Marlon Brando Infamously Lost Two of His Academy Awards: Here’s What Happened

by John Jamison

Another year, another Oscars.

On April 25, Hollywood will assemble to recognize the work of those who help create our favorite movies of 2020. And in the spirit of honoring the best movies of the year, let’s throw it back to the times when Marlon Brando lost his little gold men.

Considered among the greatest actors of the 20th century, Marlon Brando won two separate Oscars for best actor. His wins came nearly 20 years apart and at extremely different stages in his career.

Marlon Brando Wins for ‘On The Waterfront’

In 1955, Marlon Brando won his first Oscar. He played the role of Terry Malloy, a longshoreman who struggles against the mobbed-up dockers union, in the acclaimed crime drama. The movie itself won best picture.

Unfortunately, Brando’s trophy disappeared. Nobody really knows exactly what happened to it. It could have been stolen or simply misplaced. Brando himself couldn’t recall. In his autobiography, “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” he mentioned what happened.

“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for ‘On The Waterfront.’ Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared. I didn’t think about it until a year or so ago, when my lawyer called and told me that an auction house in London was planning to sell it,” he wrote.

He Refuses to Accept Oscar for ‘The Godfather’ Performance

This one was a little more complicated. Brando never really lost his second Oscar, because he never got it in the first place.

After more than a decade of critical and commercial failure for Marlon Brando, he revived his career with an iconic performance as Vito Corleone in the Francis Ford Coppola adaptation “The Godfather.”

The performance earned him his second Oscar for best actor in 1973. But instead of accepting the award, Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actress and activist, on his behalf.

“I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech, which I cannot share with you presently because of time but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” she said in an “acceptance” speech at the 1973 Oscars.

Brando’s rejection of the award led to some interesting fallout. Roger Moore, who presented the Oscar initially, didn’t know what to do with the statue. So he did what any one of us would have done. He took it to the afterparties.

After a few weeks, Roger Moore very honestly returned the little gold man to the Academy. Coincidentally, Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 Oscar had been damaged in transit, and the family wanted a replacement. So Charlie Chaplin ended up with Marlon Brando’s rejected Oscar.