Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando

Publicity photo for The Wild One (1953)
Born Marlon Brando, Jr.
April 3, 1924(1924-04-03)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Died July 1, 2004(2004-07-01) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Respiratory failure
Nationality American
Education The New School
Influenced by Stella Adler, Constantin Stanislavski, Elia Kazan
Influenced James Dean, Paul Newman, Elvis Presley, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio
Height 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m)
Spouse Anna Kashfi (1957–59)
Movita Castaneda (1960–62)
Tarita Teriipia (1962–72)
Children 14, including:
Christian Brando (deceased)
Cheyenne Brando (deceased)
Stephen Blackehart
Parents Marlon Brando, Sr.
Dodie Brando

Marlon Brando, Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture,[1] Brando was the only professional actor, aside from Charlie Chaplin, named by Time magazine as one of its 100 Persons of the Century in 1999.[2]

Brando had a significant impact on film acting, and was the foremost example of the "method" acting style. While he became notorious for his "mumbling" diction and exuding a raw animal magnetism,[3] his mercurial performances were nonetheless highly regarded, and he is widely considered as one of the greatest and most influential actors of the 20th century.[4][5] Director Martin Scorsese said of him, "He is the marker. There's 'before Brando' and 'after Brando'."[6] Actor Jack Nicholson once said, "When Marlon dies, everybody moves up one."[7] He was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fourth greatest screen legend among male movie stars.

An enduring cultural icon, Brando became a box office star during the 1950s, during which time he racked up five Oscar nominations as Best Actor, along with three consecutive wins of the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He initially gained popularity for recreating the role as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a Tennessee Williams play that had established him as a Broadway star during its 1947-49 stage run; and for his Academy Award-winning performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954), as well as for his iconic portrayal of the rebel motorcycle gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild One (1953), which is considered to be one of the most famous images in pop culture. Brando was also nominated for the Oscar for playing Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952); Mark Antony in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1953 film adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; and as Air Force Major Lloyd Gruver in Sayonara (1957), Joshua Logan's adaption of James Michener's 1954 novel. Brando made the Top Ten Money Making Stars, as ranked by Quigley Publications' annual survey of movie exhibitors, three times in the decade, coming in at number 10 in 1954, number 6 in 1955, and number 4 in 1958.

Brando directed and starred in the cult western film One-Eyed Jacks that was released in 1961, after which he delivered a series of box office failures beginning with the non-success of the 1962 film adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty. The 1960s proved to be a fallow decade for Brando, and after 10 years in which he did not appear in a commercially successful movie, he won his second Academy Award for playing Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972), a role critics consider among his greatest. The movie, which became the most commercially successful film of all time when it was released — along with his Oscar-nominated performance as Paul in Last Tango in Paris (1972), another smash hit — revitalized Brando's career and reestablished him in the ranks of top box office stars, placing him at number 6 and number 10 in Top 10 Money Making Stars poll in 1972 and 1973, respectively.

Brando failed to capitalize on the momentum of his revitalized career, taking a long hiatus before appearing in The Missouri Breaks (1976), a box office bomb. Afterwards, he was content to be a highly-paid character actor in parts that were glorified cameos in Superman (1978) and The Formula (1980) before taking a nine-year break from motion pictures. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brando was paid a record $3.7 million ($13,409,697 in today's funds[8]) plus 11.75% of the gross profits for 13 days work playing Jor-El in Superman, further adding to his mystique. He finished out the decade of the 1970s with his highly-controversial performance as Colonel Walter Kurtz in another Coppola film, Apocalypse Now (1979), a box office hit for which he was highly paid and that helped finance his career layoff during the 1980s.

Brando was also an activist, supporting many issues, notably the African-American Civil Rights Movement and various American Indian Movements.


Early life

Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr., a pesticide and chemical feed manufacturer, and his wife, Dorothy Julia (née Pennebaker).[4] His parents moved to Evanston, Illinois, but separated when he was eleven years old. His mother took her three children: Jocelyn (1919–2005), Frances (1922–1994) and Marlon, to live with her mother in Santa Ana, California.[4] In 1937, Brando's parents reconciled and moved together to Libertyville, Illinois, north of Chicago.[4]

Brando's family was of mostly Irish and distant French ancestry.[9][10] Brando was raised a Christian Scientist.[11] His grandmother Marie Holloway abandoned her family when Marlon Brando, Sr., was five years old. She used the money Eugene sent her to support her gambling and alcoholism.[9]

