We Maoists have very positive memories of Marlon Brando who passed away July 1st in Los Angeles
at the age of 80. Although we cannot say we followed Brando to the extent some tabloids follow
movie stars, we still know him as a man who took the side of the oppressed in the face of
hysterical white opposition in the instance of some of his political choices.
Already in 1954, Brando was known as someone pushing the limits of respectable sexuality. He called himself "trisexual" and made a big deal of carrying on some gay behaviors in public,(1) though there is hardly a more heterosexual image than Brando's. One of Brando's greatest contributions may have been to show men that masculinity and white ethnicity do not have to equal reactionary politics.
The Washington Post also noted this: "Starting in the 1960s, Brando became one of the first actor-activists to march for civil and Native American rights. He memorably refused to appear at the Oscar ceremonies to accept his award for 'The Godfather,' protesting what he felt was discrimination against Native Americans on film and in government policy."(2)
Prior to his protest at the Academy Awards on behalf of First Nation peoples, Brando had used his image in TV ads to help fight a fishing rights battle in white occupied Washington State. Then in the famous "Wounded Knee" incidents, Brando again donated money and sided with the First Nations.(3)
Marlon Brando donated large sums of money to the Black Panther Party when it was a Maoist organization. Brando worked hard to free Huey Newton from prison. Others in the Black Panther Party also had his support.
In the same years, Brando himself played in countless movie roles of great fame, including Don Corleone in the "Godfather," the highest grossing film up to that date. It came at a time when Brando had trouble finding acting roles after a hugely successful career in the 1940s and 1950s. The film business considered him washed up by the early 1970s when the "Godfather" came along. The British Telegraph newspaper called Brando: "the most influential film star of his generation, pioneering on screen the use of the acting technique popularly known as the Method."(1)
"The Method encouraged players to identify with their roles and imagine for them a biography beyond the bounds of the script. At its best this resulted in a realism and conviction never before seen on the screen. Marlon Brando was its most gifted exponent, and he set the pace for such later players as James Dean, Paul Newman and Al Pacino."(1)
Out of all his films, Brando was most proud of "Burn"(1) and we share his opinion. The bourgeois media won't give it much attention because it's an anti-colonial revolutionary film with many parallels to the war going on in Vietnam at the time the film came out.
The bourgeois media is remembering Brando professionally. We at MIM remember him in his true spirit, as he wanted to be through his movies like "Burn" and his political activism.