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16 Fascinating Facts About Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando, Jr. was one of the most famous and influential actors of the second half of the 20th century. The student-turned-face of Method acting, as taught to him by Stella Adler, first gained attention for his performance as Stanley Kowalski in the Broadway run of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. Ever since, the seemingly tall tales of Brando clashing with actors, writers, and directors have only multiplied over the years. In honor of the legendary actor’s birthday, here are 16 stories about his just-as-legendary antics.

1. HE WAS EXPELLED FROM TWO SCHOOLS.

Brando was expelled from high school, allegedly for riding a motorcycle down the hallway, which forced his father to send him to Shattuck Military Academy in Faribault, Minnesota. Once there, Brando wrote that one night he climbed the bell tower, removed the 150-pound clapper, then carried the clapper 200 yards and buried it. In a stroke of genius, Brando then organized a committee to find out who was responsible. He was never caught, but got himself expelled anyway for other infractions. After that, in the spring of 1943, he moved to New York to live with his sister in Greenwich Village.

2. HE WORKED AS AN ELEVATOR OPERATOR.

In New York, Brando worked as an elevator operator at Best & Co., a department store. In Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, he wrote that he followed that gig with brief stints as a waiter, a short-order cook, and a sandwich man. Brando was also a night watchman in a factory.

3. HE WOULD SPEND HOURS WATCHING AN AGENT MAKE DEALS.

Agent Irving Paul "Swifty" Lazar helped Brando get a $10 raise, from $65 to $75 a week, for his Broadway debut in I Remember Mama. Lazar recalled how in 1945, Brando and his then-girlfriend, Blossom Plumb, would sit silently for hours at a time listening to Lazar make deals over the phone.

4. HE FIXED TENNESSEE WILLIAMS' HOUSE BEFORE AUDITIONING FOR A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

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The playwright was living in Provincetown, Massachusetts when his plumbing flooded. The light fuse was also broken. A few days after he was scheduled to arrive for his audition, Brando showed up at Williams' house, asked him why the lights were out, and then proceeded to fix the fuses and unclog the overflowing toilet bowl. Then he gave his audition. Williams wrote that it was "the most magnificent reading" he had ever witnessed.

5. HE BROKE HIS NOSE DURING A PERFORMANCE OF STREETCAR WHEN HE WAS BOXING WITH SOMEONE BACKSTAGE.

To alleviate the boredom of playing Kowalski on stage for, at that time, over one year, Brando started to fight with one of the stagehands, who was an amateur boxer. The stagehand took it easy on Brando until the actor insisted he fight for real. The stagehand then popped him in the nose, and blackened his eyes. Having just been punched in the face, and with his nose bleeding, Brando stepped back on to the stage. His co-star, Jessica Tandy, hid her surprise at his appearance by ad-libbing the line "You bloody fool" and playing it off as if Stanley had just been in a street fight.

After the performance, Brando walked to the nearest hospital to get himself fixed up. Irene Selznick, the show's producer, told Brando to get his nose reset. She was glad he did not to listen to her. "I honestly think that broken nose made his fortune," she said. "It gave him sex appeal. He was too beautiful before."

6. HE SCREEN TESTED FOR REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

This was in 1947, when the film project was just a planned screen adaptation of Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, a 1944 book by Robert M. Lindner, about an inmate who admitted under hypnosis that he witnessed his parents having sex when he was just a baby and had been rebelling ever since. Brando turned down a $3000 per week offer from Warner Bros. and continued to work the stage. When the movie was finally made in 1955, The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote that James Dean was “imitating Marlon Brando in varying degrees."

7. BRANDO INITIALLY TURNED DOWN ON THE WATERFRONT, AND DIDN'T CARE FOR HIS PERFORMANCE IN IT.

After Brando returned the unread script—twice—Frank Sinatra was cast as Terry Malloy. While costumes were being fitted for the crooner to star, Brando changed his mind after producer Sam Spiegel convinced the actor to put his politics aside and re-team with his A Streetcar Named Desire director Elia Kazan, who had testified as a witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952.

When Brando first saw the movie, he was "so depressed" by his performance that he left the screening room without saying a word. Brando won his first (of two) Best Actor Oscars for the role.

