The VERY wild one: He took hundreds of lovers of both sexes but, as a new biography reveals, the only woman Marlon Brando ever truly loved took revenge on him — by sleeping with his teenage son, writes TOM LEONARD
As a young actor out on the town, Marlon Brando teamed up with his great friend, the French screen heartthrob Christian Marquand to chase women.
Marquand did the talking while Brando just stood there broodingly irresistible.
But in a complicated turn of events, the two men were also lovers. They would share a girl in bed and ‘afterwards keep going themselves’.
A compulsive womaniser and renowned lover, Brando had affairs with actresses Marilyn Monroe, Ursula Andress and Rita Moreno, and bedded hundreds of other women.
But he was no repressed, guilt-ridden homosexual. He delighted in being sexually ‘fluid’ decades before it became fashionable in Hollywood, according to a definitive new biography.
A compulsive womaniser and renowned lover, Brando had affairs with actresses Marilyn Monroe, Ursula Andress and Rita Moreno, and bedded hundreds of other women (pictured on Guys and Dolls)
Brando is remembered as one of the screen greats — arguably the greatest film actor — whose self-destructive urges squandered the talent he showed in films such as On The Waterfront, The Wild One (pictured) and A Streetcar Named Desire
Brando preferred women, says Mann, but swung both ways with relish. ‘He was insecure about many things but sex was not one of them,’ he writes (pictured with Rita Moreno in The Night of the Following Day)
At his military boarding school, Brando made no secret of his sexual tryst with another boy and may even have had another with his drama teacher, reveals author William J. Mann.
Brando preferred women, says Mann, but swung both ways with relish.
‘He was insecure about many things but sex was not one of them,’ he writes.
Or as Brando once said of his philosophy: ‘Let’s say sex has no sex.’
Among the lovers revealed after his death aged 80 in 2004 was comic actor Richard Pryor.
His widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, and record producer Quincy Jones separately attested that the two stars had an affair in the 1970s.
‘He’d **** anything. Anything! He’d **** a mailbox,’ said Jones indelicately of Brando’s all-consuming sex drive.
Brando is remembered as one of the screen greats — arguably the greatest film actor — whose self-destructive urges squandered the talent he showed in films such as On The Waterfront, The Wild One and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Despite sporadic career comebacks, such as his memorable performances in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, his later years were mired in a chaotic private life that produced at least 11 children and a string of B-list money-grubbing films.
Actor Marlon Brando is all smiles as he holds his Oscar which was awarded to him for the best actor of 1954. Brando, who won the Oscar for his performance in the film, On The Waterfront, was overwhelmed by the honor Hollywood bestowed upon him
American actor Marlon Brando on the set of Desiree, directed by Henry Koster
He descended into obesity and self-righteous megalomania, indulging in the sort of preachy behaviour and self-aggrandisement that antagonised film studios — such as sending a Native American protester to collect his 1973 Oscar for The Godfather.
His neglect of his children had catastrophic results when his son Christian shot dead the boyfriend of his pregnant half-sister Cheyenne who then killed herself.
However, according to Mann, whose 720-page tome, The Contender — The Story Of Marlon Brando, has been hailed as the most comprehensive biography of the enigmatic star, ‘nearly everyone who has written about him has got him wrong’.
Mann argues Brando had nothing but contempt for acting and his films. Far more important to him were the humanitarian causes he championed — and the women he obsessively chased.
Critics who dismiss him as a hypocrite and self-pitying narcissist overlook the traumatic legacy of his terrible childhood and severe mental illness.
Mann accepts Brando’s claim, after years in psychotherapy, that he ‘went after women to make up for what my mother failed to give me and to spite my father’.
The lack of love from his abusive, alcoholic parents explains why he sought only loveless, sexual relationships, says Mann. It also helps explain, he argues, how Brando could have such empathy for the dispossessed yet behave so callously to the women in his life.As his book reveals, Brando’s treatment of women was appalling and certainly takes a lot of explaining.
American actors Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint on the set of Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan
British actress Vivien Leigh (Vivian Mary Hartley) and American actor Marlon Brando smoking on the set of the film A Streetcar Named Desire
Brando once said ‘the only reason I’m in Hollywood is that I don’t have the moral courage to refuse the money’. He was the first actor to break the $1 million a movie barrier and earned $3.7 million for a three-minute appearance in Superman in 1978.
