It’s that time of the year again when the Oscar fever is starting to grip people and in our series of article’s leading up to the event, we bring to you the moment when Don refused to accept the Oscar for Best Actor.
45th Annual Academy Awards® in 1973 saw Marlon Brando, the man who portrayed Don Vito Corleone in the gangster classic “The Godfather”, refuse an offer that no one could decline, an Oscar.
Over the years, we have seen many Hollywood stars make social and political statements at the Academy Awards®. None could top or come as close to what happened in 1973. Marlon Brando not only refused to accept the award for Best Actor, on his behalf, he sent a Native American actress, Sacheen Littlefeather, on the podium to deliver a tirade that he had specially written for the audience.
Decked in a full apache dress, she carried a full 15-page letter written by Brando. She could only deliver a part of it as show producers threatened to arrest her if speech ran over more than 60 seconds. Some consider this as the best acceptance speech (or non-acceptance in this case) in the history of Academy Awards®.
As soon as she announced the refusal crowd was heard booing and cheering for the nervous woman simultaneously. Marlon Brando’s refusal was a protest against the treatment of Native Americans in the American film industry and the recent events at the Wounded Knee.
Wounded Knee was a hot topic in America at that time. A group of Native Americans was involved in a bloody 71 days battle against American federal agents in protest against the treatment of their people.
Brandon was not the first person to turn down the award. That honour belongs to George C Scott. In his speech Brandon had written, “The motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing him as savage, hostile and evil.”
George C Scott was rather polite in refusing the awards. Calling it all a hoopla Scott said, “I don’t want any part of it.”
Sacheen Littlefeather After 1973 Oscar
Sacheen Littlefeather’s dreams of becoming an actress vanished after the event. She was immediately blacklisted by Hollywood and capitalizing on her overnight fame the Playboy magazine decided to publish her previous unpublished nude pictures. In an August 2012 episode of The Tonight Show, she was referred by comedian Dennis Miller as, “That stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar.”
There is a wonderful documentary called Reel Injun that catches up with her. The documentary looks at the portrayal of North American Indigenous people in Hollywood.