Marlon Brando

On this date in 1924, actor Marlon Brando Jr. was born in Omaha, Neb., to Dorothy (Pennebaker) and Marlon Brando. When he was 11 his parents separated (both had alcohol problems), and he lived for a time with his Christian Scientist grandmother and became interested in Christian Science.  His mother’s theater background — she worked with young Henry Fonda and others — piqued his interest in acting. After dropping out of high school, he moved to New York City in 1943 and studied with Stella Adler and Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio to learn Stanislavski “method” acting techniques.

His Broadway debut was in “I Remember Mama” (1944). His movie debut was as a paraplegic in “The Men” (1950). Reprising his memorable depiction on Broadway of Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire” for the 1951 film of the same name, Brando, became an overnight sensation.

His other memorable films include “Julius Caesar” (1953), “On the Waterfront” (1954, for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar), “Guys and Dolls” (1955), “The Teahouse of the August Moon” (1956), “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962), “The Ugly American” (1963), “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1967), “The Godfather” (1972, for which he won but declined his second Oscar), “Last Tango in Paris” (1972) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979).

Brando was married three times to actresses: Anna Kashfi (1957-59), Movita Castaneda (1960-62) and Tarita Teriipaia (1962-72). Teriipaia, 18 years his junior, played his love interest in “Mutiny on the Bounty.” He had 11 children, including three with his housekeeper Maria Cristina Ruiz during their relationship from 1988 to 2001.

His son Christian (with Kashfi) was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years for the 1990 shooting death of Dag Drollet, the boyfriend of Brando’s daughter Cheyenne (Christian’s half-sister). Cheyenne, who had drug addictions, committed suicide at age 25. Brando was known for eccentricities and promotion of liberal causes. He died at age 80 in 2004.

As an adult, Brando was never active in any religious denomination but was interested in spirituality, metaphysics and nontraditional belief systems such as Native American and Eastern religions, including meditation. He also expressed admiration for Judaism. He has been described as a pantheist and an atheist, although the atheist claim is dubious. In his autobiography he referred to his “inexaustible awe and reverence for nature.” (D. 2004)

PHOTO: Brando during filming of “The Wild One” in 1953; photo under Wikimedia Commons.

Freedom From Religion Foundation