Marlon Brando and Washington Square 1940’s

Washington Square Park as it looked when Marlon Brando slept on sidewalk

Updated 3:06 p.m. — Marlon Brando arrived in New York City in 1943 after he was expelled from a Minnesota military school. He wrote in his autobiography, “Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me”, about his experience in the Village and Washington Square:

As I got out of the cab delivering me from Pennsylvania Station to my sister’s apartment in Greenwich Village in the spring of 1943, I was sporting a bright red fedora that I thought was going to knock everyone dead.

I cherish my memories of those first few days of freedom in New York, especially my sense of liberation from not having to submit to any authority, and knowing that I could go anyplace and do anything at any time.

One night I went to Washington Square and got drunk for the first time. I fell asleep on the sidewalk and nobody bothered me. …

It was ecstasy sleeping on the sidewalk of Washington Square, realizing I had no commitment to anything or anyone. If I didn’t feel like going to bed, I didn’t. I formed the sleeping patterns of a lifetime; stay up past midnight, sleep til ten or eleven the next morning.

Once I stayed up all night at a party in Brooklyn and looked out the window at a gray dawn at about six A.M. and watched the streets glow with the headlights of buses, cars and taxis. Then the sidewalks began to fill up with people carrying briefcases and scurrying to their offices. I thought, God, wouldn’t it be awful if I had to get up and go to work like that every day?

Frannie, who lived in an apartment near Patchin Place in the Village, invited me to move in with her. I got a job as an elevator operator at Best & Company department store, then worked as a waiter, a short-order cook, a sandwich man, and at other jobs I don’t remember now.

This photo – amazing, isn’t it? – captures an aerial view of what the Washington Square area looked like circa 1940-1949.

Photo credit: The Washington Square Park (New York, N.Y.) and Washington Square Area Image Collection; New York University Archives, New York University.

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