Marlo Brando Jr. was born on 3 April 1924 to Marlon Brando Sr., pesticide manufacture and Dorothy Julia, an actress and theater manager.
Brando had English, German, Irish and Dutch roots and despite his famous role in The Godfather, a film set around American-Italian mobsters, no Italian ancestry!
Brando was highly influenced by his grandmother, a Christian Scientist, and even considered becoming a Minister in his teenage years but he later described the philosophical influence of Native American Spirituality to be the greatest in his life.
Brando’s unconventional mother Dorothy, popularly known as Dodie, was an alcoholic, talking of whom, Brando often expressed sadness due to her frequent absences.
Brando often expressed his resentment towards his father, talking about how he never supported or encouraged him.
Brando’s parents separated for a few years during which time Brando lived with his mother in California along with his two siblings but later moved back to Illinois when his parents reconciled.
Brando expressed talent in mimicry and acting from a young age and would often impersonate other people and even cows and horses.
Brando was expelled from his local high school for driving a motorcycle within the corridors after which he joined a military school. He later decided to drop out of high school altogether when he was once again expelled for disorderly behavior.
Marlon Brando was not allowed to enlist in the army due to an old football knee injury.
Brando’s sister Jocelyn studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and had a successful career spanning over Broadway, films and even television.
Brando’s pursuit of acting in New York is owed to him having enjoyed himself fully for the first time in his life when he performed in a school play. The acceptance and regard Brando garnered in New York kept him on the path.
Brando acknowledged firmly that he owed all he learned of acting to Stella Adler and Elia Kazan and disregarded Lee Strasberg’s claims to his fame with disdain.
Brando would often carry out a conversation with the staff around him despite the camera rolling to get into the flow of the scene until dialogue became as natural as the conversation.
Known for his unpredictable and disorderly behavior, Brando lost a few roles because of the same but despite everything, he was approached frequently as a promising actor.
Brando made his Broadway debut with ‘I remember Mama’, a play based on Katheryn Forbes’ novel, Mama’s Bank Account.
Brando was voted the ‘Most Promising Young Actor’ by the New York Drama Critics for his role in Truckline Cafe, a play that although was a commercial failure, garnered Brando well deserved recognition.
Brando worked alongside actress Tallulah Bankhead briefly for ‘The Eagle has two heads’ despite Brando’s dislike for Bankhead on account of her reminding him of his mother. Neither did anything to hide their mutual disdain of each other, with Brando’s rude behavior and Bankhead’s dismissal of him, mid-tour.
Freed from his role alongside Bankhead, Brando was offered the role of Stanley Kowalski in the 1947 play, ‘A streetcar named Desire’, directed by Elia Kazan.
To prepare for his first on-screen role as a veteran in ‘The Men (2015)’, Brando spent a month in bed at the Birmingham Army Hospital.
Still regarded as one of his best roles, Brando’s on-screen performance as Stanley Kowalski brought to him the status of a sex-symbol in Hollywood and a Best Actor nomination in the Academy Awards.
For his role as Emiliano Zapata in ‘Viva Zapata! (1952)”, Brando secretly visited all towns in Mexico where Zapata had lived, to study the speech and behavior of people.
Brando’s role in the 1953 film ‘The Wild One’ made him an icon and role model of the upcoming Rock and Roll generation and future legends such as James Dean and Elvis Presley.
Brando won his first Oscar for his role as Terry Malloy in ‘On the Waterfront’, a crime-drama that garnered shining reviews from critics and became a huge commercial success.
Brando starred alongside Frank Sinatra in ‘Guys and Dolls (1955)’, but the relationship between the two co-stars remained icy and Sinatra called Brando the ‘world’s most overrated actor’.
Brando partnered with Paramount to establish his own Production House ‘Pennebaker’ named in honor of his deceased mother. The purpose of the company was declared to be to create films of social value that would bring about a change in the world.
Brando made his directorial debut with the 1961 film ‘One-eyed Jacks’ but the film took almost double the time it was estimated to and went largely over budget, and so Paramount regained control of the film. Though the film did fairly well on the box-office, it ended up losing money and gained poor critical reviews.
Brando experienced a dark time in his career during the 1960s with successive commercial and critical flops guided by his declining personal life and a poorly-thought five-picture deal with Universal Studios.
His role as a closeted gay army officer in the film ‘Reflections in the Golden Eye’ brought Brando huge critical acclaim despite the film’s average performance in the box office and mixed reviews among critics.
Brando’s rescue from the unbankable slump came in the form of ‘The Godfather’, Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 bestselling novel of the same name. Coppola struggled immensely to sign Brando due to Paramount’s rigid disapproval, however with the agreement of a few conditions, Brando was signed for the role of Vito Corleone, ‘The Don’, a role that won Brando his second Academy Award and high praise from critics.
In regards to his personal life, Brando was known for having multiple partners. He fathered 8 children and adopted three. Despite his candidness in his autobiographies, he shied away from talking much about his marriages and children.
Brando was married to his first wife, Anna Kashfi, an actress, for a brief two years during which they had a son.
Brando had two children with his second wife, Movita Castaneda, a Mexican-American actress; However, the pair ended up divorced after two years of marriage.
Brando’s third marriage, with French actress Tarita Teriipaia, lasted a decade, during which the couple had two children while Brando adopted Tarita’s daughter and niece.
Brando admitted to having had homosexual experiences, stating that he was not ashamed of them and that any rumors regarding his sexuality and relationships only brought him amusement.
Other than being a sex-symbol, Brando was also seen as a Lesbian icon, influencing the butch look from the 1950s and onward.
Despite rumors and controversy regarding the nature of Brando’s relationship with his childhood friend, Willy Cox, after the death of whom, Brando wrenched the ashes from his widow, the claims were ultimately disregarded by late Cox’s wife herself who stated their love to be no more than platonic.
Brando had active participation in the civil rights movement and donated thousands of dollars to related causes.
In 1973, Brando refused to accept his Academy Award, owing to the poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry; this action of his gained much praise from supporting activists and attention from world media.
An activist against Apartheid, Brando boycotted the release of his films in South Africa and took part in a rally for the release of Nelson Mandela.
The actor was a close friend of Michael Jackson and could often be found spending his time at the latter’s ranch. The actor’s son, Miko, also served as a close friend, bodyguard, and assistant to the singer.
Brando had been experiencing several medical issues in the last years of his life before ultimately passing away on July 2004 from respiratory failure. His ashes after cremation were mixed along with those of his two closest friends, Willy Cox, and Sam Gilman, and scattered in Tahiti and Death Valley.