A true story ..
Marlon Brando, winner of two Academy Awards for On The Waterfront and The Godfather, the latter of which he refused in protest against the film industry’s treatment of American Indians, is a movie icon whose most famous screen outings took place largely before my time.
I have vague memories of my dad watching On The Waterfront, late at night and raving about what a great actor he was. I can remember dad reading The Godfather and Last Tango In Paris. These battered paperbacks sitting around the house or poking out from the pocket of the jacket he wore to work.
As a kid I was unaware of the latters notoriety and although I’ve seen the movie now, its still pretty unfathomable.
The Godfather. however is undoubtedly on of my favourite films, not just for his part of the aging Don but the juxtaposition of family values against external ruthlessness.
Which is best .. Godfather 1 or 2?
We would be here all day discussing the relative merits.
I was first aware of Marlon in the late 70s in his roles as Supermans dad Jo-rel and for the mystical Colonel Walter E Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
I was a teenager then and although happy with his role in Superman, I wondered what the fuss was about and how he could command so much money for so little work, $3.7 million for 2 weeks worth and very little on screen time.
Apocalypse Now, sneaking into the ABC Cinema on Sauchiehall Street to see the big movie everyone was talking about and again wondering what the fuss was all about. Apart from the obvious scenes of the helicopter dropping napalm on the Vietnam with the theme of Ride of The Valkyries blaring, again I wondered what the fuss was.
Would it be different if I watched this now? Would I recognise it as an anti-war statement? Or would it still appear as drug-fuelled nonsense to my adult mind?
Brando was known for his tumultuous personal life and his large number of wives and lovers including a long-term affair with Marilyn Munro.
He was the father to sixteen known children, three of whom were adopted. Some sources claim he fathered as many as 17 children or more
Wind the clock back to the early 90s, when this story really begins…
Marlon arrived at the gate shortly before it closed for the overnight British Airways flight from New York JFK to London Heathrow. He travelled in his pseudonym of Martin Brandeaux but all the staff knew who he was and had been warned to respect his privacy.
He was wearing a crushed linen suit and a large straw-hat that was tipped over his eyes. Dishevelled would be a fair comment, but that’s only if you believe that clothes maketh the man. Personally I don’t.
When he came on board, He spoke in a quiet voice and was polite to the staff, who showed him to a row on his own were he chose to sit at the window seat.
The flight took off, with only one flight attendant looking after the small number of first class passengers. His drinks order was taken and he was shown the menu from which he chose the fillet steak which would be individually cooked.
However, before the attendant began preparing his meal, she noticed that he was sound asleep, placed a blanked over him and tried not to disturb his slumbers.
An hour or so later, after the meal was served and the other passengers had nodded off, he awoke, attracted the attention of the attendant, apologised for missing the meal and asked if there was anything else he could eat.
The attendant explained that she had kept his meal aside and could cook it for him now.
When she served him his meal, he asked her to sit a while and they had a conversation about his trip and that he was en-route to France to buy a villa.
At this point in time, his son Christian had just been jailed for the manslaughter of his daughters Cheyenne’s lover Dag Drollet. To compound matters, Cheyenne was later to commit suicide in 1995 after a car accident and still suffering from depression after Drollet’s death.
It was a subject that they both avoided for obvious reasons.
After a while the attendant asked if he would like to see the cockpit, to which he replied that he would. Even then before 911, it was unusual to have an adult visit the cockpit but the pilot had already indicated that he would give approval.
Marlon joined the crew for 30 minutes asking about different aspects of the flight and controls and showing a genuine interest.
Later, as he left the plane, the flight crew waited at the door to say good-bye, to which he replied with the usual thank you. The flight attendant then asked him “perhaps we will see you again?”
He stopped, took her hand, looked her in the eye and replied “My dear, I certainly hope so”
Now I don’t know about you .. maybe that’s a nothing story .. the guy had a flight and a chat with the attendant and crew, but I like it. Its not often we get the chance to spend some time with a real legend who despite his personal anxiety retained his humility, humanity and charisma and my friend the flight attendant treasures this memory.
More on Marlon – Did you know about his friendship with Marilyn? I didn’t.