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When Marlon Brando Refused the Oscar for His Position in The Godfather to Help the Rights of Native People (1973)

On the forty fifth Academy Awards, Marlon Brando gained the Finest Actor award for his efficiency in The Godfather — however despatched a Native American civil rights activist named Sacheen Littlefeather to say no it on his behalf. “The twenty-six-year-old activist took the stage in a fringed buckskin costume and moccasins,” writes the New Yorker‘s Michael Schulman. “When she defined that Brando’s causes for refusing the award had been Hollywood’s mistreatment of Native People and the standoff in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, there have been loud boos and scattered cheers.”

Extra seventies issues have occurred, however absolutely not many. With time, Schulman writes, “the entire thing cemented right into a pop-culture punch line: preening actor, pretend Indian” — the “crying Indian” environmental PSA had aired just some years earlier than — “kitschy Hollywood freak present. However what if it wasn’t that in any respect?”

Virtually half a century later, this notable chapter in Oscars historical past has come again into the information within the wake of the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences’ official apology to Littlefeather. It’s now extra broadly understood who Littlefeather is, and what Brando was going for when he made her his emissary that night time in 1973.

Brando wasn’t particularly hesitant to elucidate his actions even on the time: lower than three months after the occasion, he laid out all his causes on The Dick Cavett Present. “I don’t suppose that individuals typically notice what the movement image business has executed to the American Indian,” he tells Cavett. “As a matter of reality, all ethnic teams.” He then runs down the “foolish renditions of human habits” delivered nightly on tv, highlighting the phenomenon of “Indian youngsters seeing Indians represented as savage, as ugly, as nasty, vicious, treacherous, drunken.”

Such clichéd portrayals had been what Brando meant to deal with by talking by means of Littlefeather. However the public’s fast response, as Cavett places it, went alongside the traces of, “There’s Brando leaping on a social-cause bandwagon now, getting in on the Indians.” They’d forgotten that the actor’s reference to Native American causes went again a minimum of to 1964, when he was arrested at a Pacific Northwest “fish-in” by the Puyallup tribe protesting the denial of their treaty rights. And as Littlefeather’s fêting by the Academy exhibits, that connection has lengthy survived even Brando himself.

Associated content material:

Interactive Map Exhibits the Seizure of Over 1.5 Billion Acres of Native American Land Between 1776 and 1887

Albert Einstein Sports activities a Native American Headdress and a Peace Pipe on the Grand Canyon, 1931

1,000+ Haunting & Lovely Images of Native American Peoples, Shot by the Ethnographer Edward S. Curtis (Circa 1905)

The Godfather With out Brando?: It Virtually Occurred

How Dick Cavett Introduced Sophistication to Late Night time Discuss Exhibits: Watch 270 Traditional Interviews On-line

Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.


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