Marlon Brando was an American actor, film director, and activist. He is credited with bringing realism to film acting and is considered one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time.
Let’s find out some intriguing facts about him!
1. Marlon Brando, Jr. was April 3, 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska.
2. His parents were Marlon Brando, Sr., a pesticide and chemical feed manufacturer, and Dorothy Julia.
3. Brando had two older sisters, Jocelyn Brando (1919–2005) and Frances (1922–1994).
4. His ancestry included German, Dutch, English, and Irish.
5. His patrilineal immigrant ancestor, Johann Wilhelm Brandau, arrived in New York in the early 1700s from the Palatinate of Germany.
6. Brando was raised a Christian Scientist.
7. His mother, known as Dodie, was unconventional for her time, an actress herself, she smoked, wore trousers and drove cars—all unusual for women at the time—and was even a theatre administrator, helping Henry Fonda begin his acting career.
8. However, she was an alcoholic and often had to be brought home from Chicago bars by her husband.
9. In his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando expressed sadness when writing about his mother: “The anguish that her drinking produced was that she preferred getting drunk to caring for us.”
10. Dodie and Brando’s father eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
11. Brando harbored far more enmity for his father, stating, “I was his namesake, but nothing I did ever pleased or even interested him. He enjoyed telling me I couldn’t do anything right. He had a habit of telling me I would never amount to anything.”
12. Brando’s parents moved to Evanston, Illinois, when his father’s work took him to Chicago, but separated when Brando was 11 years old.
13. His mother took the three children to Santa Ana, California, where they lived with her mother.
14. In 1937, Brando’s parents reconciled and moved together to Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago.
15. In 1939 and 1941, he worked as an usher at the town’s only movie theatre, The Liberty.
16. Brando, whose childhood nickname was “Bud”, was a mimic from his youth.
17. He developed an ability to absorb the mannerisms of kids he played with and display them dramatically while staying in character.
18. He was introduced to neighborhood boy Wally Cox and the two were unlikely closest friends until Cox’ death in 1973.
19. In the 2007 TCM biopic, Brando: The Documentary, childhood friend George Englund recalls Brando’s earliest acting as imitating the cows and horses on the family farm as a way to distract his mother from drinking.
20. His sister Jocelyn was the first to pursue an acting career, going to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
21. She appeared on Broadway, then films and television. Brando’s sister Frances left college in California to study art in New York.
22. Brando had been held back a year in school and was later expelled from Libertyville High School for riding his motorcycle through the corridors.
23. He was sent to Shattuck Military Academy, where his father had studied before him.
24. Brando excelled at theatre and did well in the school.
25. In his final year (1943), he was put on probation for being insubordinate to a visiting army colonel during maneuvers. He was confined to his room, but sneaked into town and was caught. The faculty voted to expel him, though he was supported by the students, who thought expulsion was too harsh.
26. He was invited back for the following year, but decided instead to drop out of high school.
27. Brando worked as a ditch-digger as a summer job arranged by his father.
28. He tried to enlist in the Army, but his induction physical revealed that a football injury he had sustained at Shattuck had left him with a trick knee.
29. He was classified 4-F and not inducted.
30. Brando decided to follow his sisters to New York, studying at the American Theatre Wing Professional School, part of the Dramatic Workshop of the New School, with influential German director Erwin Piscator.
31. In a 1988 documentary, Marlon Brando: The Wild One, Brando’s sister Jocelyn remembered, “He was in a school play and enjoyed it … So he decided he would go to New York and study acting because that was the only thing he had enjoyed. That was when he was 18.”
32. In the A&E Biography episode on Brando, George Englund said Brando fell into acting in New York because “he was accepted there. He wasn’t criticized. It was the first time in his life that he heard good things about himself.”
33. Brando was an avid student and proponent of Stella Adler, from whom he learned the techniques of the Stanislavski system. This technique encouraged the actor to explore both internals and externals aspects to fully realize the character being portrayed. Brando’s remarkable insight and sense of realism were evident early on.
34. Adler used to recount that when teaching Brando, she had instructed the class to act like chickens, and added 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.
35. He initially gained acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for reprising the role of Stanley Kowalski in the 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, a role that he had originated successfully on Broadway.
36. He received further praise for his performance as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, and his portrayal of the rebel motorcycle gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild One proved to be a lasting image in popular culture.
37. Brando received Academy Award nominations for playing Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata!; Mark Antony in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1953 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; and Air Force Major Lloyd Gruver in Sayonara (1957), an adaption of James Michener’s 1954 novel.
38. Brando was included in a list of Top Ten Money Making Stars three times in the 1950s, coming in at number 10 in 1954, number 6 in 1955, and number 4 in 1958.
39. The 1960s proved to be a fallow decade for Brando. He directed and starred in the cult western film One-Eyed Jacks, a critical and commercial flop, after which he delivered a series of box-office failures, beginning with the 1962 film adaptation of the novel Mutiny on the Bounty.