Marlon Brando, Sr., was a talented amateur photographer. His wife, known as Dodie, was unconventional but talented, having been an actress.[12][13] She smoked, wore trousers, and drove cars, unusual for women at the time. However, she was an alcoholic and often had to be brought home from Chicago bars by her husband; she finally joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Dodie Brando acted and was a theater administrator. She helped Henry Fonda to begin his acting career, and fueled her son Marlon's interest in stage acting. However, Brando was closer to his maternal grandmother, Bessie Gahan Pennebaker Meyers, than to his mother. Widowed while young, Meyers worked as a secretary and later as a Christian Science practitioner. Her father, Myles Gahan, was a doctor from Ireland; her mother, Julia Watts, was from England.[14]

Brando was a mimic from early childhood and developed an ability to absorb the mannerisms of people he played and display them dramatically while staying in character. His sister Jocelyn Brando was the first to pursue an acting career, going to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. She appeared on Broadway, then movies and television. Brando's sister Frances left college in California to study art in New York. Brando soon followed her.

Brando had been held back a year in school and was later expelled from Libertyville High School for riding his motorcycle through the corridors. He was sent to Shattuck Military Academy, where his father had studied before him. Brando excelled at theatre and did well in the school. In his final year (1943), however, he was put on probation for talking back to a student officer during maneuvers. He was confined to the campus, but tried going into town, and was caught. The faculty voted to expel him, though he was supported by the students, who thought expulsion was too harsh. He was invited back for the following year, but decided instead to drop out of high school.[15]

Brando worked as a ditch-digger as a summer job arranged by his father. It was also during this time that Brando attempted to join the Army. However at his army induction physical it was discovered that a football injury that he had sustained at Shattuck had left him with a trick knee. Brando was therefore classified as a 4-F, and not inducted into the Army.[9] He then decided to follow his sisters to New York. His father supported him for six months, then offered to help him find a job as a salesman. However, Brando left to study at the American Theatre Wing Professional School, part of the Dramatic Workshop of The New School with the influential German director Erwin Piscator and at the Actors Studio. He also studied with Stella Adler and learned the techniques of the Stanislavski System. There is a story in which Adler spoke about teaching Brando, saying that she had instructed the class to act like chickens, then adding that a nuclear bomb was about to fall on them. Most of the class clucked and ran around wildly, but Brando sat calmly and pretended to lay an egg. Asked by Adler why he had chosen to react this way, he said, "I'm a chicken - What do I know from a bomb?"[16]


Early work

A 24-year-old Brando as Stanley Kowalski on the set of the stage version of A Streetcar Named Desire, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1948

Brando used his Stanislavski System skills for his first summer-stock roles in Sayville, New York, on Long Island. His behavior got him kicked out of the cast of the New School's production in Sayville, but he was discovered in a locally produced play there and then made it to Broadway in the bittersweet drama I Remember Mama in 1944. Critics voted him "Broadway's Most Promising Actor" for his role as an anguished veteran in Truckline Café, although the play was a commercial failure. In 1946 he appeared on Broadway as the young hero in the political drama A Flag is Born, refusing to accept wages above the Actor's Equity rate because of his commitment to the cause of Israeli independence.[17][18] In that same year, Brando played the role of Marchbanks with Katharine Cornell in her production's revival of Candida, one of her signature roles.[19] Cornell also cast him as The Messenger in a her production of Jean Anouilh's Antigone that same year. Brando achieved stardom, however, as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan. Brando sought out that role,[20] driving out to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Williams was spending the summer, to audition for the part. Williams recalled that he opened the screen door and knew, instantly, that he had his Stanley Kowalski. Brando's performance revolutionized acting technique and set the model for the American form of method acting.

Afterward, Brando was asked to do a screen test for Warner Brothers studio for the film Rebel Without A Cause.[21] He had, however, refused the role later and James Dean was cast in. The screen test appears as an extra in the 2006 DVD release of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Brando's first screen role was as the bitter paraplegic veteran in The Men in 1950. True to his method, Brando spent a month in bed at the Birmingham Army Hospital in Van Nuys to prepare for the role. By Brando's own account, it may have been because of this film that his draft status was changed from 4-F to 1-A. He had had an operation on the knee he had injured at Shattuck, and it was no longer physically debilitating enough to incur exclusion from the draft. When Brando reported to the induction center, he answered a questionnaire provided to him by saying his race was "human", his color was "Seasonal-oyster white to beige", and he told an Army doctor that he was psycho neurotic. When the draft board referred him to a psychiatrist, Brando explained how he had been expelled from Military School, and that he had severe problems with authority. Coincidentally enough, the psychiatrist knew a doctor friend of Brando, and Brando was able to avoid military service during the Korean War.[9]

Rise to fame

Brando as Emiliano Zapata in a trailer for the 1952 film Viva Zapata!

