Marlon Brando and his influence on the American culture

Essay, 2008

6 Seiten



1. Introduction
Marlon Brando had a great influence in the film industry, but his involvement wasn´t welcome

2. Main part
2.1. Reasons for his social commitment
2.2. His way to show his commitment
2.3. Consequences of his commitment

3. Conclusion
He is widely regarded as one of the most influential actors of all time

4. References

1. Introduction

“ He was innately brilliant but it was all scattered, almost as if he ’ d been told early on that he was nothing and worthless. Yet his work was so beautiful and so pure that there was no explaining where it came from. He still didn ’ t love acting, he didn ’ t love the theater and he

didn ’ t respect his own talent, but his gift was so great he couldn ’ t defile it. He could put on pounds, he could say that it was all shit, but he still couldn ’ t destroy it. “

(Actress Julie Harris about Marlon Brando)1

Political and social commitment isn´t welcome in Hollywood, because actors are having a great influence on the audience of their movies. Marlon Brando´s growing activism was a thorn in the film industry side.

2. Main part

2.1. Reasons for his social commitment

Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska on April 3, 1924. His home life as a child was unhappy and tumultuous.

Brando’s paternal ancestral background is somewhat cloudy. It is generally agreed upon that he is from Dutch, Irish and English stock, although the family name originated in Germany and was originally spelled as Brandau. He was a mix of different cultures and hated discrimination.

From the beginning the enigmatic Brando was a rebel, or seemed to be. He resented authority. He questioned everything.

From the age of 11, he lived with his grandmother, a Christian Scientist practitioner. She was a great influence on him. As an adult Brando was never active in any religious denomination, although he had a life-long interest in religion and spirituality, and he appears to have adopted some aspects of Native American spirituality.

In describing the various influences on his life, Brando said, "Philosophically I've felt closest to the American Indians" (Marlon Brando, Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me).2

Marlon Brando helped out a lot of minorities in America, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native American Indians.

2.2. His way to show his commitment

Brando travelled widely in support of the civil rights movement, abandoning his reclusive ways for extensive public appearances. Among them, prominently, were the Selma, Alabama and Washington, DC civil rights marches of 1965. After Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, he walked through Harlem, in a successful attempt to calm riotous unrest. A month later he was in Berkeley on a more controversial mission, an appearance at a memorial service for a member of the Black Panthers, slain by police. He seemed to want to take on himself all the guilt of the white race for all the inequities visited on the blacks. At the ceremony for the black radical he said: “You've been listening four hundred years to white people and they haven't done a thing . . . I'm going to begin right now informing white people what they don't know.” (Richard Schickel, Brando: A Life in Our Times)3 This, for a time, he earnestly tried to do. He even tithed a percentage of his income to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

At the same time, he worked for UNICEF, even attempting to make a documentary about starvation in India. His concern for the fate of American Indians brought him to Wounded Knee, to the Menominee Uprising in Wisconsin, to many a fund-raiser for the cause, and, at the height of his involvement, to stage-managing his famous non-appearance at the 1973 Academy Award broadcast. Instead of going himself, Brando He sent Maria Cruz to accept the award on his behalf. She has a heritage that includes Apache, Yaqui, Pueblo, and European ancestry and her Indian name is Sacheen Littlefeather. She was to deliver a political fifteen-page speech written by Brando about the plight of Native Americans, but Howard Koch, the producer of the show, threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 45 seconds. Her comments on stage were improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press. It was a rather scandalous and embarrassing event at the time.

Brando also showed his commitment in his movies, he was involved in films which included messages about human rights like in “Sayonara”, “The Ugly American“ an many more.



2 Marlon Brando (1994), Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me (page 455), New York: Random House

3 Richard Schickel (1991), Brando: A Life in Our Times (page 141), Atheneum: New York City

Ende der Leseprobe aus 6 Seiten


Marlon Brando and his influence on the American culture
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Marlon, Brando, American
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Natalie Schmidt (Autor:in), 2008, Marlon Brando and his influence on the American culture, München, GRIN Verlag,


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