also had intelligence, looks and attitude – the complete package. His career rose to great heights, rarely has anyone enjoyed such a debut in motion pictures as Brando did. With the opening shot of A Streetcar Named Desire, for which he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, the first of eight nominations for the award, Brando exploded. He continued that on with unforgettable roles in On The Waterfront, for which he won his first Oscar, The Wild One, Julius Cesar, The Young Lions, Mutiny On The Bounty and Viva Zapata. Brando all but retired off the screen in the early 1970s but managed to still impact upon public consciousness. Brando’s last great movie role, 1979’s Apocalypse Now, is still used as a measuring stick for actors in movies. Towards the latter years of his life Brando turned back to motion pictures in a limited capacity and made a nine of his forty movies between 1989 and 2001.

Brando was also very active in social affairs, lending his name to the plight of Native Americans. In 1989 Brando donated his entire seven-figure salary for his Oscar nominated role in the movie A Dry White Season to an anti-apartheid charity.

Highly controversial – he refused to accept his second Oscar for Best Actor for 1972’s The Godfather and had a general scorn for acting in general - yet Brando blazed a trail across American culture from his motion picture debut in 1950 and remained a force until his death in July 2004.


Marlon Brando was in New York doing the play A Streetcar Named Desire. This was before he made it into a movie. He was a big wheel in the city, riding his motorcycle down the streets. Ross knew a girl named Valerie. He’d met Valerie through Burne Hogarth, who’d arranged a date between the pair of them. So they were dating.

It turned out that she was also dating Brando. Valerie belonged to a small group of people who were into show business and fed off each others personalities. Valerie knew this guy and that guy, Burne Hogarth knew this guy and that guy and so on. Brando was in another apartment next door to Valerie and Ross.

Brando was irritated by Valerie seeing Ross. It wasn’t that he loved her, just that he was possessive. He wanted people just to want them, and a lot of the time his romances were acts. He didn’t really care for the girl, almost like in the movie Guys And Dolls; on a bet he took the girl out, he didn’t care. Of course he eventually falls in love, but that’s the story, not reality. With Valerie he was trying to break her chops, and bust Ross’ chops by interfering with any romance that might be going on by banging on the wall. He kept doing that and often he’d have somebody in there with him, whether it was male or female I don’t know, but Ross said that one time he was introduced to Brando.

Brando eventually came into the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. Ross had gotten into his pants and came out and there he was. Valerie introduced Marlon Brando to Ross Andru. Ross put his hand out to shake Brando’s, whereupon Brando took Ross’ hand and bent backwards on the bed and violently broke wind. It was like the old variation on the ‘pull my finger’ syndrome and Ross was very insulted and offended.

Now this is what Ross told me – I was never there – and Ross never lied. He’d never exaggerate, he was very sensible. He was very mad and he hated Brando after that. Brando was very sarcastic, very flippant and insulting. He was putting him down like Ross was nothing and he was the Great Brando. He wasn’t that great yet, he was just great in the circles around Broadway while he was doing the play. Then he went to Hollywood and he came back a couple of times.

Ross and I saw him a couple of times in a drug store. He’d ride up on his motorcycle, park it outside and jump into a phone booth. He’d be wearing the same leather jacket and peaked cap that he wore in The Wild One. The same look, same sun glasses and everything. Ross said to me, “There’s that Marlon Brando”. I’d say, “Yeah, yeah”. This was when we were working at Top Flight Cartoonists and we were right in the middle of Broadway.

Ross used to tell that story over and over and over. When he got older he was embarrassed by it, so then I would tell it over and over and over. We used to go to the movies and follow Brando’s career and every time we’d see a movie I could see Ross sulking in his seat. When The Godfather came out Brando was brilliant, and that upset Ross even more. He never gave his reaction to a Brando film with thumbs up.

History doesn’t record what ever became of Valerie. Mike lost track of her shortly after her liaison with Ross ended. What is known is that Brando never spoke about her, and given his history of conquest, it was probably all in a days work for Marlon.

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