Brando brought his performance as Stanley Kowalski to the screen in Kazan's adaptation of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for that role, and again in each of the next three years for his roles in Viva Zapata! in 1952, Julius Caesar in 1953 as Mark Antony, and On the Waterfront in 1954. These first five films of his career established Brando, as evidenced in his winning the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in three consecutive years, 1951 to 1953.

In 1953, Brando also starred in The Wild One riding his own Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle which caused consternation to Triumph's importers, as the subject matter was rowdy motorcycle gangs taking over a small town. But the images of Brando posing with his Triumph motorcycle became iconic, even forming the basis of his wax dummy at Madame Tussauds.

Later that same year, Brando starred in Lee Falk's production of George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man in Boston. Falk was proud to tell people that Marlon Brando turned down an offer of $10,000 per week on Broadway, in favor of working on Falk's play in Boston. His Boston contract was less than $500 per week. It would be the last time he ever acted in a stage play.

Marlon Brando with Eva Marie Saint in the trailer for On the Waterfront (1954)

Brando won the Oscar for his role as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. For the famous I coulda' been a contender scene, Brando convinced Kazan that the scripted scene was unrealistic, and with Rod Steiger, improvised the final product.

Brando then took a variety of roles in the 1950s: portraying Napoleon in Désiréa, Sky Masterson in the musical Guys and Dolls; Sakini, a Japanese interpreter for the U.S. Army in postwar Japan in The Teahouse of the August Moon; as a United States Air Force officer in Sayonara, and a Nazi officer in The Young Lions.

In the 1960s, Brando starred in films such as One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962); a western that would be the only film Brando would ever direct; The Chase (1966), and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), portraying a repressed gay army officer. It was the type of performance that later led critic Stanley Crouch to write, "Brando's main achievement was to portray the taciturn but stoic gloom of those pulverized by circumstances."[22] He also played a guru in the sex farce Candy (1968). Burn! (1969), which Brando would later claim as his personal favorite, was a commercial failure. His career slowed down by the end of the decade as he gained a reputation for being difficult to work with.

The Godfather

Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

Brando's performance as Vito Corleone or 'the Don' in 1972's The Godfather was a mid-career turning point. Director Francis Ford Coppola convinced Brando to submit to a "make-up" test, in which Brando did his own makeup (he used cotton balls to simulate the puffed-cheek look). Coppola was electrified by Brando's characterization as the head of a crime family, but had to fight the studio in order to cast the temperamental Brando. Mario Puzo always imagined Brando as Corleone.[23] However, Paramount studio heads wanted to give the role to Danny Thomas in the hope that Thomas would have his own production company throw in its lot with Paramount. Thomas declined the role and actually urged the studio to cast Brando at the behest of Coppola and others who had witnessed the screen test.

Eventually, Charles Bluhdorn, the president of Paramount parent Gulf + Western, was won over to letting Brando have the role; when he saw the screen test, he asked in amazement, "What are we watching? Who is this old guinea?"

Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, but turned down the Oscar, becoming the second actor to refuse a Best Actor award (the first being George C. Scott for Patton). Brando boycotted the award ceremony, sending instead American Indian Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared in full Apache dress, to state Brando's reasons, which were based on his objection to the depiction of American Indians[24] by Hollywood and television.

The actor followed with Bernardo Bertolucci's 1973 film Last Tango in Paris, but the performance was overshadowed by an uproar over the erotic nature of the film. Despite the controversy which attended both the film and the man, the Academy once again nominated Brando for the Best Actor.

Brando, along with James Caan, was later scheduled in 1974 to appear in the final scene of The Godfather Part II. However, rewrites were made to the script when Brando refused to show up to the studio on the single day of shooting, due to disputes with the studio.

Later career

Marlon Brando as Jor-El in Superman (1978)

Brando portrayed Superman's father Jor-El in the 1978 film Superman. He agreed to the role only on assurance that he would be paid a large sum for what amounted to a small part, that he would not have to read the script beforehand and his lines would be displayed somewhere off-camera. It was revealed in a documentary contained in the 2001 DVD release of Superman, that he was paid $3.7 million for just two weeks of work.

Brando also filmed scenes for the movie's sequel, Superman II, but after producers refused to pay him the same percentage he received for the first movie, he denied them permission to use the footage. However, after Brando's death, the footage was reincorporated into the 2006 re-cut of the film, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.

