“Marlon Brando is the best actor of my generation—when he is functioning,” Kirk Douglas told me in a fascinating but sadly too brief interview in 1980. At the time I didn’t follow up on his observation as I was anxious to get Douglas to talk about his own films; but I was surprised. Brando’s work in the 1970s had been uneven, which explained Douglas’s qualification, “when he is functioning”—we’d all seen too many performances when the actor was merely present. Certainly Brando had been good in The Godfather and extraordinary in Last Tango in Paris; but he had been hopelessly…
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