Pop Culture: High And Low

Pop culture once aspired upward. Now it's all downward. Blame Brando

Start with two fellows from Omaha, Neb., born 25 years apart. One was frail, comical-looking, yet he epitomized elegance in an era when glamour was the ability to steer a slim lady around a dance floor. The other man was bulky, brooding, with the artistic mission to break things: codes of behavior, the very notion of "good acting." In their distinct ways--grace vs. power, gentility vs. menace, tux vs. torn T shirt--Fred Astaire and Marlon Brando represented the poles of 20th century popular culture. Astaire gave it class; Brando gave it sex.

These terrific artists also illustrate a pretty little truism...

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