Two years after Brando's death, he "reprised" the role of Jor-El in the 2006 "loose sequel" Superman Returns, in which both used and unused archive footage of Brando as Jor-El from the first two Superman films was remastered for a scene in the Fortress of Solitude, and Brando's voice-overs were used throughout the film.

Brando starred as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now. Brando plays a highly decorated American Army Special Forces officer who goes renegade. He runs his own operations out of Cambodia and is feared by the US military as much as the Vietnamese. Brando was paid $1 million a week for his work.

Despite announcing his retirement from acting in 1980, he subsequently gave interesting supporting performances in movies such as A Dry White Season (for which he was again nominated for an Oscar in 1989), The Freshman in 1990 and Don Juan DeMarco in 1995. In his last film, The Score (2001), he starred with fellow method actor Robert De Niro. Some later performances, such as The Island of Dr Moreau (1996), earned Brando some of the most uncomplimentary reviews of his career.

Brando conceived the idea of a novel called Fan-Tan with director Donald Cammell in 1979, which was not released until 2005.[25]

In 2004, Brando signed with Tunisian film director Ridha Behion and began pre-production on a project to be titled Brando and Brando. Up to a week before his death, Brando was working on the script in anticipation of a July/August 2004 start date.[26] Production was suspended in July 2004 following Brando's death, at which time Behi stated that he would continue the film as an homage to Brando,[27] with a new title of Citizen Brando.[28][29]

Personal life

Relationships and family

In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando claimed he met Marilyn Monroe at a party where she played piano, unnoticed by anybody else there, and they had an affair and maintained an intermittent relationship for many years, receiving a telephone call from her several days before she died. He also claimed numerous other romances, although he did not discuss his marriages, his wives, or his children in his autobiography.

Brando married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957. Kashfi was born in Calcutta and moved to Wales from India in 1947. She is said to have been the daughter of a Welsh steel worker of Irish descent, William O'Callaghan, who had been superintendent on the Indian State railways. However, in her book, Brando for Breakfast, she claimed that she really is half Indian and that the press incorrectly thought that her stepfather, O'Callaghan, was her real father. She said her real father was Indian and that she was the result of an "unregistered alliance" between her parents. Brando and Kashfi had a son, Christian Brando, on May 11, 1958; they divorced in 1959.

In 1960, Brando married Movita Castaneda, a Mexican-American actress seven years his senior; they were divorced in 1962. Castaneda had appeared in the first Mutiny on the Bounty film in 1935, some 27 years before the 1962 remake with Brando as Fletcher Christian. They had two children together, Miko Castaneda Brando (born 1961) and Rebecca Brando (born 1966). Brando and Castaneda divorced in 1962.

Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipia, who played his love interest in Mutiny on the Bounty, became Brando's third wife on August 10, 1962. She was 20 years old, 18 years younger than Brando, who was reportedly delighted by her naiveté.[30] Because Teriipia was a native French speaker, Brando became fluent in the language and gave numerous interviews in French.[31][32] Teriipia became the mother of two of his children, Simon Teihotu Brando (born 1963) and Tarita Cheyenne Brando. Brando also adopted Teriipia's daughters Maimiti Brando (born 1977) and Raiatua Brando (born 1982). Brando and Teriipia divorced in July 1972.

Brando had a longterm relationship with his housekeeper Maria Christina Ruiz, by whom he had three children, Ninna Priscilla Brando (born May 13, 1989), Myles Jonathan Brando (born January 16, 1992), and Timothy Gahan Brando (born January 6, 1994). He had three more children by unidentified women, Stefano Brando (born 1967),[33][34] Dylan Brando (born 1968), and Angelique Brando. He also adopted Petra Brando-Corval (born 1972), the daughter of his assistant Caroline Barrett and novelist James Clavell.

Death of Dag Drollet

In May 1990, Dag Drollet, the Tahitian lover of Brando's daughter Cheyenne, died of a gunshot wound after a confrontation with Cheyenne's half-brother Christian at the family's hilltop home above Beverly Hills. Christian, then 31 years old, claimed he was drunk and the shooting was accidental. After heavily publicized pre-trial proceedings, Christian pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and use of a gun. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. Before the sentence, Brando delivered an hour of testimony, in which he said he and his former wife had failed Christian. He commented softly to members of the Drollet family: "I'm sorry... If I could trade places with Dag, I would. I'm prepared for the consequences." Afterward, Drollet's father, Jacques, said he thought Brando was acting and his son was "getting away with murder." The tragedy was compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, suffering from lingering effects of a serious car accident and said to still be depressed over Drollet's death, committed suicide by hanging herself in Tahiti. Christian Brando died of pneumonia at age 49, on January 26, 2008.


