Marlon Brando rejecting his 1973 Oscar 25



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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?



Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. I think it would have made more impact if he had gone on stage and rejected the award and then made the speech himself. I think his actions were cowardly and unworthy of him to send this young lady in his place. She could have accompanied him. He obviously did not have the conviction to carry this through himself.

    3 REPLY
    • By sending her he got her marginalized people a bit of media attention on the world stage. Which was more worthwhile than all the celebrity back slapping for merely being convincing actors.

    • Sarah Woodwards thank you well said, he was no coward by any means. His action made a statement so profound he didn’t have to be there and 38 years later still talking about it 😀😀😀😀

  2. I think how he did this may not be the issue. The reasons why he did this are to be applauded in my view.
    The Red Indian nation was treated terribly.
    Kevin Costner said it in Dances With Wolves……
    Two good men trying to make a valid and true point.

    2 REPLY
  3. They’re all a bunch of pretentious wankers. Look at this years bullshit leading up to the awards. Just one self adulating night after another back slapping one another!!!

  4. Although one can understand, indeed sympathize with Brando’s thoughts and motives one can question his methods. Yes the young native Indian women sent to deliver his message was a strong in your face way to get his message across. However he was not to know he was going to win the Oscar. Had he not the message would have been lost. Had he turned up and delivered the message himself, from the stage or at a press conference later, it would have had just as much if not more strength.

  5. I didnt remember this but no more powerful way to get the struggles of the Apachie nation into the public eye than to have a beautiful, articulate representative of the the nation deliver this speech – with all her humanity and culture on display.

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