“Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s art.”

Sunday, February 6th, 2011 · 38 Comments »

That’s a quote from Maria Schneider; it appears at the top of this excellent essay by Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes. I’m linking it here just because it’s such a good post that I want you to go read it.

Like Suzie, I was too young to see Last Tango in Paris when it came out. My knowledge of the film came through the mainstream reviews, like in Time magazine (which I read assiduously). Every single reference to the movie referred to the characters as lovers. Even the infamous butter scene was described as daringly explicit “sex,” not rape. I had no idea.

I like Suzie’s last sentence: “If you ever read what Schneider said, and you still get off on the movie, then you’re getting off on seeing a real woman being violated.”

Of course that describes an awful lot of pornography, too.

Filed under: Pornography · Tags:

38 Responses to ““Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s art.””

  1. JeanLouise says:

    Thank you for the link. I was, just barely, old enough to see the film but I chose not to see it. I didn’t want to support a film that paired a forty-five-year-old fat man with a young, beautiful woman engaging in what I had heard was brutal but voluntary sex on the young woman’s part. It sounded too much like a male domination fantasy to me even when I was young.

    I’m so sorry that it had such a destructive effect on Ms. Schneider’s life.

  2. Nessum says:

    Yes, that is a good read. And what Maria Schneider said, I’ve heard almost verbatim from real porn “actors” referring to their first “movie”: “I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped …” !

    While Brando’s carreer didn’t seem to be affected by “Last Tango”, Schneider’s most certainly was. As was her life. She was a wonderful actress with this inexplicable ‘je ne sais quoi’ about her. Loved her in “The Passenger” and would have loved to have seen her in many more movies. Sadly that wasn’t to be.

  3. tinfoil hattie says:

    I HATED that movie. Nigel and I were repulsed and couldn’t understand what was supposed to be so “great” about it. This was before I was even very blame-y.

  4. tinfoil hattie says:

    Horrible headline at the original obit:

    Marlon Brando’s Last Tango in Paris Partner Dies

    What a convoluted way to NOT mention the name of the actual woman who DIED.

  5. votermom says:

    i have never watched it because descriptions alone have repulsed me. I remember regretting watching the movie 91/2 weeks (Basinger & Rourke) because it had a similar theme imo.

  6. Grace says:

    At the time I watched this movie I still remember comments from people that it had a Sadomasoquistic theme with implication that it was consensual. I also read that the “butter” scene was Brando’s idea. I agreed with the guy’s positions on some social issues(like the plight of Native Americans) but that’s about it. I think that he not only hated women but had mental health issues disguised by patriarchal Hollywood as excentricities.

  7. Sameol says:

    I read that too, and also he was totally dismissive when she spoke up and said how uncomfortable she was with the scene, and afterward he couldn’t be bothered to console her or even check to see if she was okay. I also read somewhere that Cybill Shepard was at some event with him, and he told the guy next to her that if she didn’t shut up, he was going to hit her in the face with a bottle. Yet another one of these guys who has all these beautiful moral principles and cares deeply about injustice in the abstract, yet can’t even acknowledge the humanity of half the human race.

  8. tinfoil hattie says:

    By the way, JeanLouise, I am fifty and fat, which is not, believe it or don’t, in and of itself a crime against humanity.

  9. Joolzie says:

    There’s a name for that. He’s a misanthrope. Generally speaking they isolate from people and claim to love a cause, but hate anyone on a personal level if they get too close. I am old enough to have seen the picture when it came out, and I did see it. I was 22. It felt bad to watch. Why do people even make movies like this? It takes quite the pathological liar to convince others that cruelty has artistic value.

  10. tinfoil hattie says:

    “in and of itself IS NOT A crime against humanity.”

  11. anna says:

    But tinfoilhattie, do you think it’s right that fat old ugly guys are constantly paired with slim young beautiful women in tv and movies?

  12. votermom says:

    OT: Violet, have you heard of this NY wife-beheading case?


  13. Violet Socks says:

    Yeah. My favorite part was when he compared himself to Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

  14. Carmonn says:

    We live in a very fatphobic society, how many fat, ugly actors are actually leading men? Definitely many, many more than fat women, but that doesn’t mean there are really all that many. There’s frequently an age gap and I don’t think anyone likes to see that but it seems like the bigger problem is that women are often all but invisible on TV and especially in movies. Even TV shows with female leads tend to have many more male characters, and women are mostly only incredibly shallowly written wives.