Brando earned a "bad boy" reputation for his public outbursts and antics. His behavior during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) seemed to bolster his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in director and a runaway budget, though he disclaimed responsibility for either. On June 12, 1973, Brando broke paparazzo Ron Galella's jaw. Galella had followed Brando, who was accompanied by talk show host Dick Cavett, after a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City. He reportedly paid a $40,000 out-of-court settlement and suffered an infected hand as a result. Galella wore a football helmet the next time he photographed Brando at a gala benefiting the American Indians Development Association.

The filming of Mutiny on the Bounty affected Brando's life in a profound way, as he fell in love with Tahiti and its people. He bought a twelve-island atoll, Tetiaroa, which he intended to make partly an environmental laboratory and partly a resort. Brando eventually had a now-closed hotel built on Tetiaroa, which went through many redesigns as a result of changes demanded by Brando over the years.[35] His son Simon is the only inhabitant of Tetiaroa. Brando was an active ham radio operator, with the call signs KE6PZH and FO5GJ (the latter from his island). He was listed in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records as Martin Brandeaux to preserve his privacy.[36]

In an interview with Gary Carey, for his 1976 biography The Only Contender, Brando said, "Homosexuality is so much in fashion it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me. But if there is someone who is convinced that Jack Nicholson and I are lovers, may they continue to do so. I find it amusing."

Final years and death

Brando's notoriety, his troubled family life, and his obesity attracted more attention than his late acting career. He gained a great deal of weight in the 1980s and by the mid 1990s he weighed over 300 lbs. (136 kg) and suffered from diabetes. Like Orson Welles or Elvis Presley, he had a history of weight fluctuations through his career, attributed to his years of stress-related overeating followed by compensatory dieting. He also earned a reputation for being difficult on the set, often unwilling or unable to memorize his lines and less interested in taking direction than in confronting the film director with odd demands. Brando also dabbled with some innovation in his last years. Brando had several patents issued in his name from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, all of which involve a method of tensioning drum heads, in June 2002 – November 2004. For example, see U.S. Patent 6,812,392 and its equivalents.

The actor was a longtime close friend of entertainer Michael Jackson and paid regular visits to his Neverland Ranch, resting there for weeks at a time. Brando also participated in the singer's two-day solo career thirtieth-anniversary celebration concerts in 2001, and starred in his 13-minute-long music video, "You Rock My World," in the same year. The actor's son, Miko, was Jackson's bodyguard and assistant for several years, and was a friend of the singer. He stated "The last time my father left his house to go anywhere, to spend any kind of time... was with Michael Jackson. He loved it... He had a 24-hour chef, 24-hour security, 24-hour help, 24-hour kitchen, 24-hour maid service."[37] On Jackson's 30th anniversary concert, Brando gave a speech to the audience on humanitarian work which received a poor reaction from the audience and was unaired.

On July 1, 2004, Brando died, aged 80. He left behind eleven children as well as over thirty grandchildren. The cause of death was intentionally withheld, his lawyer citing privacy concerns. It was later revealed that he had died at UCLA Medical Center of respiratory failure brought on by pulmonary fibrosis. He also suffered from congestive heart failure,[38] failing eyesight caused by diabetes, and liver cancer.[39] Shortly before his death and despite needing an oxygen mask to breathe, he recorded his voice to appear in The Godfather: The Game, once again as Don Vito Corleone. However, due to his health problems his voice was too weak to be used in the game.

Karl Malden, Brando's fellow actor in A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, and One-Eyed Jacks (the only film directed by Brando), talks in a documentary accompanying the DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire about a phone call he received from Brando shortly before Brando's death. A distressed Brando told Malden he kept falling over. Malden wanted to come over, but Brando put him off telling him there was no point. Three weeks later, Brando was dead. Shortly before his death, Brando had apparently refused permission for tubes carrying oxygen to be inserted into his lungs, which, he was told, was the only way to prolong his life.

Brando was cremated, and his ashes were put in with those of his childhood friend Wally Cox and another friend. They were then scattered partly in Tahiti and partly in Death Valley.[40]

In 2007, a 165-minute biopic of Brando, Brando: The Documentary, produced by Mike Medavoy (the executor of Brando's will) for Turner Classic Movies, was released.[41]


Civil rights

In 1946, Brando showed his dedication to the Jewish desire for a homeland by performing in Ben Hecht's Zionist play "A Flag is Born." Brando's involvement had an impact on three of the most contentious issues of the early postwar period: the fight to establish a Jewish state, the smuggling of Holocaust survivors to Israel, and the battle against racial segregation in the United States.