But money wasn’t the only enticement. He exploited his Hollywood superstardom and his astonishing good-looks to get any woman — or man — he wanted.
Born in 1924 in Omaha, his father — also Marlon — was a pesticide salesman and his mother Dorothy, an actress. He inherited their bohemian attitudes to sex.
His tyrannical and emotionally cold father with whom ‘Bud’, as he was known, frequently came to blows, was a serial philanderer. His mother became a hopeless drunkard who once had to be collected naked from a police cell. She would flirt so disgustingly with her son’s few friends that Brando never dared bring any home.
Bullied by his angry, violent father, Brando became an angry, violent teenager who carried a knife and would slash car tyres, shoot at people with an air gun and steal money from neighbours. The ‘Rumpelstiltskin rages’ of his later life were another legacy from his father, says Mann.
Brando, aged 15, intervened one night as his father was drunkenly beating his mother, threatening to kill him if he touched her again.
Two years later, his father sent him to Shattuck Military Academy to toughen him up. Instead his acting potential was spotted and encouraged by Earle Wagner, 44, head of English and drama, who became his friend and mentor. Five years later Wagner was sacked for having sexual relations with some of the cadets.
Brando once said ‘the only reason I’m in Hollywood is that I don’t have the moral courage to refuse the money’. He was the first actor to break the $1 million a movie barrier and earned $3.7 million for a three-minute appearance in Superman in 1978 (pictured in A Streetcar Named Desire)
American actor Marlon Brando (1924 – 2004) with his father, Marlon Brando, Sr. and mother Dorothy in around 1950
Mann speculates that Brando could have been one of them. After all, he was open about having a ‘sexual fling’ with another cadet and in early 1943, he mysteriously fell out with Wagner — an incident Brando would never discuss.
Shortly after, he was expelled, supposedly for smoking, although Mann is clearly not convinced that was the reason.
‘Bud’ moved to New York at 19 to study drama. There it was the turn of the opposite sex to fall by the score for him. His first girlfriend was Celia Webb, a beautiful, young Hispanic who was married and a mother and — friends thought — ‘substitute mother’. Brando boasted they would even have sex at the ballet, ‘their hands in each other’s lap’.
She was the first of many who foolishly hoped he might marry her. Even after she had his baby stillborn and suffered depression, he refused.
He was juggling myriad girlfriends, including a petite blonde from his acting class named Blossom Plumb. Actress Elaine Stritch, also in the class, said women would pretend to faint so Brando would pick them up. His charm, she said, was ‘devastating’ and he was ‘so beautiful that it scared me’.
It wasn’t just the girls. Brando’s ‘entreating eyes and his soft, slightly high-pitched voice made him a tantalising mix of the masculine and feminine’, says Mann.
To appease his appetites, Brando would head to the bohemian artists’ colony of Provincetown, Cape Cod, where he had an affair with a gay barman.
On another occasion, Brando brought a ‘pretty young drifter’ into the attic room he shared with his friend Freddie Fiore so they could ‘share’ her together in bed.
‘While [Marlon] was humping away silently in the dark,’ said Fiore, Brando reached out and stroked his friend’s face so he wouldn’t feel left out.
In Mann’s view Brando turned to sex to cope with his feelings of depression and loneliness,.
By 21, he was bringing home a new conquest almost every night. ‘There would be 30 girls — I’m not exaggerating — at a party all trying to get Marlon for themselves,’ recalls a girlfriend. ‘I called them a ship of fools.’
Brando, she added, needed to have ‘every woman in the room, if not that night then soon’. Sometimes, he would ‘grab a script girl or wardrobe assistant in between scenes’ of a play he was in, says Mann.
‘For him, sex was like eating or going to the bathroom,’ said a fellow cast member.
Anna Kashfi, the actress who became Brando’s first wife in 1957 and divorced him about a year later, enters court in 1960 during a custody hearing involving their son Christian, who was born in May 1958
American actors Marlon Brando (1924 – 2004) and Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962) at a party in New York City in 1956
The more women threw themselves at him, the more he treated them like dirt. Mann believes he insisted on their unstinting devotion because he never got that from his mother.
Although he was ‘rarely’ physically abusive with women, he would start arguments then come back with a ‘hangdog’ expression and invariably the girl took him back.
Brando preferred ‘inconsequential sex’, says Mann, and most women understood this wasn’t about love. ‘I really couldn’t compete with all his sexual commitments, nor did I want to,’ said the actress Shelley Winters, one of his on-off lovers.
