We had over 20,000 votes over five days. And the winner is:
Elia Kazan, director. Marlon Brando, actor. Budd Schulberg, writer. Second place: Casablanca. Third: Cool Hand Luke. In the end, you agreed with Pauline Kael. Her celebration of Brando's genius can be found in an essay she wrote for the Atlantic in 1966. It dealt with Brando's long decline, made more poignant by the brilliance of his youth:
If he had not been so presumptuous as to try to think for himself in Hollywood and if he hadn't had a sense of irony, he could have pretendedand convinced a lot of peoplethat he was still a contender.
...Perhaps Brando has been driven to this self-parody so soon because of his imaginative strength and because of that magnetism that makes him so compelling an expression of American conflicts. His greatness is in a range that is too disturbing to be encompassed by regular movies. As with Bette Davis, as with John Barrymore, even when he mocks himself, the self he mocks is more prodigious than anybody else around. It's as if the hidden reserves of power have been turned to irony. Earlier, when his roles were absurd, there was a dash of irony; now it's taken over: the nonconformist with no roles to play plays with his roles. Brando is still the most exciting American actor on the screen. The roles may not be classic, but the actor's dilemma is.
Emerson outlined the American artist's way of life a century ago"Thou must pass for a fool for a long season." We used to think that the season meant only youth, before the artist could prove his talent, make his place, achieve something. Now it is clear that for screen artists, and perhaps not only for screen artists, youth is, relatively speaking, the short season; the long one is the degradation after success.
Thanks for all the nominations; thanks for the 20,000 plus votes; and thanks for the idea. A reader prompted it, and sent in the first nomination. In the poll, that first entry got no votes at all. But it was the spark that led to the fun and games.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.