Though I contend that “The Method” as we know it is entrenched over the course of several decades as historical factors merge with particular interpretive frameworks and power relations, Life’s published (and unpublished) account of Marlon Brando in the 1949 film The Men is instructive as an artifact awash in the “idea” of the Method. The theoretical principles of performance are marginalized here; instead we have the important visualization of Brando’s exceptionality in both his incredible (and seemingly inexplicable) intuition as an actor and his idiosyncratic personality. He is therefore both extremely talented and mysterious, even in the context of a major magazine profile.
From Life Magazine’s online archive:
“The year was 1949, and 25-year-old Marlon Brando — “the brilliant brat,” as LIFE magazine called him following his astonishing work on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire — had finally answered the call of Hollywood. He was preparing to film his movie debut in The Men, the wrenching story of a World War II vet coping with rage and insecurity after he’s paralyzed in combat. And while it’s true that L.A. was used to next-big-thing newcomers, it was (and still is) exceedingly rare to chronicle the earliest days in the career of a movie actor of Brando’s intensity, eccentricities, and electrifying talent.
LIFE photographer Ed Clark captured Brando’s explosive arrival in the California, not only trailing the actor as he delved deep into “The Method” — taking to a wheelchair and leg braces to live among paraplegics at a VA hospital in Van Nuys — but also glimpsing more personal sides of Brando, the very private man. Here, LIFE presents Clark’s photos — many of which are previously unpublished — of a sui generis film genius at work.”
Read more here.