Why Marlon Brando rejected the Oscar? (Video)

The Godfather,Wounded Knee , Marlon Brando, Oscar win, Oscars, Academy Award, Sacheen Littlefeather, Liv Ullmann , Roger Moore

Marlon Brando declined an Oscar for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” The movie considered one of the finest in the world is also a milestone in the career of Marlon Brando but there was something bigger on his mind; human rights of the Indians. The rights of the Indians made Brando take this emotional decision which history would remember as one of the finest in cinema.

Watch Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather:

Marlon Brando’s stand took everyone by surprise. On March 5, 1973, the actor sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place who declined the Oscar on his behalf. And like you would see below, no one was amused; not even the presenters who did not even bother to smile and kept staring at Sacheen in obvious bewilderment:

The Godfather,Wounded Knee , Marlon Brando, Oscar win, Oscars, Academy Award, Sacheen Littlefeather, Liv Ullmann , Roger Moore
Sacheen telling Liv Ullmann and Roger Moore that she cannot accept the trophy for Marlon Brando. This drama unfolded in front of millions at the 45th Annual Academy Awards in 1973.


The Godfather,Wounded Knee , Marlon Brando, Oscar win, Oscars, Academy Award, Sacheen Littlefeather, Liv Ullmann , Roger Moore
Taking to the stage she read out a small portion of the speech that Marlon Brando wanted her to read, only to find that the audience did not even want to hear her. But sanity prevailed after a while and the booing crowd was taken over by the sheer volume of applauses. Indeed, a milestone in the history of Oscars.

In her speech she said:

I am representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you 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.

As soon as the crowd heard her speak, it started booing. And to this Sacheen said ‘excuse me.’

Sensing the tension, others in the crowd started cheering her and she finished her speech with the hope of a better future.

But this wasn’t all; The New York Times published full speech of Marlon Brando in which he pointed at the Wounded Knee incident as one of the triggers that led to his decision. Below are the bits of his speech where he exposed the treatment of the Indian people:

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. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did. For them, we do not have to restore these people, we do not have to live up to some agreements, because it is given to us by virtue of our power to attack the rights of others, to take their property, to take their lives when they are trying to defend their land and liberty, and to make their virtues a crime and our own vices virtues.

Further, the note said:

Perhaps at this moment you are saying to yourself what the hell has all this got to do with the Academy Awards? Why is this woman standing up here, ruining our evening, invading our lives with things that don’t concern us, and that we don’t care about? Wasting our time and money and intruding in our homes.

I think the answer to those unspoken questions is that the motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil. It’s hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.

Marlon Brando ended his speech saying:

Thank you for your kindness and your courtesy to Miss Littlefeather.

But little did he know that the first courtesies that Sacheen received were the icy stares of the presenters and the boos of the audience.

Watch Sacheen decline the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando:

By Namta Gupta