8. SOMEONE STOLE HIS ON THE WATERFRONT OSCAR.

Brando wrote that he honestly did not know what happened to his Oscar. He did not notice its disappearance until 1994, when his lawyer informed him a London auction house was planning on selling it.

9. BRANDO AND SINATRA FEUDED DURING GUYS AND DOLLS.

Still upset over having the role of Terry Malloy taken away from him, Sinatra held a grudge, and repeatedly referred to Brando as "Mumbles." Sinatra also declared that he didn't go for Brando and "that Method crap."

The two ended up starring in Guys and Dolls (1955) together, with Sinatra as Nathan Detroit and Brando as Sky Masterson. To get back at Sinatra for his adamant dislike of rehearsing, Brando purposely screwed up at the end of scenes to necessitate a retake. In one scene, Brando reportedly messed up nine times in a row because Sinatra had to eat a piece of cheesecake every time. After the ninth mistake, Sinatra threw his plate to the ground, jammed his fork on the table, and screamed at the director, "These f**king New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?"

10. HE BOUGHT HIS OWN ISLAND.

While filming Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Brando first saw Tetiaroa, a 2.3-square-mile atoll located about 30 miles north of Tahiti's main island. Six years after falling in love with it, he bought it. Today, it operates as a resort: The Brando.

11. HE WAS NOT A FAN OF BURT REYNOLDS.

When Brando learned that Burt Reynolds was being considered for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972), he said that he would drop out of playing Vito if Reynolds was cast. Brando said Reynolds was "the epitome of something that makes me want to throw up."

12. HE CAME UP SHORT WHILE SHOOTING LAST TANGO IN PARIS.

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While filming Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial, X-rated movie, Brando became embarrassed one very cold day when, according to him, his member shrank to the "size of a peanut." Unfortunately for Brando, it was on a day when several nude scenes were set to be filmed.

13. BRANDO THOUGHT HIS SUPERMAN CHARACTER WOULD WORK BETTER AS A GREEN BAGEL.

After being cast as Jor-El, Superman's father in Richard Donner's 1978 superhero flick, Brando suggested that it might be better if he simply provided the voice of the character. "He suggested—strongly—that Jor-El could be a suitcase or a green bagel that spoke with Brando's voice," producer Ilya Salkind recalled. "I was really young and I was sweating it out. I said 'My God, this is finished, the movie will not happen ... The man will destroy everything. This is impossible. Jor-El will be a bagel.'" Fortunately, Donner stepped in: "Marlon, I think that people want to see Marlon Brando playing Jor-El. They don't want to see a green bagel."

14. BRANDO READ HIS SUPERMAN LINES OFF OF SUPERMAN'S DIAPER.

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TIME initially reported that Brando made $2.25 million for 12 days work on Superman, but over the years his salary has gone up to $3.7 million for his 10 minutes of screen time. In a scene where Brando—as Jor-El, Superman's father—put his infant son into an escape pod, Brando read his lines off the baby's diaper. (Similarly, he had asked Bertolucci if he could read his lines off of co-star Maria Schneider's backside in Last Tango in Paris. In that case, he was turned down.)

15. HE WORKED FOR ONE DAY ON SCARY MOVIE 2.

Brando was paid $2 million to cameo as a priest in Scary Movie 2, but had to drop out when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. "He wanted to go for it," co-writer and star Shawn Wayans said. "He had an oxygen mask and we were like, 'Yo, we gotta let him go. This guy is not healthy." For that one day, Brando had an assistant in the next room read his lines into an ear piece.

16. HE GOT MAD AT YODA.

Brando starred in The Score (2001), directed by Frank Oz, a noted puppeteer who operated and voiced Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Yoda. The trouble began when Brando played his homosexual character "way over the top" on the first day of shooting, according to Oz—who also admitted to being "too tough" on Brando when he told him to tone it down.

In response, Brando began referring to Oz as "Miss Piggy." Co-star Robert DeNiro ended up serving as a sort of mediator, and would deliver Oz's directions to Brando. For one scene, shot over two days, Brando was so upset that he refused to act with Oz in the room, so the director had to watch outside with a monitor.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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