It wasn’t that Brando couldn’t love, he loved many women but ‘just couldn’t show it very well’, claims American singer and comedienne Kaye Ballard, another Brando flame.
History suggests that may have been wishful thinking. Brando’s secretary recalled him telling her: ‘When I awake in the morning, the first thing I think about is, ‘Who am I going to f*** today?’ ‘ — even if there was a woman sleeping beside him.
He was 26 when he became a film star with an Oscar-winning performance in his first movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and despite his proclivities he found his instant sex symbol status overwhelming.
‘He would walk through Grand Central Station and women would open their shirts,’ said a girlfriend, Ellen Adler. ‘He was completely unprepared for that.’
Adler — daughter of Brando’s acting coach, Stella Adler, and ‘one woman Brando could never overpower’ — concluded sadly that nobody could be married to him. Marlon could only accept a woman as his equal if she was a ‘pal’, never a lover, she said.
Stardom brought him into the orbit of gorgeous female stars.
He met voluptuous Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno in 1954 while they were making Napoleonic drama Desiree.
Having first been struck by the woman’s perfume he wore, she found him ‘swaggeringly irresistible’. They started an eight-year affair which even survived his engagement to a pretty French 19-year-old, Josanne Mariani.
Brando dragged his feet and Mariani — having accused him of affairs with Ursula Andress and Christian Marquand — left him. She had a lucky escape. Rita Moreno had a botched abortion after falling pregnant by Brando (who never used contraception) and — heartbroken by his relentless womanising — attempted suicide with sleeping pills.
Brando could hardly ignore such glaring evidence of the ‘devastating impact’ of his behaviour, says Mann, but he had a pretty good try, insisting publicly he was the perfect gentleman.
Privately, he dismissed his scorned lovers as ‘hysterical’.
In 1955, Brando reportedly started a fling with Marilyn Monroe when she was briefly single. ‘Blonde and fragile’, says Mann, Monroe wasn’t Brando’s type although she ‘had an earthy sense of humour that he would have liked’.
Marlon Brando at age six with his sister. Brando sits atop a shetland pony
Portrait of actor Marlon Brando as he appears in the film A Streetcar Named Desire
Brando claimed he and Monroe kept up their relationship intermittently for years, and she rang him days before her death. But Mann believes Brando only saw Marilyn ‘once or twice’.
Scared of being overshadowed, Brando generally preferred to go after less famous women, just as he preferred not to act alongside big name female stars.
His three marriages were all to minor actresses — including one he’d found doing the washing up in a Polynesian hotel, and were all short-lived thanks to his philandering. As Brando was dressing for his wedding to his British-born first wife, Anna Kashfi, his secretary spotted another woman in his bed.
On location his behaviour would deteriorate further. Filming 1962 film Mutiny On The Bounty in Tahiti, Brando had a different girl each day of the week. He also took a ‘perverse pleasure in playing the home-wrecker’, relishing the challenge of seducing friends’ wives, sometimes jumping over garden fences to arrive unnoticed. He once sadistically invited over the husband of a mistress while she was with him.
‘[Brando] was lonely and envious of those who weren’t,’ observes Mann.
And yet he fled commitment. When third wife Tarita Teriipaia tried to tell him she loved him, he angrily insisted she never again utter those words.
But there was one woman he claimed he truly loved — Jill Banner, a bit-part actress more than 20 years his junior with whom he started an affair in the 1970s. Her secret, said a friend, was that, unlike his other women, she never went running after Brando when he walked away.
An ex-girlfriend of Clint Eastwood, she shared Brando’s antipathy to monogamy — her first encounter with him was in a menage a trois with Marquand, Brando’s lover and her then boyfriend.
However, she, too, grew tired of Brando’s ugly behaviour and, according to Brando, she had an affair with his son Christian, 18, in revenge. Banner died in a car crash in 1982.
Brando’s last significant relationship was with his housekeeper, Maria Ruiz, with whom he had three children. When he tried to move his family away, she sued him for £70 million.
Mann omits numerous other tawdry Brando affairs, such as with British novelist and sister of Joan, Jackie Collins, who claims he seduced her when she was 15.
‘I had a lot of affairs. Far too many to describe me as a perfectly normal, reasonable, intelligent person,’ Brando once said.
Few could possibly disagree.
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