  15. tinfoil hattie says:

    anna, I find your very question objectionable. Why are you using “fat” as an insult/epithet?

  16. Grace says:

    I have seen movies from the 50′s, among them the classic “Street train named desire” or something like that, with a then young, athletic, and conventionally handsome Brando. And he always came across as a moody, aggressive, and macho man. About the age-gap and the uneven pairing of women and men in general, it may have to do with the fact that up to a few years ago, a majority of movie producers and directors have been men. They figured that this is what sells….to their fellow men; women be dammed.

  17. Joolzie says:

    Try the Bechtel test out. Gee I hope I’m not repeating something Violet already has presented here!

  18. Violet Socks says:

    A Streetcar Named Desire! Tennessee Williams spins…

  19. Sameol says:

    Yeah, Brando isn’t completely to blame because Kazan bears a lot of the responsibility as well, but you’ve got to wonder what kind of warped mind views Stanley Kowalski as a sympathetic or heroic figure. This type of thing really helps to explain where the Roger Eberts of the world come from (see his review of Last Tango where he doesn’t seem too sure that there’s anyone else in the film besides Brando).

  20. votermom says:

    Violet @15 & 18.
    Hassan should have compare himself to Brando’s Stanley Kowalski instead, who abuses his wife and r@pes his SIL, and yet somehow it’s all about him being the righteous one.

    Back to that case, I was also disturbed that by acting as his own lawyer, he got to call to the witness stand his daughter — just imagining how awful for the daughter.

    There should be a law against that.

  21. votermom says:

    oh dear, wordpress thought that was an email addy. lol.

  22. anna says:

    Hassan was found guilty of second-degree murder; sentencing to happen in March.

  23. Gayle says:

    “. . .among them the classic “Street train named desire” or something like that, with a then young, athletic, and conventionally handsome Brando. And he always came across as a moody, aggressive, and macho man.”

    In fairness, he was playing Stanley Kowalski. That just means he was a good actor.

  24. julia says:

    Tinfoil Hattie, you are my favorite commenter! I wish you would start a blog :)

    After seeing a short clip of scene about a pig in ‘Last Tango’ I was so disgusted I never saw the movie. And I still remember that scene,
    he wants her to do something unmentionable for his ‘pleasure’ and she is saying ‘yes’ and crying.

  25. tinfoil hattie says:

    Goodness, julia, I am quite honored! Thank you for the kind words!

  26. Grace says:

    Gayle, I am aware that Brando was playing Stanley Kowalski’s character in the movie. My point is that he generally played the same kind of roles in most of his movies, and he didn’t come across as being much different in person either. In terms of his talent he wasn’t a versatile actor and never had the range of others like Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, or Sally Field; all far superior, in my opinion. Marlon Brando was an equal-opportunity hater and never shy about expressing his feelings, no matter the damage it inflicted on other people.

  27. tinfoil hattie says:


    Kinda like Jack Nicholson, if you ask me. How many “coincidental” woman-hating roles has he played, anyway?

  28. Grace says:

    Tinfoil hattie,

    Yeah, I agree; I have forgotten about Nicholson, perhaps because there are so many of them out there. At least Ronald Reagan, mediocre actor and terrible president as he was, in his movies of the 40′s and 50′s always played the guy who “fell in love” and gave flowers to the “fair lady.” Sexist of course (which fit the culture of that time), but at least not openly a misogynist.

  29. gayle says:

    In terms of his talent he wasn’t a versatile actor and never had the range of others like Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, or Sally Field;

    You’re wrong. Brando had amazing range and he did not play the same role over and over. How can you say the man who played Sky Materson, Mark Antony, Terry Malloy and Vito Corleone wasn’t versatile?

    I have no idea what he was like in person, nor do I want to be the “Brando defender” in this thread. What I do know is that he was an stunning talent, that whole “best-actor-of-his- generation” title didn’t emerge out of nowhere.

    That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a sexist asshat. As we all know, one can be great at all kinds of things and still be a misogynistic pr*ck.