Brando attended some fundraisers for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.

In August 1963, Brando participated in the March on Washington along with fellow celebrities Harry Belafonte, James Garner, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, and Sidney Poitier.[42] Brando also, along with Paul Newman, participated in the freedom rides.

In the aftermath of the 1968 slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Brando made one of the strongest commitments to furthering Dr. King's work. Shortly after Dr. King's death, Brando announced that he was bowing out of the lead role of a major film (The Arrangement) which was about to begin production, in order to devote himself to the civil rights movement. "I felt I’d better go find out where it is; what it is to be black in this country; what this rage is all about," Brando said on the late night ABC-TV Joey Bishop Show.

The actor's participation in the African-American civil rights movement actually began well before King's death. In the early 1960s Brando contributed thousands of dollars to both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) and to a scholarship fund established for the children of slain Mississippi N.A.A.C.P. leader Medgar Evers. By this time, Brando was already involved in films that carried messages about human rights: Sayonara, which addressed interracial romance, and The Ugly American, depicting the conduct of US officials abroad and its deleterious effect on the citizens of foreign countries. For a time Brando was also donating money to the Black Panther Party and considered himself a friend of founder Bobby Seale.[43] However, Brando ended his financial support for the group over his perception of its increasing radicalization, specifically a passage in a Panther pamphlet put out by Eldridge Cleaver advocating indiscriminate violence, "for the Revolution."

At the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony, Brando refused to accept the Oscar for his performance in The Godfather. Sacheen Littlefeather represented Mr. Brando at the ceremony. She appeared in full Apache clothing. She stated that owing to the "poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry" Mr. Brando would not accept the award.[44] At this time the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee occurred, causing rising tensions between the government and Native American activists. The event grabbed the attention of the US and the world media. This was considered a major event and victory for the movement by its supporters and participants.

Outside of his film work, Brando not only appeared before the California Assembly in support of a fair housing law, but personally joined picket lines in demonstrations protesting discrimination in housing developments.

Comments on Jews, Hollywood, and Israel

In an interview in Playboy magazine in January 1979, Brando said: "You've seen every single race besmirched, but you never saw an image of the kike because the Jews were ever so watchful for that—and rightly so. They never allowed it to be shown on screen. The Jews have done so much for the world that, I suppose, you get extra disappointed because they didn't pay attention to that."[45]

Brando made a similar comment on Larry King Live in April 1996, saying "Hollywood is run by Jews; it is owned by Jews, and they should have a greater sensitivity about the issue of—of people who are suffering. Because they've exploited—we have seen the—we have seen the Nigger and Greaseball, we've seen the Chink, we've seen the slit-eyed dangerous Jap, we have seen the wily Filipino, we've seen everything but we never saw the Kike. Because they knew perfectly well, that that is where you draw the wagons around." King, who is Jewish, replied, "When you say—when you say something like that you are playing right in, though, to anti-Semitic people who say the Jews are—" at which point Brando interrupted. "No, no, because I will be the first one who will appraise the Jews honestly and say 'Thank God for the Jews.'"[46]

Jay Kanter, Brando's agent, producer and friend defended him in Daily Variety: "Marlon has spoken to me for hours about his fondness for the Jewish people, and he is a well-known supporter of Israel."[47] Similarly, Louie Kemp, in his article for Jewish Journal, wrote: "You might remember him as Don Vito Corleone, Stanley Kowalski or the eerie Col. Walter E. Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," but I remember Marlon Brando as a mensch and a personal friend of the Jewish people when they needed it most."[17] Brando was also a major donor to the Irgun, a Zionist political-paramilitary group.[17]

In an interview with NBC Today one day after Brando's death, Larry King also defended Brando's comments, saying that they were out of proportion and taken out of context.


"That will be Brando's legacy whether he likes it or not -- the stunning actor who embodied a poetry of anxiety that touched the deepest dynamics of his time and place."

- Jack Kroll in 1994.

