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Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando in The Wild One - 1954
Maron Brando in 1954

Marlon Brando was born in Omaha Nebraska on 3 April 1924, the son of a chicken- and cattle-feed salesman. After  being expelled from several schools, Marlon was sent to Shattuck Military Academy, from which he was expelled. He had taken up and quit a number of dead-end jobs, such as ditch digger and lift operator. His father (an alcoholic) offered to finance whatever meaningful career he chose. Following the lead of his mother (also an alcoholic), who was involved in a local theatrical group,  he decided to become an actor.

Brando moved to New York where he studied the Stravinsky method  at the New School and then at the Actors' Workshop. He become totally dedicated to "method" acting which values emotion and realism over stagecraft.

In1943, Brando made his professional acting debut in the stage play Babino. This was followed, in 1944, by his Broadway debut in I Remember Maria. In 1946, he was voted Broadways Most Promisng Actor for his performance in Truckline Cafe. The intensity and honesty of his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire the next year made him a Broadway star and brought offers from the Hollywood studios - which he turned down.

It was not until 1950 that Brando agreed to star as a paraplegic war veteran in an independent Stanley Kramer production, The Men. In preparation for the role, Brando spend a month lying in bed in a war veteran's hospital. 

His second movie, a recreation of his stage triumph in A Streetcar Named Desire, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. His next movie, Viva Zapata!, earned him another nomination, as did his idiosyncratic portrayal of Mark Antony in 1953s Julius Caesar. This was followed by his classic role as the rebel bikie gang leader in The Wild One and, the same year, his portrayal of a washed-up boxer in On the Waterfront for which he won the Best Actor Academy Award.

Marlon Brando in One-eyed Jacks - 1961
Maron Brando in 1961

The following year, Brando demonstrated his versatility when he co-starred with Frank Sinatra in the hit musical Guys and Dolls. This was followed by another Broadway adaptation in Teahouse of the August Moon and yet another Academy Award nomination for his role in Sayonara.

In 1957, Brando married actress Anna Kashifi. They had one son, Christian, but divorced a year later. The following year (1960), he secretly married another actress, Movita Castenada, with whom he had a son, Miko. Their marriage was annulled in 1968. In 1962, Brando married another actress, Tarita Teriipia. They had three children, Rebecca, Simon and Cheyenne.

In 1961, Brando produced and directed as well as starred in One-Eyed Jacks, which cost so much to produce it was unable to make a profit. His next film, Mutiny on the Bounty, suffered a similar fate, partly because of  Brando's insistence on waiting for the perfect mood or an inspired improvisation.

Brando's career went into a downward spiral through the sixties as strange role choices and his difficult character led to him being considered too  risky by the movie studios. At the same time, Brando became a supporter of radical political movements such as the Black Panthers and the Native American movement. In 1970, he adopted a daughter, Petra.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather - 1972
Maron Brando in 1972

In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola cast Brando to play the aging Mafia boss in The Godfather. Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor but refused to accept it, describing it as a "door prize", and sending a spokeswomam to deliver a speech attacking the US Government's treatment of Native Americans. The following year, he received another Academy Award nomination and great critical acclaim for his role in Last Tango in Paris.

Despite these successes, Brando then virtually exiled himself to the atoll of Teti'aroa near Tahiti, became obese and refused all but a few character and cameo roles. One of these, A Dry White Season, earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor, and another, in Superman, earned him almost $4 million for a relatively brief cameo appearance. In 1989, Brando had a daughter, Ninna, with his former maid Christina Ruiz.

In 1990, Brando's son, Christian, was charged, and eventually convicted, with murdering  his half-sister Cheyenne's fiancé. The legal costs placed a severe stain on Brando's finances and he reluctantly returned to acting, starring in several films during the 1990s.

In 1994, Brando's daughter, Cheyenne,  committed suicide sending him into a period of deep depression and even greater obesity. In the same year, he published his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me.

Maron Brando in 1979
Marlon Brando in Free Money - 1998
Maron Brando in 1998