Brando, Jr. (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an Oscar winning
American actor who is widely regarded as one of the greatest film actors
of the twentieth century. He brought the techniques of either the Stanislavski
System or method acting (commonly mistaken for the same acting technique)
to prominence in the films A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront,
both directed by Elia Kazan in the early 1950s. His acting style, combined
with his public persona as an outsider uninterested in the Hollywood
of the early 1950s, had a profound effect on a generation of actors,
including James Dean, Paul Newman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert
Duvall, Sean Penn, Russell Crowe, and Jack Nicholson.
Brando was also
an activist, lending his presence to many issues, including the American
Brando was born
in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1935, when Brando was 11 years old, his parents,
Marlon Brando Sr. (1895–1965) and Dorothy Pennebaker Brando (?–1954)
separated. His mother briefly took her three children to live with her
mother in Santa Ana, California until 1937 when the parents reconciled
and moved to Libertyville, Illinois, a village north-west of Chicago.
The family were of primarily Dutch, Irish and English stock, although
the family name originated in Germany (Brandau). Brando's mother was
a kind and talented woman, although she suffered from alcoholism and
was frequently absent in Brando's childhood. She was involved in local
theater and helped a young Henry Fonda to begin his own acting career,
and fuelled Brando's interest in stage acting. Brando was a gifted mimic
from early childhood and developed a rare ability to absorb the tics
and mannerisms of people he played and to display those traits dramatically
while staying in character. His elder sister, Jocelyn Brando, was also
an actress, albeit not of the same stature as Marlon.
Brando had a tumultuous
childhood, in which he was expelled from several schools. After working
as a ditch-digger in his hometown for a brief period of time, his father
grew critical of his son and encouraged him to seek his own direction.
After discussing plans with his mother to join his sister already in
New York and try to become an actor, the elder Brando would support
his son for 6 months or return home to work for him as a salesman. Brando
left Illinois for New York City, where he studied at the American Theatre
Wing Professional School, New School Dramatic Workshop, and the Actors'
Studio. It was at the New School's Dramatic Workshop that he studied
with Stella Adler and learned the revolutionary techniques of the Stanislavski
Brando had two older
sisters: Jocelyn Brando (1919–2005)
Frances Brando (1922-)
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, photographed by Carl Van
Vechten, 1948Brando soon used his Stanislavski System skills for his
first summer-stock roles in Sayville, New York. 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, paraplegic veteran in Truckline Café, although
the play was a commercial failure. He achieved real stardom, however,
as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire
in 1947, directed by Elia Kazan. Brando sought out that role, 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.
According to an
article in the Times, Brando auditioned and was accepted immediately
for the lead role in "Rebel Without A Cause" in 1947. He turned
the role down and the film was not made until 1955 with James Dean as
lead. It is not known why Brando rejected the offer but it is suggested
that he did not want to sign the 6-year contract that was necessary
at the time.
Brando's first screen
role was the bitter crippled veteran in The Men in 1950. True to his
method, Brando spent a month in bed at a veterans' hospital to prepare
for the role.
He made a much larger
impression the following year when he brought his performance as Stanley
Kowalski to the screen in Kazan's adaptation of "Streetcar"
in 1951. He 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 Marc Antony, and On the Waterfront
in 1954. In 1953, he also starred in Lee Falk's play "Arms and
the Man". Falk was proud to tell that Marlon Brando turned down
an offer of $10 000 a week to act on Broadway, in favour of working
for Lee in Boston in 1953 in the play "Arms and the Man".
His Boston contract was less than $500 a week.
Brando finally won
the Oscar for his role of Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront. Under Kazan's
direction, and with a talented ensemble around him, Brando used his
Stanislavski System training and improvisational skills. Brando claimed
that he had improvised much of his dialogue with Rod Steiger in the
famous, much-quoted scene ("I could have been a contender.")
with him in the back of a taxicab (Kazan disputed this).
that triumph by a variety of roles in the 1950s that defied expectations:
as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, where he managed to carry off a
singing role; as Sakini, a Japanese interpreter for the U.S. Army in
postwar Japan in The Teahouse of the August Moon; as an Air Force officer
in Sayonara, and a Nazi officer in The Young Lions. While he won an
Oscar nomination for his acting in Sayonara, his acting had lost much
of its energy and direction by the end of the 1950s.
Brando's star sank
even further in the 1960s as he turned in increasingly uninspired performances
in Mutiny on the Bounty and several other forgettable films. Though
even at this professional low point, Brando still managed to produce
a few exceptional films; such as One-Eyed Jacks (1961), a western that
would be the only film Brando would ever direct, Reflections in a Golden
Eye (1967) portraying a repressed gay army officer, and Burn! (1969)
which Brando would later claim as his personal favourite, although a
commercial failure. Nonetheless, his career had gone into almost complete
eclipse by the end of the decade thanks to his reputation as a difficult
star and his record in overbudget or marginal movies.
Brando became known
as much for his crusades for civil rights, Native American rights and
other political causes as he was for his acting. He also earned a "bad
boy" reputation for his public outbursts and antics. In June 1973,
Brando broke paparazzo Ron Galella's jaw. His hand became infected as
a result. In the following year, Galella wore a football helmet when
snapping photos of Brando.
In his autobiography
Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando claimed he showed up one night at
Marilyn Monroe's apartment, and boldly announced that he was there to
sleep with her (they did, according to him.) He also claimed numerous
other romances, and described his marriages and family life in detail.
