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Marlon Brando, noted actor, dies at age 80

LOS ANGELES, July 2 (UPI) -- Throughout a turbulent career, Marlon Brando was an artistic and social force both on and off the screen, rebellious and nonconforming to some audiences, but antisocial and unkempt to others.

But whatever the image, Brando could not be denied as one of the most original and compelling personalities to appear on the screen. His forceful portrayal both on stage and in film of the screaming, cursing brute Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar named Desire" was the introduction of Brando's naturalistic style of acting. His mumbling delivery, along with the torn T-shirt was the arrival of "the Method" form of acting.

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Brando exposed his rebellious personality in his film debut, playing the embittered paraplegic in Stanley Kramer's "The Men," demonstrating the depths of his training at the then-recently formed Actors' Studio, a workshop for professional actors that quickly became world renowned. In preparing himself for the film, Brando asked to be admitted to a veterans hospital as a paralyzed veteran.

Always a controversial figure, Brando's private life and politics were non-conformist. He became enveloped in minority causes, appearing at civil-rights demonstrations and once aligning himself inside an abandoned church with a tribe of Wisconsin Indians who were surrounded by federal agents.

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Constantly a target of media and fans alike, Brando became a semi-retired recluse and spent much of his time behind a camouflaged gate on a mountain top estate on Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills or on Tetiaroa, an atoll he bought near Tahiti, where he built a house and hotel.

Brando's personal life reached a low in the mid-1990s when his son Christian was arrested and charged with killing the abusive boyfriend of his pregnant half-sister, Cheyenne, who twice attempted suicide when she was called to testify in the ensuing trial.

In 1994 Brando collaborated with Robert Lindsey, a journalist, in an autobiography, "Songs My Mother Taught Me," but instructed the collaborator early in the work to avoid asking questions about his former wives and any of his children. "He promised to hide nothing, to be completely honest with me and to answer any questions I asked him about any topic I wanted except his marriages and his children -- a promise he kept," Lindsey wrote. What's more, Brando "never relented in his determination to say nothing about his children or his former wives," Lindsey said.

Born April 3, 1924, in Omaha, Neb., Brando was the son of a salesman and an actress in the local community playhouse. The only son in a family of three children, Brando was called "Bud" as a child and young man. His oldest sister, Jocelyn Brando, was a stage actress who made occasional appearances in films.

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When Brando was 6, the family moved to Evanston, Ill., and then Libertyville, Ill. Troubles in public school led to his enrollment at Shattuck Military Academy in Faribault, Minn., from which he was eventually expelled.

The high school dropout then joined his two older sisters, Frannie and "Tiddy" (Jocelyn), in New York, where he attended the Dramatic Workshop and worked in summer stock. Less than a year after moving to Manhattan he played Nels on Broadway in "I Remember Mama," and soon thereafter, the handsome, slender young rebel starred in "Truckline Cafe." He later performed in "Candida" and "A Flag Is Born" with Paul Muni, all on Broadway.

But it wasn't until he starred as the slovenly Kowalski in "Streetcar" that he electrified critics and public alike. The torn T-shirt worn by Brando's character became symbolic of the actor and his style, and Brando was elevated to reverence by fellow performers who saw Brando as the greatest, most inventive actor of his generation.

Jack Nicholson spoke for most actors, saying, "He gave us our freedom."

More than any film in his career, however, 1953's "The Wild One," in which Brando played the reckless but handsome Johnny, leader of a motorcycle gang, stamped Brando as a rebel and non-conformist who flaunted the rules and thumbed his nose at society.

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Brandon said the impact made by "The Wild One," surprised him: "I had fun making it, but never expected it to have the impact it did. I was as surprised as anyone when T-shirts, jeans and leather jackets suddenly became symbols of rebellion."

Brando himself delighted in adopting the styles of both Kowalski and the brutal Johnny in his personal life, dressing sloppily, riding motorcycles and breaking rules when it suited him.

"More than most parts I've played in the movies or on-stage, I related to Johnny. ... Like Johnny, I have always resented authority," he wrote.

But if he was criticized for his lifestyle, he was adored for his acting feats. Brando won best actor Academy Awards in 1954 for "On The Waterfront" as a punch-drunk prizefighter and in 1972 for the title role in "The Godfather," playing an aging Mafia don.

When he was nominated for the role in Godfather, Brando said in his autobiography, "It seemed absurd to go to the awards ceremony.

"Celebrating an industry that had systematically misrepresented and maligned American Indians for six decades, while at that moment two hundred Indians were under siege at Wounded Knee, was ludicrous," Brando wrote.

Instead, he created an uproar at the 1973 Academy Awards when he sent an American Indian actress, Sacheen Little Feather, dressed as an Indian princess, to pick up the Oscar and to read a statement denouncing Hollywood's defamation of the Indian.

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Brando said later he did not know the whereabouts of the 1973 Oscar. "The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me," Brandon wrote, "but if it did, I don't know where it is now."

