While Brando's father always criticized him and took out all his wrath on his mother and him, his mum spent her days drowning in alcohol.
Marlon Brando is an icon in Hollywood history. He worked for 50 years in the industry and was known for his exceptional performances in movies like The Godfather and A Streetcar Named Desire.
According to Biography, Brando had an undeniable stage presence ever since he debuted in his first Broadway, I Remember Mama, in 1944. Within a year, he made a name for himself in Broadway so much so that it opened the doors to one of his best-known roles as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
But he was not a one-hit-wonder. He continued to make his mark in many films including The Wild One, Guys and Dolls, and The Godfather with his riveting performances, and by 1959, he broke the record of the highest-paid actor in Hollywood by earning $1 million for his role in The Fugitive.
In an illustrious career that had spanned almost 60 years, Brando was always overshadowed by his chaotic personal life. A notorious womanizer, Brando fathered 11 children in his life, three born to his housekeeper, three from affairs, and five with his wives. Some of his best performances required him to portray rage and suffering, and it can be attributed to his personal experiences with his parents who never really cared about him.
Brando was born to Marlon Brando Sr., a chemical manufacturer, and Dorothy Julia in 1924. According to The Telegraph, the actor's "tyrant father" and alcoholic mother let all their demons loose on him. Brando Sr. had bouts of anger that he would take out on the young actor and his mother through relentless criticism. While Julia drowned her sorrows in alcohol, Brando kept all of the darkness inside him.
As per Time magazine, "Brando had a stern, cold father and a dream-disheveled mother — both alcoholics, both sexually promiscuous — and he encompassed both their natures without resolving the conflict," as cited by Biography. In his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando observed, "If my father were alive today, I don't know what I would do. After he died, I used to think, 'God, just give him to me alive for eight seconds because I want to break his jaw.'"
The documentary Listen to Me Marlon proved to be one of the most intimate looks into the actor's tumultuous life. The clip below describes the explosive relationship that Brando shared with his father. This occurred when the then-30-year-old actor appeared on Edward R. Murrow's CBS interview series Person to Person alongside his 60-year-old father.
When Brando Sr. was asked if he was proud of his son winning an Oscar, he replied, "Well, as an actor, not too proud, but as a man, why quite proud." And when questioned if Brando was difficult to bring up, the father, stated, "I think he had probably a little more trouble with his parents than most children do." To these odd remarks, Brando merely acknowledged, "Well, I really don't feel I need to defend myself... let it go," as per Chicago Reader.
In the tape-recorded philosophical musings that Brando left behind, which were later woven into the documentary by screenwriters Stevan Riley and Peter Ettedgui, the actor recalled, "My old man was tough. He was a bar fighter, he was a man with not much love in him... Staying away from home. Drinking and w*****g all around the midwest... He used to slap me around, and for no good reason."
While Brando Sr. wandered around, Julia spent her days in bars. The actor often tagged along with his siblings to get their mum back to their house from local dives. This took a toll on Brando, and he was soon known as the troublemaker of the house.
When Brando was classified 4-F during World War II, his father asked him, "Is there anything else you could fail at?" The actor replied that he had a successful acting career. "I was making more in six months of work than he made in ten years," he could be heard saying in one of his tapes. "He couldn't understand how this ne'er-do-well son of his could possibly do that."
He also recounted the time he threatened his father. "One time my old man was punching my mother, and I went up the stairs and I went in the room, and I had so much adrenaline. And I looked at him, and I fucking put my eyes right through him and I said, 'If you hit her again, I'm going to kill you.'" Brando then channeled all his frustration and anger into acting but that still couldn't keep the storm brewing within him for too long.
Although he never wanted to, the lack of love and attention that he experienced as a child, was passed on to his children as well. After his eldest son, Christian murdered his half-sister Cheyenne's boyfriend, he took the stand to plead leniency on behalf of his son and admitted, "I think that perhaps I failed as a father."