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Martin Landau

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"Ninety per cent of directing is casting."

- Martin Landau


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How Brando got the part

Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire

When Edith Van Cleve was sent a copy of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, she instantly felt it was ideally suited for her client Marlon Brando. Marlon agreed. The producer, Irene Selznick, did not agree, nor did the director Elia Kazan. Mrs. Selznick announced she had signed John Garfield. Garfield, however, after some thought felt that the role of Stanley Kowalski was overshadowed by that of Blanche DuBois, and he bowed out. Burt Lancaster was the next name to come up—but he had a conflict.

With time running out and Miss Van Cleve's persistence, Kazan and Selznick agreed to audition Marlon. But Miss Van Cleve said no. She sensed Marlon might come shuffling in with a kimono, false buckteeth and a Japanese accent, or some such crazy caper. It was then agreed that Marlon would be signed without an audition if the playwright approved.

At the time, Tennessee was holed up in a cottage on the beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts fine-tuning the play. Williams recalls the incident:

"I had very little money at the time, and was living in this broken-down house. I had a houseful of people; the plumbing was flooded and someone had blown the light fuse. Someone said a kid named Brando was down on the beach and looked good. He arrived in the evening, wearing Levis, took one look at the confusion around him and went to work. First he stuck his hand into the overflowing toilet bowl and unclogged the drain, then he tackled the fuses. Within an hour, everything worked. Then he read the script aloud, just as he played it. It was the most magnificent reading I ever heard. And he had the part immediately. He stayed the night, slept curled up on an old quilt in the center of the floor."

From What Have You Done? The Inside Stories of Auditioning—from the Ridiculous to the Sublime, edited by Louis Zorich.

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