40. After 10 years, during which he did not appear in a successful film, he won his second Academy Award for playing Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, a role critics consider among his greatest.
41. The Godfather was then one of the most commercially successful films of all time. With that and his Oscar-nominated performance in Last Tango in Paris, Brando re-established himself in the ranks of top box-office stars, placing sixth and tenth in the Money Making Stars poll in 1972 and 1973, respectively.
42. Brando took a four-year hiatus before appearing in The Missouri Breaks (1976). After this, he was content with being a highly paid character actor in cameo roles, such as in Superman (1978) and The Formula (1980), before taking a nine-year break from motion pictures.
43. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brando was paid a record $3.7 million ($15 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) and 11.75% of the gross profits for 13 days’ work on Superman.
44. He finished out the 1970s with his controversial performance as Colonel Kurtz in another Coppola film, Apocalypse Now, a box-office hit for which he was highly paid and which helped finance his career layoff during the 1980s.
45. Brando was ranked by the American Film Institute as the fourth-greatest movie star among male movie stars whose screen debuts occurred in or before 1950.
46. He was one of only three professional actors, along with Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, named in 1999 by Time magazine as one of its 100 Most Important People of the Century.
47. Brando was known for his tumultuous personal life and his large number of wives, girlfriends and children.
48. He was the father to sixteen known children, three of whom were adopted. Some sources claim he fathered as many as 17 children or more.
49. In 1976, he told a French journalist, “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.”
50. In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando wrote he met Marilyn Monroe at a party where she played piano, unnoticed by anybody else there, that they had an affair and maintained an intermittent relationship for many years, and that he received a telephone call from her several days before she died.
51. He also claimed numerous other romances, although he did not discuss his marriages, his wives, or his children in his autobiography.
52. As a young man he was a family friend of Stella Adler’s, whose daughter Ellen was a roommate of novelist Paula Fox. For a while, Brando and Fox lived under one roof and became close. Brando may have been the father of Fox’s first child, daughter Linda Carroll, who was born in 1944. Linda was given up for adoption and is the mother of Courtney Love. Fox never named the child’s father or addressed the affair.
53. Brando married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957. Kashfi was born in Calcutta and moved to Wales from India in 1947.
54. Brando and Kashfi had a son, Christian Brando, on May 11, 1958; they divorced in 1959.
55. In 1960, Brando married Movita Castaneda, a Mexican-American actress seven years his senior; they were divorced in 1962.
56. 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).
57. Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipaia, who played Brando’s love interest in Mutiny on the Bounty, became his third wife on August 10, 1962.
58. She was 20 years old, 18 years younger than Brando, who was reportedly delighted by her naïveté. Because Teriipaia was a native French speaker, Brando became fluent in the language and gave numerous interviews in French.
59. Teriipaia became the mother of two of his children: Simon Teihotu Brando (born 1963) and Tarita Cheyenne Brando (born 1970).
60. Brando also adopted Teriipaia’s daughter, Maimiti Brando (born 1977) and niece, Raiatua Brando (born 1982). Brando and Teriipaia divorced in July 1972.
61. Brando had a long-term relationship with his housekeeper Maria Cristina 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).
62. He had five more children by unidentified women: Stephen Blackehart (born 1967), Michael Gregor Gilman (born 1967), who was adopted by Brando’s longtime friend Sam Gilman, and Dylan Brando (1968–1988), Warren Angelo Brando (born 1985), Angelique Brando.
63. Brando also adopted Petra Brando-Corval (born 1972), the daughter of his assistant Caroline Barrett and novelist James Clavell.
64. Brando’s close friendship with Wally Cox was the subject of rumors. Brando told a journalist: “If Wally had been a woman, I would have married him and we would have lived happily ever after”. Two of Cox’s wives, however, dismissed the suggestion that the love was more than platonic.
65. Brando’s grandson Tuki Brando (born 1990), son of Cheyenne Brando, is a fashion model. His numerous grandchildren also include Michael Brando (born 1988), son of Christian Brando, Prudence Brando and Shane Brando, children of Miko C. Brando, the children of Rebecca Brando, the three children of Teihotu Brando and the children of Michael Gregor Gilman, among others.
66. In 1946, Brando performed in Ben Hecht’s Zionist play A Flag is Born. He attended some fundraisers for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. In August 1963, he participated in the March on Washington along with fellow celebrities Harry Belafonte, James Garner, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster and Sidney Poitier.
67. Along with Paul Newman, Brando also participated in the freedom rides.
68. Brando was branded as ‘bad boy’ for his public outburst. He was the rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was.
69. He participated in African-American civil right movement. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Brando made his commitment to further King’s cause.
70. Brando refused the Best Actor Award for “The Godfather.” He did not attend the Oscar ceremony, instead sent Sacheen Littlefeather, the American Indian rights activist.
71. On July 1, 2004, Brando breathed his last. He died of respiratory and heart failure. The cause of his death was withheld for privacy concern.