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In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando claimed he met Marilyn Monroe at a party where she played piano, unnoticed by anybody else there, and they had an affair and maintained an intermittent relationship for many years, receiving a telephone call from her several days before she died. He also claimed numerous other romances, although he did not discuss his marriages, his wives, or his children in his autobiography. As a young man he was a family friend of Stella Adler’s, whose daughter Ellen was a roommate of novelist Paula Fox. For a while, Brando and Fox lived under one roof and became close. Brando may have been the father of Fox’s first child, daughter Linda Carroll who was born in 1944. Linda was given up for adoption and is the mother of Courtney Love. Fox never named the child’s father nor addressed the affair.
Brando married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957. Kashfi was born in Calcutta and moved to Wales from India in 1947. She is said to have been the daughter of a Welsh steel worker of Irish descent, William O’Callaghan, who had been superintendent on the Indian State railways. However, in her book, Brando for Breakfast, she claimed that she really is half Indian and that the press incorrectly thought that her stepfather, O’Callaghan, was her real father. She said her real father was Indian and that she was the result of an “unregistered alliance” between her parents. Brando and Kashfi had a son, Christian Brando, on May 11, 1958; they divorced in 1959.
Brando earned a “bad boy” reputation for his public outbursts and antics. According to Los Angeles magazine, “Brando was rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was”.
His behavior during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) seemed to bolster his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in director and a runaway budget, though he disclaimed responsibility for either. On June 12, 1973, Brando broke paparazzo Ron Galella’s jaw. Galella had followed Brando, who was accompanied by talk show host Dick Cavett, after a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City. He reportedly paid a $40,000 out-of-court settlement and suffered an infected hand as a result. Galella wore a football helmet the next time he photographed Brando at a gala benefiting the American Indians Development Association.
Encyclopedia Brittanica describes him as “the most celebrated of the method actors, and his slurred, mumbling delivery marked his rejection of classical dramatic training. His true and passionate performances proved him one of the greatest actors of his generation”. It also notes the apparent paradox of his talent: “he is regarded as the most influential actor of his generation, yet his open disdain for the acting profession… often manifested itself in the form of questionable choices and uninspired performances. Nevertheless, he remains a riveting screen presence with a vast emotional range and an endless array of compulsively watchable idiosyncrasies.”
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Brando was paid a record $3.7 million ($14 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) and 11.75% of the gross profits for 13 days work on Superman. He finished out the decade of the 1970s with his controversial performance as Colonel Kurtz in another Coppola film, Apocalypse Now, a box-office hit for which he was highly paid and which helped finance his career layoff during the 1980s.
Marlon Brando is a cultural icon whose popularity has endured for over six decades. His rise to national attention in the 1950s had a profound effect on American culture. According to film critic Pauline Kael, “Marlon Brando represented a reaction against the post-war mania for security. As a protagonist, the Brando of the early fifties had no code, only his instincts.