Marlon Brando's Little Black Book

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 6 2013 11:15 AM

Marlon Brando's Little Black Book

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Marlon Brando dropped this battered address book on the stage of New York’s Barrymore Theatre while appearing in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1949.

The loss of the book must have been significant to the young actor. Brando scrawled on the flyleaf: “On bended knee I beg you to return this. I lost eight others already and if I lose this I’ll just drop dead!” Underneath this plea, he wrote an address—“47 W. 47th N.Y.C.”—which he then crossed out and updated with “37 W. 52.”

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Sadly for latter-day snoops, Brando mostly stuck to first names in recording his contacts ("Janice," "Sandra," "Kay"). Notables listed by both first and last name include Ellen Adler (famed acting teacher Stella's daughter and Brando's sometime girlfriend) and "Jimmy Baldwin" (the writer James Baldwin, who was Brando's longtime friend).

The play’s production manager, Robert Downing, picked the book up off the stage and—for reasons lost to history—kept it, despite Brando’s desperate note. The book ended up at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center with the rest of Downing’s papers. 

Thanks to Helen Baer and Jennifer Tisdale of the Harry Ransom Center.

 

Brando's Address Book

Marlon Brando's address book "dropped on the stage of the Barrymore Theatre, NYC, during the run of A Streetcar Named Desire," 1949. Image courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.

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