Marlon Brando was the greatest actor of all time — or one of them, at least.

Marlon Brando was the greatest actor of all time — or one of them, at least. You'd certainly be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't count him among the pantheon of Hollywood's greats. The foundation of all that intensity and that talent and that masculine bravado, however, was a life marked by misery.

Brando's existence was one of abuse (both given and received), tragedy, and a seemingly perennial decline, almost a paradox for an actor who drowned in adoration and accolades for nearly his entire life. From his troubled childhood to his rise to fame — and subsequent downfall — to the collapse of his family and his eventual, unremarkable end, little about his life inspires jealousy. But somehow, like so many tortured artists before and after him, he managed to find genius in his tragedy. That's why Marlon Brando's name today isn't synonymous with domestic abuse or obesity or murder — it's synonymous with the perfection of the art of acting.

His parents' demons

Marlon Brando was born in Nebraska in 1924 to Marlon Brando Sr., a chemical manufacturer, and Dorothy Julia. Each of his parents let loose their demons on the young Brando. Both were alcoholics, according to the actor, with his "tyrant father" prone to bouts of violent rage against both Jr. and his mother. Beyond this, Brando Sr. criticized his son relentlessly, imbuing him with a sense of insecurity and inferiority that would stay with him forever. His mother drowned her sorrows with alcohol.

Brando himself claimed the difficulties he had with Hollywood, fame, and authority that plagued him his entire life stemmed from this childhood. His string of girlfriends and romances (which we'll get to in a bit) suffered, too. He had an abandonment complex thanks to his mother, and so he often destroyed his relationships before they ran their course. Brando figured all in all he'd have been better off in an orphanage.

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