Ed ClarkGetty Images
It’s hard to think of Marlon Brando and not immediately jump to his brilliant film performances in the ’50s and ’60s. The eight-time Academy Award nominee is behind some of cinema’s most notable characters—from Stanley Kowalski to Vito Corleone. But his personal life is somewhat of a mystery. Take a look back at Brando’s road to success and his storied career in the Hollywood film industry.
1 of 39
1924: A Young Marlon Brando
Brando was born on April 3, 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska. The youngest of three children, his father, Marlon Brando Sr., worked in chemical sales.
2 of 39
1927: Growing Up
Brando grew up with two older sisters, Jocelyn and Frances. Since their mother was an actress, all of the Brando children grew up to pursue the craft.
3 of 39
1934: Abuse at Home
Brando had a difficult childhood, one that he later said fueled the anger in his performances. Both of his parents were alcoholics and his father was demeaning, as well as physically abusive to him.
4 of 39
1940: Military School
At the age of 16, Brando was sent to his father’s alma mater, Shattuck Military Academy. But soon after, Brando was kicked out for insubordination. After failing his physical test to enlist in the army, the teenager sought other options to avoid returning home.
5 of 39
1943: Off to New York
He turned to his older sisters, who were both pursuing acting in New York City, and decided to take up acting as well. Here, Brando is seen with his sister Jocelyn in their New York apartment.
6 of 39
1943: An Introduction to Acting
Brando has said that he chose to pursue acting because it was the only thing he remembered enjoying. He enrolled in Lee Strasberg Actors Studio in 1943 and began studying under Stella Adler.
7 of 39
1944: His First Starring Role
Brando’s first big role was onstage in 1944 in the Broadway production of I Remember Mama. The show was a success and ran for two years, bringing exposure to Brando as a talented up-and-coming star.
8 of 39
1946: Broadway’s Brightest Star
After his debut on Broadway, Brando found steady work on the stage in productions like Truckline Café, Candida, and A Flag is Born. New York critics voted the emerging actor “Broadway’s Most Promising Actor.”
9 of 39
1946: Rejecting Hollywood
A number of studios and talent scouts paid interest in Brando, but he refused their screen tests, as he didn’t want to get stuck in a seven-year studio contract.
10 of 39
1947: A Pivotal Performance
In 1947, Brando starred in a production that changed the trajectory of his career: A Streetcar Named Desire. His emotionally charged performance as Stanley Kowalski in the adaption of Tennessee William’s famous novel brought Brando instant recognition.
11 of 39
1950: His First Film
Brando didn’t star in his first feature film until 1950, when he took on the role of a paraplegic veteran in The Men.
12 of 39
1950: A Method Actor
Through his study at Lee Strasberg Actors Studio, Brando developed his craft as a method actor, a technique where an actor completely morphs into a character emotionally and sometimes even physically. For his role in The Men, he spent a month at a paraplegic hospital preparing to play a disabled character.
13 of 39
1951: A Huge Role
When Elia Kazan was tapped to adapt A Streetcar Named Desire for film, the director turned to Brando to play Kowalski once again. His performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination. It was one of his most popular roles in his career.
14 of 39
1952: His Dislike for Kowalski
Even though Stanley Kowalski was Brando’s breakout role, the method actor apparently had a difficult time playing the character—mainly because he didn’t like him. “I hate that kind of guy. I absolutely hate that person and I couldn’t identify with that,” Brando said in Listen to Me Marlon.
15 of 39
1952: A Role in ‘Viva Zapata!’
With Brando’s career hot, he was picked up to play Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata!, which was also directed by Elia Kazan. The film earned critical acclaim and Brando was again nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
16 of 39
1953: Next Comes ‘Julius Caesar’
Brando next took on the role of Marc Anthony in MGM’s blockbuster film, Julius Caesar. The actor struggled to shake off his tough guy image after playing Stanley Kowalski and the casting choice was mocked by critics and the public. However, the actor wound up delivering a stellar performance, proved the range of his abilities, and earned another Best Actor nomination.
17 of 39
1953: A Bad Boy Image
However, Brando’s bad boy typecast was further cemented with his role in The Wild One. He didn’t receive any awards or critical recognition for the low-budget production, but it was one of his most famous films.
18 of 39
1955: Acting in ‘On the Waterfront’
Brando’s performance in the crime drama On the Waterfront not only demonstrated his acting abilities, but also earned him another Oscar nomination.
19 of 39
1956: An Oscar Win
After earning his fourth Oscar nomination for his role as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, Brando secured his first Oscar for the part in 1956.
20 of 39
1955: Disdain for the Press
Brando was not shy about his open disdain for the press. Even though he appreciated the notion of free press, he did not enjoy their interest in his personal life.
21 of 39
1956: On Set
Brando reads fan mail congratulating him on his Oscar win, while on the set of the musical Guys and Dolls.
22 of 39
1957: Getting Married
In 1957, Brando married his first wife, Indian actress Anna Kashfi. The two, who met at a party for Paramount Pictures, married in a private ceremony.
23 of 39
1957: Acting in ‘Sayonara’
Brando appeared in the controversial film, Sayonara, in 1957. The film, about a United States Air Force officer who falls in love with a Japanese woman, was one of the first films to show an interracial romance. Although the book the movie is based on ends with the two lovers parting ways, Brando was adamant that they marry in order to push the social boundaries.
24 of 39
1958: His First Child
Brando and his wife welcomed their first child, Christian Devi Brando, on May 11, 1958. The couple divorced a year later.
25 of 39
1961: A Film Flop
Brando took the leap behind the camera in 1960. The actor starred and directed in the film One-Eyed Jacks, which ended up being a critical and financial flop.
26 of 39
1960: A Messy Divorce
Brando’s personal life erupted in drama when he and his ex-wife, Anna Kashfi, became locked in a bitter custody battle. At one point, the dispute became so ugly that Kashfi kidnapped their son and took him to Mexico at the age of 13.
27 of 39
1960: Getting Married Again
Brando remarried after his divorce, this time to American actress Movita Castaneda. Their marriage wasn’t revealed until Brando’s custody court proceedings. They had two children together, Miko and Rebecca.
28 of 39
1962: A Third Marriage
While filming Mutiny on the Bounty, Brando fell for his costar, French Polynesian actress Tarita Teriipaia. He divorced his second wife and married Teriipaia in 1962. The couple had two children together—Simon was born in 1963 and Cheyenne was born in 1970—and were married until 1972.
29 of 39
1963: Working With Family
Brando remained extremely close with his older sister and actress Jocelyn Brando. In 1963, the two collaborated for the first time in the film The Ugly American.
30 of 39
1963: An Activist at Heart
Brando’s activism started with raising money for Zionist Irgun in the ’40s and later he was one of the first white actors to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, he began raising awareness for Native American justice.