Honors and tributes

Brando is widely considered as one of the greatest and most influential actors of the 20th century.[48] Largely credited for popularizing the "method" acting style, he has earned great respect among critics and theatre experts for his memorable performances and charismatic screen presence.[49] In the book Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia, James Delmont wrote: "Marlon Brando was arguably the finest screen actor of the twentieth century, winning worldwide acceptance as both a movie star of the first rank and as a performer of uncommon skill."[4] Film scholar Richard Schickel, while examining his charismatic screen presence and acting ability, argued: "As a movie actor he [Brando] has no peer in this generation. That he consistently underplays, yet still packs more emotion into a scene than anyone else, is a sign of a charisma that may be an act of God."[50] Similarly, Roger Ebert, writing of his iconic performance in Last Tango in Paris, said: "This was the greatest movie actor of his time, the author of performances that do honor to the cinema."[51]

Tennessee Williams, among the many who acknowledged his finesse, described Brando as "the greatest living actor ever... greater than [Laurence] Olivier."[52] Laurence Olivier himself said: "Brando acted with an empathy and an instinctual understanding that not even the greatest technical performers could possibly match."[50] Johnny Depp credits Brando with changing the way actors work, stating that "Marlon reinvented acting, he revolutionized acting."[53] In a 2007 Best Life article, praising his performance in On the Waterfront, Rob Reiner wrote: "Marlon Brando gives the single greatest performance ever. It's just so natural, powerful, real, and honest."[54]

Cultural impact

"The art of screen acting has two chapters-"Before Brando" and "After Brando." Though Stanislavski created "method acting," it was Brando who showed the world its power."

- American Film Institute's Moments of Significance.
Madame Tussauds waxwork exhibit of Brando in The Wild One albeit with a later 1957/8 model Triumph Thunderbird.

Marlon Brando is a cultural icon whose popularity has endured for over six decades. Brando's rise to national attention in the 1950s had a profound effect on the motion picture industry and influenced the broader scope of American culture.[55] According to film critic Pauline Kael, "[Marlon] Brando represented a reaction against the post-war mania for security. As a protagonist, the Brando of the early fifties had no code, only his instincts. He was a development from the gangster leader and the outlaw. He was antisocial because he knew society was crap; he was a hero to youth because he was strong enough not to take the crap ... Brando represented a contemporary version of the free American ... Brando is still the most exciting American actor on the screen."[55] Sociologist Dr. Suzanne Mcdonald-Walker states: "Marlon Brando, sporting leather jacket, jeans, and moody glare, became a cultural icon summing up 'the road' in all its maverick glory."[56] His portrayal of the gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild One has become an iconic image, used both as a symbol of rebelliousness and a fashion accessory that includes a Perfecto style motorcycle jacket, a tilted cap, jeans and sunglasses. Johnny's haircut inspired a craze for sideburns, followed by James Dean and Elvis Presley, among others.[48] Dean copied Brando's acting style extensively and Presley used Brando's image as a model for his role in Jailhouse Rock.[57] The "I coulda been a contenda" scene from On the Waterfront, according to the author of Brooklyn Boomer, Martin H. Levinson, is "one of the most famous scenes in motion picture history and the line itself has become part of America's cultural lexicon."[48]

Marlon Brando was also considered a sex symbol, one of the earliest in the film industry to achieve widespread attention due to his enigmatic and sexy persona and the reports of his dalliances and relationships with various major Hollywood celebrities. Film scholar Linda Williams writes: "Marlon Brando [was] the quintessential American male sex symbol of the late fifties and early sixties".[58]

He was one of the first actor-activists to march for civil and Native American rights.

Financial legacy

Upon his death in 2004, Marlon Brando left an estate valued at $21.6 million.[59] Brando's estate still earns about $9,000,000 per year, according to Forbes. He was named one of the top-earning dead celebrities in the world by the magazine.[60]


Honors, awards and nominations

Brando was named the fourth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, and part of Time magazine's Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.[61] He was also named one of the top 10 "Icons of the Century" by Variety magazine.[50][62]


