Created by Matt Zoller Seitz
Directed by Judith Carter
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
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Based on new and revelatory material from Brando’s own private archives, award-winning film biographer William J. Mann presents a deeply-textured, ambitious, and definitive portrait of the greatest movie actor of the twentieth century, the elusive Marlon Brando, bringing his extraordinarily complex life into view as never before.
The most influential movie actor of his era, Marlon Brando changed the way other actors perceived their craft. His approach was natural, honest, and deeply personal, resulting in performances―most notably in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront―that are without parallel. Brando was heralded as the American Hamlet―the Yank who surpassed British stage royalty Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson as the standard of greatness in the mid-twentieth century.
Brando’s impact on American culture matches his professional significance; he both challenged and codified our ideas of masculinity and sexuality. Brando was also one of the first stars to use his fame as a platform to address social, political, and moral issues, courageously calling out America’s deeply rooted racism.
William Mann’s brilliant biography of the Hollywood legend illuminates this culture icon for a new age. Mann astutely argues that Brando was not only a great actor but also a cultural soothsayer, a Cassandra warning us about the challenges to come. Brando’s admonitions against the monetization of nearly every aspect of the culture were prescient. His public protests against racial segregation and discrimination at the height of the Civil Rights movement―getting himself arrested at least once―were criticized as being needlessly provocative. Yet those actions of fifty years ago have become a model many actors follow today.
Psychologically astute and masterfully researched, based on new and revelatory material, The Contender explores the star and the man in full, including the childhood traumas that reverberated through his professional and personal life. It is a dazzling biography of our nation’s greatest actor that is sure to become an instant classic.
The Contender includes sixteen pages of photographs.
“Marlon Brando reigned over Hollywood in an era before it was possible to know every little thing about an actor’s life — but this biography [changes] that. Mann went through Brando’s personal archives to craft a story that covers not only his behind-the-scenes persona but the way in which he led the charge for a merging of Hollywood and protest culture.” — Entertainment Weekly, Big Books of Fall Preview
“ Big, sprawling, meticulously researched…Tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the man and then some.” — Washington Post
“An insightful and well-researched portrait of Marlon Brando. Taking a cinematic approach, Mann swoops in on pivotal moments in Brando’s life. Though sympathetic to Brando, Mann doesn’t shy away from his flaws, such as his often callous treatment of women. The result is a thoughtfully considered study of a supremely talented, observant, and imaginative man who became a reluctant cultural icon.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Structuring his biography like a film, Mann jumps from one key moment in Brando’s life to another—the dysfunctional family life, the great movie roles, the tempestuous and often callous relationships with lovers, the tragedies that befell his children—and, while the book brings something new and often revelatory to all of these familiar aspects of the Brando saga, Mann is at his best when he digs into Brando’s tortured relationship with acting itself… A compelling biography, rich in complexity and irony.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Remarkably ambitious … Mann’s book is continuously fascinating, vivid, and full of new information; for anyone interested in Brando, it is indispensable.” — Air Mail
“[THE CONTENDER] is a humanizing portrait that doesn't shy away from the complexity of one of Hollywood's greatest stars.” — AARP Magazine
“ Deeply engaging and perceptive from page one…A thoroughly enjoyable, illuminating read." — Library Journal (starred review)
“ William J. Mann masterfully captures Brando’s allure, his psychological complexity and the epic arc of his career…From Mann, Brando receives a biography every bit as compelling and powerful as his own stage presence.” — BookPage
"Mann uses painstaking years of research, conversations with those who knew Brando best, and his own knack for delving into the lives of Hollywood luminaries to offer fans up a staggeringly comprehensive tale of Brando’s life." — Entertainment Weekly
William J. Mann is the New York Times bestselling author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn; How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood; Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand; and Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. He divides his time between Connecticut and Cape Cod.
All copies are new and in pristine condition.
MZS.Press is the online arts bookstore founded by author, critic, and filmmaker Matt Zoller Seitz and directed by Judith Carter. It offers new, used, signed, collectible, and rare books on film, TV, music, photography, and the visual arts. The store was launched in 2019 on a different platform and has expanded to incorporate arts books published by MZSPress's private imprint: titles currently include Seitz's The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon and Dreams of Deadwood, about the HBO Western, and Walter Chaw's A Walter Hill Film.
Our deepest wish is to promote, encourage, and distribute work by small presses, academic presses, and individuals. Extraordinary work tends to get swallowed up on giant platforms like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The store's inventory of nearly 1000 volumes is currently in the process of being reconstructed after its relocation from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Dallas, Texas. The titles featured here are personally selected by a group of curators and advisors, including Seitz, Carter, and an array of critics, artists, journalists, educators, publishers, and arts mavens who are known for their ability to suss out what Seitz's jazz musician dad liked to call "the good sh*t."
“Since MZS is the brains behind the brand and concept, I guess that makes me the brawn. Even though my 'gun show' looks more like a water pistol exhibit in a toy store window...”
Matt Zoller Seitz
Critic, Author, Filmmaker, MZS Press Creator
Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large and film critic of RogerEbert.com; a staff writer for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His writing on film and TV has appeared in Sight and Sound, The New York Times, Salon.com, The New Republic and Rolling Stone. Seitz is the founder and original editor of the influential film blog The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine.
Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image, Salon.com and Vulture, among other outlets such as Texas Highways and AARP. His five-part 2009 video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style was spun off into the hardcover book The Wes Anderson Collection. This book and its follow-up, The Wes Anderson Collection: Grand Budapest Hotel were New York Times bestsellers.
Other Seitz books include the New York Times bestellers The Sopranos Sessions and Mad Men Carousel; TV (The Book), The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon, and The Wes Anderson Collection: The French Dispatch. He is also an interviewer, moderator, and film programmer who has curated and hosted film and TV presentations for the Museum of the Moving Image, IFC Center, San Francisco's Roxie Cinema, and other venues. He is currently launching a Dallas extension of his MZS Film Series at the historic Texas Theater.
Judith is quoted as saying "his hobbies include exotic dancing, moonwalking, and affixing masking tape labels to every food item in the refrigerator, including eggs. Oh and he has the attention span of a gnat." MZS agreed to it all except the moonwalking.