  30. Grace says:

    Gayle, I wouldn’t say that “you are wrong,” only that we disagree and seem to have different perspectives and opinions on Brando’s acting skills. He was a misogynist and a so-so actor, and with all due respect,I don’t carewhether he was named “best actor of his generation.” And my question would be: By whom? I guess from people who liked his acting.

  31. Carmonn says:

    There’s a difference between playing a role and playing it well. It’s all a matter of taste, but when Brando played some of these roles he verged on laughably bad–how versatile is that, really? And a lot of the “best-actor-of-his-generation” thing may have been simply because he touched a chord in the audience with the macho, animalistic qualities of roles like Stanley Kowalski, in a society that worships that sort of brutality. If he’d spent his career playing Blanche Dubois, or creating incredibly nuanced, layered portraits of nebbishes, weaklings, neurotics, or gentle, sensitive souls, I personally doubt he’d’ve achieved the same iconic status.

  32. Suzie says:

    Thanks for the link, Violet! I’ve been hospitalized again, and so, couldn’t join in the discussion before.

    Schneider ended up a close friend of Brando and seemed to put much of the blame on Bertolucci, the filmmaker. I don’t know why, but here’s a possibility: Bertolucci may have wanted the reaction he got by putting Brando, a method actor who would stay in character, a man who had problems, not just with women, but as a parent, with a teen girl who had been homeless, was trying to act tough and may have wanted a father figure. Neither of them seems to have known what they were getting into.

    I’m not defending Brando, just trying to piece together why she cared about him, but the two of them hated Bertolucci with a white-hot passion.

    Some people did make fun of Brando for being older and out of shape in that movie, and he talk about being humiliated by it.

  33. Sameol says:

    Nicholson has also given all these amazing interviews where he pontificates on abortion. Any woman who sounded equally dumb and shallow (“having a baby doesn’t interfere with getting your hair done or going out to lunch, lack of intelligence does”) would be pilloried, even if she were the same age as Selina Gomez. But when you’re a dude, all your thoughts are deep thoughts, worthy of respectful consideration.

  34. Violet Socks says:

    You’re welcome, Suzie, and I hope everyone read your post. You covered so many points and so well.

    And now I shall weigh in with my opinion on Brando as an actor. Obviously this is subjective; anyone’s effectiveness as a performer is largely in the eye of the beholder. On the other hand, I am a former actor myself and so I’ve probably spent more time than the average person studying the art form.

    Brando was an extremely fine actor within his range, which was highly personal and idiosyncratic. I’m not saying he was narrow; just that there were things he could do and things he couldn’t. But when he was in his element, he could be stunning. Authentic, compelling, surprising. Some of his work was genius.

    When he wasn’t in his element…well, he was always interesting to watch (which is pretty important if you’re an actor), but the results were sometimes, “oh, look, Marlon Brando in a funny costume pretending he’s somebody.”

    As for his appeal: I’m much too young, but my mother is of the generation that swooned for Brando. She still considers him basically God in terms of sex appeal. Sex appeal isn’t rational, folks. The guy may have been the biggest jerk, but he smoldered and was masculine and hunky and virile. And he was beautiful.

    I have no opinion on Brando’s personal life because I’ve never cared to find out. The glimpses I’ve gotten are not pretty. You all say he was a misogynist, and I can believe it.

  35. Grace says:


    Thank you for your post. You made important points about Brando, and I heard you, or rather read you. It actually motivated me to do some further introspective thinking on why I never cared much for his acting.

    Overall I appreciate versatility in an actor. Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon (both of Brando’s generation), Meryl Streep, Sally Field, even Natalie Portman as part of a younger generation, are all good examples of this. And I agree that it is all highly subjective and in the eye of the beholder, as it usually is with expressions of art.

  36. votermom says:

    Overall I appreciate versatility in an actor.
    Me too. To you list I would add Johnny Depp and probably Edward Nortons as actors who really seem to bring characters to life.
    On the opposite side of actors who seem completely un-versatile, I nominate Nicholas Cage. Every movie he’s in, his Nicholas Cageness just overshadows his acting.

  37. Grace says:


    LOL, absolutely about Nicolas Cage. It now also reminds me of Richard Gere, who has always done a good job playing himself. I still remember the time I saw him playing a character from the Middle Ages (I don’t recall the movie) and still swaggering. Very funny.

  38. tinfoil hattie says:

    Depp – I so used to love him, and then he came out pro-Polanski, so the hell with him.