James Dean versus Marlon Brando. An enduring debate that pitches the two Hollywood heartthrobs against each other. On one hand, there’s the rugged Brando, the wild one, with a rebellious spirit fueled by erotic energy, challenging the norms of the 1950s. On the other, there is Dean, a rebel without a cause, a sensitive, enigmatic soul navigating pride and longing while forming a unique and starry-eyed connection.
However, are these constant comparisons the reason why Marlon Brando could not stand James Dean? Or was there something else between the two?
Was Marlon Brando at unease with James Dean’s rapid stardom?
Apart from their on-screen charisma and popularity, Marlon Brando and James Dean were known to defy the s*xual repression of the 1950s. Challenging the norms with their fluid sexualities, the two made headlines with their take on homosexuality and queerness.
While Dean is remembered for his famous quote,
“No, I’m not homosexual. But I am also not going through life with one hand tied behind my back.”
Brando once revealed,
“Homosexuality is so much in fashion, it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed.”
However, despite their similarities in thoughts and life experiences, the duo shared a sense of animosity. In fact, in Stefen Kanfer’s biography released in 2008, Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando, Brando accused Dean of stealing his act. And hence, many believe that Brando does have a sense of resentment toward Dean’s meteoric rise as a movie star.
When Marlon Brando warned James Dean to not copy him
Brando’s first few movies including The Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata, Julius Ceaser, and The Wild One introduced him as an intense and talented young man who is here to stay. With his unique personality and rebellious views on sexuality, Brando heralded a new generation of actors, ascending to a whole new pinnacle.
However, around 1954, a few news outlets announced the arrival of ‘The New Brando’ who was none other than James Dean. Having started his career on television, Dean was an overnight success after the release of East of Eden. With the same ‘pretty boy’ vibes, outsider attitude, and a new take on sexuality, Brando noticed a lot of similarities between Dean and a younger version of himself.
And addressing Brando’s views, Kanfer revealed that the actor once cornered Dean to impart some unfriendly advice. Reportedly, Brando told Dean, “Jimmy, you have to be who you are, not who I am.”
Although Dean, unfortunately, passed away in a car crash at the age of 24, The Godfather actor Brado lived on till 80, leaving behind a legacy of his own.