  1. ^ Kanfer, Stefan (2008). Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando. New York: Knopf. p. 319. ISBN 978-1400042890. 
  2. ^ "TIME 100 Persons Of The Century". Time Magazine (Time Inc.).,9171,991227,00.html. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Marlon Brando Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Philip C. Dimare (2011), Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-5988-4296-X, p. 580-82.
  5. ^ "Marlon Brando, 1924-2004: One of the Greatest Actors of All Time". Voice of America. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "BRANDO - A TCM Documentary". 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  7. ^ Cavett, Dick (September 25, 2009). "A Third Bit of Burton". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  8. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d Brando, Marlon and Robert Lindsey. Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me. New York: Random House, 1994. ISBN 0-67941-013-9
  10. ^ Volume 81, Issues 43-46. Page 39. The New Yorker.
  11. ^ "The religion of Marlon Brando, actor". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  12. ^ Bain 2004, pp.65–66.
  13. ^ "Marlon Brando Biography (1924–)". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  14. ^ Stefan Kanfer (2008), Somebody: the reckless life and remarkable career of Marlon Brando, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 1-4000-4289-5.
  15. ^ "A biography of Marlon Brando". Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  16. ^ Stella Adler & Barry Paris (1999), Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-6794-2442-3, p.271.
  17. ^ a b c Louie Kemp. My Seder With Brando. The Jewish Journal.
  18. ^ "David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies: Welcome". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  19. ^ Mosel, "Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell
  20. ^ Pierpont writes that John Garfield was first choice for the role, but "made impossible demands." It was Elia Kazan's decision to fall back on the far less experienced (and technically too young for the role) Brando.
  21. ^ Voynar, Kim. "Lost Brando Screen Test for Rebel Surfaces – But It's Not for the Rebel We Know and Love." Cinematical, Weblogs, Inc., March 28, 2006. Retrieved: [April 3, 2008.
  22. ^ Crouch, Stanley (2007-01-25). "How DVD adds new depth to Brando's greatness. - By Stanley Crouch - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  23. ^ Pierpont, p.71
  24. ^ "American Indians mourn Brando's death – Marlon Brando (1924–2004)-". MSNBC. 2004-02-07. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  25. ^ Schickel, Richard. "A Legend 'Writes' a Novel." Time, August 7, 2005.
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  27. ^ "Brando Was Working on New Script". Fox News. Associated Press. 2 July 2004.,2933,124622,00.html. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  28. ^ "Brando's final film back on track", BBC News, May 25, 2006
  29. ^ "Helmer revives 'Brando' project", Nicole Laporte, Variety, May 25, 2006.
  30. ^ Motion Picture. 1961. 
  31. ^ "institut nationale de l'audiovisuel archivepourtous". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  32. ^ "Dailymotion". Dailymotion. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  33. ^ "Love Life as Big as the Legend". 2004-07-03. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  34. ^ "Film legend Marlon Brando dies". 2004-07-03.,5143,595074918,00.html. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  35. ^ Sancton, Julian. "Last Tango on Brando Island". Maxim. Retrieved 2009-01-25. [dead link]
  36. ^ Kanfer, Stefan (2009). Somebody: the reckless life and remarkable career of Marlon Brando (1st Vintage Books ed. ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 271. ISBN 978-1400078042. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  37. ^ "Brando, Jackson of his closest friends Neverland as 2nd home." November 11, 2006.
  38. ^ "Marlon Brando dies at 80." July 2, 2004. Retrieved: April 3, 2008.
  39. ^ "New Netherland Institute, Brando biography". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  40. ^ Wild things Dawn Porter, The Times, February 12, 2006
  41. ^ Brooks, Xan. "The last word on Brando." The Guardian, May 22, 2007. Retrieved: April 6, 2008.
  42. ^ Baker, Russell. "Capital Is Occupied by a Gentle Army." (PDF) The New York Times, August 28, 1963, p. 17.
  43. ^ Archival footage of Marlon Brando with Bobby Seale in Oakland, 1968.
  44. ^ The Academy. "Marlon Brando's Oscar Win For The Godfather"
  45. ^ Grobel, Lawrence. "Playboy Interview: Marlon Brando." Playboy, January 1979, ISSN 0032-1478. Retrieved: April 3, 2008.
  46. ^ "Marlon Brando on Jewish Influence On U.S. Culture in Films". Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  47. ^ Jewish groups riled over Brando's attacks April 1996, Tom Tugend, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
  48. ^ a b c Martin H. Levinson (2011), Brooklyn Boomer: Growing Up in the Fifties, iUniverse, ISBN 1-4620-1712-6, p.81.
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  50. ^ a b c Marlon Brando Quotes. Flixster. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
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  52. ^ Darwin Porter (2006), Brando unzipped, Blood Moon Productions, Ltd., ISBN 0-9748-1182-3, p.117.
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  54. ^ Best Life Dec 2007. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
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  56. ^ Suzanne McDonald-Walker (2000), Bikers: culture, politics and power, Berg Publishers, ISBN 1-8597-3356-5, p.212.
  57. ^ Burton I. Kaufman & Diane Kaufman (2009), The A to Z of the Eisenhower Era, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-7150-5, p.38.
  58. ^ Linda Williams (2008), Screening sex, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-4285-5, p.114.
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  60. ^ Peter Kafka and Leah Hoffmann (10-27-05). "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities". Forbes. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  61. ^ Marlon Brando TIME.
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