- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

Two-time Academy Award winner Marlon Brando, who changed the nature of American acting and remained a rebel both in his public and private life, died Thursday evening in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 80.

Mr. Brando died of lung failure at UCLA Medical Center, said Roxanne Moster, a spokeswoman for the hospital. She didn’t give details.

Mr. Brando was considered one of the greatest actors of his generation. Some said he was the greatest actor ever to appear on screen.

He revolutionized acting with his method performances in 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” both the stage and film versions, and “On the Waterfront” in 1954. In the 1970s, when his career was in decline, Mr. Brando made a brilliant comeback as mobster Don Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s blockbuster film “The Godfather.”

Mr. Brando won Best Actor Academy Awards for his roles as the confused Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” and as the wily Corleone in “The Godfather.”

James Caan, “Godfather” co-star and longtime friend, told Fox News he was shocked by Mr. Brando’s death. “[Marlon Brando] influenced more young actors of my generation than any other actor,” Mr. Caan said, including the likes of Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro.

Actor Robert Duvall had fulsome praise for the reclusive actor.

“He was like a godfather to so many young actors worldwide, but particularly in this country,” Mr. Duvall said. “He had enormous positive influence on younger performers. His memory will live on forever.”

Mr. Brando excelled in “The Godfather” and some of his early films. Elia Kazan, who directed Mr. Brando’s brutish Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” both on Broadway and on screen, wrote in his 1988 memoir: “If there is a better performance by a man in the history of film, I don’t know what it is.”

MSNBC film critic John Harti said, “From the beginning, audiences and critics weren’t always sure what they were getting with Marlon Brando. Some praised his originality immediately, others dismissed him as a sloppy mumbler.”

Mr. Harti quoted the late Pauline Kael as saying that when she first saw Mr. Brando in one of his mid-1940s plays, “Truckline Cafe,” she thought he was having a seizure on stage.

In the 1990s, the Independent newspaper in London said Mr. Brando had let a “brilliant career slip into overblown, overpaid roles,” and described him as the “most widely known case of a film star selling out.”

Some said Mr. Brando’s sellout began in 1962 when he played Fletcher Christian in a remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

Despite his fame and influence, Mr. Brando prided himself on his individuality, and he refused to be what Hollywood expected him to be. Hollywood Reporter writer Robert Osborne noted that from the start the actor refused to curry favor with Tinseltown’s gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, who, at one time, were thought to be able to make or break film stars. He refused to visit the columnists or “pay them homage” like other actors in the 1950s, Mr. Osborne said.

“I am myself, and if I have to hit my head against a brick wall to remain true to myself, I will do it,” Mr. Brando once said.

One line from his film “The Wild One,” in which he played the leader of a motorcycle gang, seemed to define his life. Asked what he was rebelling against, Mr. Brando’s character replied, “Whattaya got?”

In the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s, Mr. Brando had a muscular body, sultry looks and animal magnetism. With so much sex appeal, he had many mistresses and three failed marriages.

His first wife, actress Anna Kashfi, whom he married in 1957, said he was bisexual. Mr. Brando later acknowledged he had dabbled in homosexuality. Cameron Mitchell, who acted with Mr. Brando in the film “Desire,” said the star once announced he was “trisexual.”

He married Mexican actress Movita in 1960. He had nine children from his marriages.

The actor routinely became sexually involved with his co-stars. Tarita Teripia, his love interest in “Mutiny on the Bounty,” subsequently became his third wife and was the mother of his daughter, Cheyenne, who committed suicide in 1995, and son, Tehotu.

Pina Pellicer, the actress who romanced Mr. Brando on and off screen in his 1961 overbudget “One Eyed Jacks,” later committed suicide. Pater Manso, a Brando biographer, has said Mr. Brando was probably responsible for half a dozen suicides.

Mr. Brando’s most famous act of rebellion occurred in 1973, when he refused to accept his Academy Award for his performance in “The Godfather.” An unflagging supporter of the American Indian, Mr. Brando sent a woman, Sasheen Littlefeather, to accept in his stead. She read a diatribe about Hollywood’s treatment of American Indians at the awards ceremony, and was booed.

An obese Mr. Brando was sobbing 12 years ago on the witness stand pleading for leniency in the trial of his son, Christian, who was accused in the 1990 murder of Dag Drollet, Cheyenne Brando’s boyfriend. Still depressed five years later, Miss Brando hanged herself. Mr. Brando said he had not paid enough attention to his beautiful daughter.

The actor’s roots stem from the American heartland. He was born in Omaha, Neb., on April 3, 1924. His father was a distant, conservative man of French, English and Irish heritage. The original family name was Brandeau.

His mother, the former Dorothy Pennebaker, who was sometimes a problem drinker, introduced Mr. Brando to the theater. She was an occasional actress in the Omaha Community Playhouse, and she got a role for a reluctant neighbor, Henry Fonda, in one of the productions.

At age 19, Marlon Brando moved to New York to be with his sisters, Frances and Jocelyn. The latter was studying with famed acting coach Stella Adler, and Marlon joined her. Within a week, Miss Adler, who exposed Mr. Brando to method acting, predicted he would be the “best young actor in America in a year.”

Details about funeral plans weren’t disclosed. Mr. Brando’s attorney, David J. Seeley, said arrangements would be private.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide