Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather claims her Hollywood career ended the night she rejected Marlon Brando's Best Actor award for "The Godfather" in 1973.
Brando enlisted the help of Littlefeather to decline the award on his behalf as a form of protest on the depiction of Native Americans by the film industry. Although a powerful political statement, she says the move cut short her career in film and TV.
"It was the first time anyone had made a political statement at the Oscars," Littlefeather said in a new documentary, "Sacheen: Breaking The Silence," according to Deadline. "It was the first Oscars ceremony to be broadcast by satellite all over the world, which is why Marlon chose it. I didn’t have an evening dress so Marlon told me to wear my buckskin."
Littlefeather recalled hearing "boos and jeers" from the audience as she walked onto the stage. She later learned that several security guards had to restrain John Wayne, who wanted to "storm on to the stage and drag me off."
After the ceremony, Littlefeather visited Brando, who she said was delighted by the speech. However, she felt "abandoned" by him as her career came tumbling down.
"I was blacklisted – or, you could say, 'redlisted,'" she said. "I was ostracized everywhere I turned. No one would listen to my story or give me a chance to work."
On the eve of the 1973 Oscars, Brando announced that he would boycott the ceremony. He sent Littlefeather in his place and when his name was announced as Best Actor, she walked on to the stage and brushed away the award from presenter Roger Moore.
She then read an extract from a statement Brando had written.
"I'm 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 ..." she said.
The New York Times later published the whole statement
"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," Brando wrote. "When Indian children ... see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know."
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