Associated Press
Backstage at the 1973 Oscars: Sacheen Littlefeather holding the speech Marlon Brando had asked her to give.

The Oscars' All-Time Most Outrageous Moment—and What It Meant

ICTMN Staff
3/2/14

Just how much "courtesy" the audience had shown Littlefeather on Oscar night is debatable, but in the days, weeks, and years that followed she became a target. Her authenticity was challenged, and as she told ICTMN in 2012, she was blacklisted, thus bringing her acting career to a premature end.

That ICTMN article was written in response to yet another smear, 39 years later, from comedian Dennis Miller, who decribed now-Senator Elizabeth Warren as "about as much Indian as that stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar for The Godfather." The "stripper" comment was probably a reference to a photo shoot Littlefeather did with nine other Native women in 1972. Playboy had decided not to use the pictorial (titled "Ten Little Indians," of course) due to the Wounded Knee Incident, but after Littlefeather's sudden rise to fame the magazine did publish some photos of her in its October 1973 issue.

Littlefeather, who has continued her activism if not her acting career, is featured in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, and she seems at peace with the life she has lived.“I promised myself a long time ago that I would lead an interesting life. ... And that’s what I’ve done, Marlon Brando or no Marlon Brando…. I’m an elder now, coming to the end of my road. Now I am in a place of being a healer, if you will, of my own journey.”

John Wayne's reaction to Littlefeather's speech was, reportedly, “If [Brando] had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.” Though his dismissive words about Littlefeather are unpleasant, the Duke did have a point -- if Brando wanted to say something about the treatment of American Indians, why didn't Brando himself say it? A private man known for avoiding interviews and publicity, Brando did later appear on the Dick Cavett Show and share his thoughts on the situation. Here's an abridged video:

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I NEVER thought I would agree with John Wayne on ANYTHING, but he was right about Brando. If Marlon Brando wanted to say something to help Native Americans he should have gotten up there to do so himself! Putting a young, unknown women in such an unfavorable spotlight was only detrimental to our causes. You would think that an relatively intelligent man like Brando would understand that his celebrity would have made the point much better.

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
OMG...do I 'remember' this mess....one of the shining pinnacles of ridiculous to ever be in a public venue....there were doubts that miss littlefeather was even native American...now, if marlon brando had just shown up, done a 'telecast', maybe all of his words would have been heard...those were the days...somehow we muddled thru....still doing two steps ahead and one step back, but progressing....

marten's picture
marten
Submitted by marten on
And today, the academy, at large, still resents Brando's action. So, who's in the academy? The Los Angeles Times featured an article on the demographics. And here they are: 94% WHITE 77% MALE 14% UNDER THE AGE OF 50. For further information, google it. There are 17 branches of voters. Some actors have done their darndest to help native american actors. But many native americans don't have the discipline to do the job. This hurts the actors who are trying to change the image of natives.

marten's picture
marten
Submitted by marten on
I should add that the article states that Blacks and Hispanic oscar voters accounted for only two per cent each. Native American actors should have a group meeting often. They should talk about their experiences. Stay positive, even in the face of racial prejudice. And try to learn more about the people you're dealing with, at all times.

rockymissouri's picture
rockymissouri
Submitted by rockymissouri on
Brando was a coward to send her. He should have delivered the message HIMSELF.

aliberaldoseofskepticism's picture
aliberaldoseofs...
Submitted by aliberaldoseofs... on
And the right-wingers still haven't stopped whining about Brando's stunt. Personally, I think it's what makes award shows interesting. These days, the <i>Avatar</i> movie (the one based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series, not the generally panned James Cameron 3D movie) actually led to activism about the use of white actors to play nonwhite characters. These days, the film industry should know fans care about this.

Larry Crehore's picture
Larry Crehore
Submitted by Larry Crehore on
While Marlon Brando had made some good points they were lessened by the fact that he didn't present them himself. Sacheen Littlefeather was duped into making his presentation because Brando was unwilling to be ridiculed by his peers. Her career suffered for his cowardice and that is tragedy Another Native American suffers for the white mans cowardice.

Sevinthseal's picture
Sevinthseal
Submitted by Sevinthseal on
I'm rather amazed that none of the commenters on here seem to know why Brando did not give this speech himself. He was making payment demands before the post-production of the Godfather was even completed, and then the studio offered him a percentage of the gross, he balked and insisted on a sum payment. The studios, already knowing this would fleece him financially were happy to agree. And when the Godfather became the Godfather, Brando was so extraordinarily livid that he refused to help promote the film, talk about the film or otherwise have any involvement with it. This was the reason he didn't show up at Oscar night. Those of you who've made the absurd notion that Brando was "afraid of criticism" cannot possibly have any clue about who Brando was as a person. If ever there was a man to walk this earth who could care less about the opinions of others, it was Marlon Brando. I'm baffled that someone could even suggest this, considering the man he was.

Herodotus's picture
Herodotus
Submitted by Herodotus on
The individuals here suggesting that Marlon Brando was a coward are incredibly off-base. The suggestion itself if laughable. If Brando decided it was better to send Ms. Littlefeather than go himself, he would definitely have had good reason to do it. Brando was amazingly courageous in real life--and always the champion of the underdog--from his boyhood defenses of Wally Cox against all bullies, to his defense of his mother from his abusive father, to his participation in the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King, to his well-known advocacy and lavish philanthropy on behalf of civil rights, Native Americans, the environment . . . and on and on. He was warm and funny and incredibly gifted and generous and bright. A wonderful friend to many, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Jimmy Dean. Yes, Brando was a troubled soul because he endured so much abuse at a young age. But a coward? No. Not even close.

Herodotus's picture
Herodotus
Submitted by Herodotus on
The individuals here suggesting that Marlon Brando was a coward are incredibly off-base. The suggestion itself if laughable. If Brando decided it was better to send Ms. Littlefeather than go himself, he would definitely have had good reason to do it. Brando was amazingly courageous in real life--and always the champion of the underdog--from his boyhood defenses of Wally Cox against all bullies, to his defense of his mother from his abusive father, to his participation in the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King, to his well-known advocacy and lavish philanthropy on behalf of civil rights, Native Americans, the environment . . . and on and on. He was warm and funny and incredibly gifted and generous and bright. A wonderful friend to many, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Jimmy Dean. Yes, Brando was a troubled soul because he endured so much abuse at a young age. But a coward? No. Not even close.

Herodotus's picture
Herodotus
Submitted by Herodotus on
One more thing: for John Wayne to accuse Marlon Brando of cowardice is hilarious. John Wayne dodged the draft but made a career of playing tough-talking military men. Now, that is more than irony. It is a joke.
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