In 1973 Marlon Brando rejected a Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfather which was enormously controversial at the time and he did so by boycotting the stage in stony silence sending a marginalised actor in his place.
This video shows the presentation and speech that was made by Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. Sacheen was then a little-known actress, and the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee at the time. She enunciated his reasons, non-confrontationally and the next day, the unfinished speech was published in The New York Times.
For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ”Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.”
When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right.
At the time, Brando’s actions were widely criticised. People thought he did the wrong thing by being silent, and that if he had wanted to draw attention to the cause he should have stood and marked his opinion vociferously. It’s again a year when diversity is being challenged in the Academy Awards with nominees for the major awards all white, like Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress, and the Best Picture category didn’t welcome any films featuring African-American actors either. The Academy is rapidly trying to counter-fire with black presenters being identified nfor the event to tip the scales to some form of balance while hashtags like #oscarsowhite trend online.
Memories of previous challenging years make for interesting remembrance.
Do you remember Brando’s controversial statement year?