Marlon Brando Once Explained Why He Rejected Oscar for ‘Godfather’

by Matthew Memrick
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Legendary actor Marlon Brando earned an Oscar for his “Godfather” movie role, but he was determined to make a political statement by rejecting the award.

On the eve of the 1972 Oscars, the late actor announced that he would boycott the ceremony. In his place, he sent actress Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award and bring light to the lousy depiction of Native Americans in films.

The moment made history, and it came up again in an episode of the “Dick Cavett” show. In a candid moment, Brando didn’t hold back.

When Cavett asked if the actor had a chance to “do over” his award rejection and the spectacle that came with it, he said, “no, he wouldn’t have done it.” 

Strangely, the actor’s depiction of Vito Corleone in the legendary film has received praise for the acting. But, at the same time, the filmgoers have reflected on the movie’s stereotypes and violent depictions.

Brando died in 2004 at age 80.

Brando Reflects On Decision

At the time, the 49-year-old Brando spoke about his decision later to Cavett. He pressed further about the plight of Native Americans. He talked about author John Collier’s “Indians of the Americas” with the host.

“After reading the book I realized, I knew nothing about the American Indian, and everything that we are taught about the American Indian is wrong,” Brando said. “It’s inaccurate. Our school books are hopelessly lacking, criminally lacking, in revealing what our relationship was with the Indian.”

Marlon Brando said the audience didn’t want Littlefeather at the awards show because of the heavy subject. But the actor continued to shed light on the film industry’s effect on Littlefeather and other Native Americans.

Littlefeather “Blacklisted”

The actress’s appearance on the awards show was tricky. When former Bond actor Roger Moore tried to hand her the award at first, she brushed it aside to make Brando’s statement. Producers gave her 60 seconds to talk.

Brando told Cavett it was a shame she didn’t get to read his full statement. The audience booed and taunted the woman, and the actor acknowledged that he should have got that flak.

For Littlefeather, she had mixed feelings about the experience. Hollywood directors and studios blacklisted the actress. She never worked in the industry again.

In an interview from the 2009 film “Reel Injun,” she admitted that Marlon Brando was “delighted” by accepting the award. However, she felt “abandoned” from the stunt’s backlash.

“It was the first time anyone had made a political statement at the Oscars,” Littlefeather said in the documentary. “It was the first Oscars ceremony to be broadcast by satellite all over the world, which is why Marlon chose it. I didn’t have an evening dress, so Marlon told me to wear my buckskin.”

Fox News reported in 2021 that Littlefeather was terminally ill from a cancer battle. She lives in Northern California.

Reportedly, the film earned between $246 million and $287 million. If you account for inflation, that $287 million amount is nearly $2 billion. In 1972, that box office amount was the largest ever at the time.

Outsider.com