In his 1976 biography
"The Only Contender" by Gary Carey, Brando was quoted as saying,
"Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences,
and I am not ashamed." Photographs circulate on the Internet that
appear to confirm this. A 2006 book alleges affairs with Rock Hudson
and Cary Grant.
An alleged long
time lover was Wally Cox. Brando is quoted as saying: "If Wally
had been a woman, I would have married him and we would have lived happily
ever after."  After Cox died, Brando kept his ashes for 30 years,
and they were eventually scattered with his own. Cox's third wife only
discovered he possessed them after reading an interview in Time where
Brando is quoted as saying: "I have Wally's ashes in my house.
I talk to him all the time." She wanted to sue, but her lawyers
would not accept the case.
He married actress
Anna Kashfi in 1957, mistakenly believing her to be of Asian Indian
descent when she was in fact from Wales and of Irish Catholic extraction
(her real name was Joan O'Callaghan). O'Callaghan didn't discourage
Brando's mistake; in fact, she dressed and made herself up as an Indian
beauty after learning that Brando gravitated toward exotic women. They
divorced in 1959, after having one son, Christian Brando together.
In 1960, Brando
married Movita Castaneda, a Mexican actress 7 years his senior who had
appeared in the first Mutiny on the Bounty film in 1935, some 27 years
before Brando's own version was released. A remake of Mutiny on the
Bounty in 1962, with Brando as Fletcher Christian seemed to bolster
his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in directors
and a runaway budget, though he disclaimed responsibility for either.
experience affected Brando's life in a profound way: he fell in love
with Tahiti and its people. He took a 99-year lease on part of an atoll
island, Tetiaroa, which he intended to make part-environmental laboratory
and part-resort. Tahitian beauty Tarita Teriipia, who played Christian's
love interest, became his third wife. A 1961 article on Tarita in the
fan magazine Motion Picture described Brando's delight at how naïve
and unsophisticated she was. Teriipia became the mother of three of
his children (one of whom died, see below). The hotel on Tetiaroa was
eventually built; it went through many redesigns due to changes demanded
by Brando over the years, but is now closed. A new hotel consisting
of 30 deluxe villas is due to open in 2008.
All three of Brando's wives were pregnant when he married them. The
number of children he had is still in dispute, although he recognized
eleven children in his will; they were (ages as given in 2005):
by his marriage
to actress Anna Kashfi:
Christian Brando (47)
by his marriage to actress Movita Castaneda:
Miko Brando (44)
Rebecca Brando Kotlinzky (39)
by his marriage to Tarita Teriipia:
Simon Teihotu Brando (42) - the only inhabitant of Tetiaroa
Cheyenne (committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 25)
Petra Brando-Corval (33), daughter of Brando's assistant Caroline Barrett
Maimiti Brando (29)
Raiatua Brando (24)
by his maid Christina Maria Ruiz:
Nina Priscilla Brando (15)
Myles Jonathan Brando (13)
Timothy Gahan Brando (11)
In May 1990, Christian
shot and killed Dag Drollet, the Tahitian lover of Christian's half-sister
Cheyenne, at the family's hilltop home above Beverly Hills. Christian,
31, claimed the shooting was accidental.
After a heavily
publicized trial, Christian was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter
and use of a gun. He was sentenced to 10 years. Before the sentencing,
Brando delivered an hour of rambling testimony in which he said he and
his ex-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 said he thought Brando was acting and his son was "getting
away with murder."
The tragedy was
compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, said to still be depressed over Drollet's
death, committed suicide by hanging herself in Tahiti. She was only
25 years old. Tarita later wrote a book detailing how Cheyenne was sexually
abused for years by her father.
Final years and
Brando's notoriety, his family's troubled lives, his self-exile from
Hollywood, and his obesity, unfortunately attracted more attention than
his late acting career. 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 and childish demands. On the other hand, most other actors
found him generous, funny and supportive. Although more and more reclusive
in his declining years, Brando was by nature a casual and friendly man.
The actor was a
long-time close friend of the entertainer Michael Jackson and paid regular
visits to his Neverland Ranch, resting there for weeks. Brando also
participated in the singer's solo career 30th anniversary celebration
concerts in 2001, as well as starring in his 15 minutes long music video
"You Rock My World", the same year. The actor's son, Miko,
was Jackson's bodyguard for several years, and is also a friend of the
On July 1, 2004,
at 6:30 p.m. local time, Brando died at the age of 80. The cause of
his death was intentionally withheld, with his lawyer citing privacy
concerns. It was later revealed that he died at UCLA Medical Center
of lung failure brought on by pulmonary fibrosis. He had also been suffering
from congestive heart failure and diabetes, which was causing his eyesight
to fail, and had also recently been diagnosed with liver cancer. Brando
was cremated and his ashes were scattered in two places. Part of his
ashes were scattered in Tahiti and part of his ashes were scattered
in Death Valley.
In the infamous Playboy magazine interview of January 1979, Brando was
charged with anti-Semitism in regard to his opinion on double-standards
set by Jews in Hollywood with respect to racial and cultural stereotyping:
"You've seen every single race besmirched, but you never saw an
unfavorable image of the Kike because the Jews were ever so watchful
for that. They never allowed it to be shown on screen."
Brando again attracted
controversy by making similar allegations 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 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.'"
Brando in 1948Despite
his later obesity, Brando would diet, run and lift weights to keep in
shape in his early to mid career. He started to lift weights while in
A biopic is currently in development written by new-comer Johnny Bas,
actors reportedly up for the role are Ryan Phillipe and Billy Zane.
Turned down the title role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Bud (his childhood family nickname)
Mr Mumbles (given to him by Frank Sinatra)
5' 10" (1.78 m)