In 1989, after an eight-year absence from the screen, Brando gained another Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor for "A Dry White Season," a film about apartheid that Brandon felt strongly about but was so disappointed in the final film cuts that he offered to pay to have the film re-cut.

Brando brought his distinctive style to such diverse roles as a World War II German officer in "The Young Lions," Napoleon in "Desiree," an Okinawan houseboy in "Teahouse of the August Moon," Mark Antony in "Julius Caesar" and Fletcher Christian in the remake of "Mutiny on The Bounty."

After his enormous screen successes of the 1950s, Brando's career sharply slipped in the '60s with a string of mediocre films. Except for "The Godfather," his subsequent movies were largely unsuccessful.

With his macho image, Brando enjoyed a lifelong reputation as a ladies' man. He had numerous romantic liaisons during his Broadway years but did not marry until he had established himself as a movie star.

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He married Indian actress Anna Kashfi in October 1957, and a son, Christian Devi, was born in May 1958. They were divorced in 1959 in a bitter, acrimonious confrontation that was to recur time and again in custody battles over their son.

In a subsequent court hearing, Kashfi accused Brando of siring three sons by Tahitian actress Tarita who appeared in "Mutiny On The Bounty."

It was during his turbulent relationship with Kashfi that Brando became a recluse in his Mulholland Drive mountaintop retreat, then bought the atoll island of Tetiaroa.

Brando's tangled personal life and penchant for secrecy made it difficult to determine how many times and to whom he was married, as well as the number of offspring he sired.

In 1979 Kashfi wrote a controversial book about her life and times with the actor titled "Breakfast With Brando."

Brando also married Mexican actress Maria Casenada (Movita). They became the parents of a son, Miko.

In a 1974 magazine story, Brando said: "Four kids by three different women. I had a real Ford assembly line going throughout much of my life. I knew what I was doing, but I didn't know why I was doing it. I still don't have all the answers."

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Brando, who spent 15 years undergoing therapy, preferred exotic women, including Josanne Mariani and actresses France Nuyen and Rita Moreno.

A cult grew up around Brando and his films. His broken nose, prominent forehead and cold, remorseless eyes earned him millions of dollars on screen.

In the 1970s Brando commanded as much $$@$!2 million per movie, limiting himself to three weeks' work in such films as "Superman" and "Apocalypse Now."

He attempted to become a director with "One Eyed Jacks" in which he also starred in 1960. It was a resounding failure and convinced the actor never to direct again.

Brando devoted much of his free time to supporting American Indian causes and raising money to defend American Indians involved in legal battles. He also demonstrated with Indians for fishing rights in the U.S. Northwest and appeared at their side during tribulations at Wounded Knee, N.D.

Brando gained considerable weight after he reached 50 and seldom was seen in public. On those rare occasions when he was seen in New York or Hollywood, he was surrounded by photographers.

He made news by scuffling with insistent photographers and was involved in a legal battle after punching freelance photographer Ron Galella in New York in the 1970s.

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In 1973 a court in Italy asked for a prison sentence for Brando after an obscenity trial for his appearance in "Last Tango In Paris," a near-pornographic movie directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Brando, at 70, wrote: "Had I been loved and cared for differently, I would have been a different person. I went through most of my life afraid of being rejected and ended up rejecting most of those who offered me love because I was unable to trust them. When the press made up lies about me, I used to try to maintain an image of indifference, but privately I sustained great injury. Now it truly doesn't matter to me what anyone says about me. I have achieved honest indifference to the opinions of others except for those I love and hold in high regard."

In later years, he appeared opposite Matthew Broderick in the offbeat comedy "The Freshman," a film in which he parodied his "Godfather" role; and appeared opposite Johnny Depp in "Don Juan DeMarco."

In June 1999 he was ranked fourth in the American Film Institute's poll ranking the greatest American male screen legends. A panel made the selections, choosing exclusively from actors and actresses who made their screen debuts before 1950 or who first appeared after 1950 but are no longer living.

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Brando's films include: "The Men," 1950; "A Streetcar Named Desire," 1951; Viva Zapata," 1952; "Julius Caesar," "The Wild One," "On the Waterfront," "Desiree," 1954; "Guys and Dolls," 1955; "The Teahouse of the August Moon," 1956; "Sayonara," 1957; "The Young Lions," 1958; "The Fugitive Kind," 1960; "One-Eyed Jacks" (also dir.), 1961; "Mutiny on the Bounty," 1962; "The Ugly American," 1963; "Bedtime Story," 1964; "The Chase," "The Appaloosa," 1966; "The Countess From Hong Kong," "Reflections in a Golden Eye," 1967; "Candy," 1968; "The Night of the Following Day," "QueimadaBurn! (It.Fr.) 1969; "The Nightcomers (UK), 1971; "The Godfather," "Last Tango in Paris," 1972; "The Missouri Breaks," 1976; "Superman," 1978; "Apocalypse Now," 1979; "The Formula," 1980," "A Dry White Season," 1989; "The Freshman," 1990; "Christopher Columbus," "The Discovery," 1992; "Don Juan DeMarco," 1995.

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