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June 25, 2024 9 mins

He was an Academy Award-winning mega movie star. He had scores of affairs with women and men, 11 children by a variety of women, and a family story dominated by illness, mental illness, addiction…and murder. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Imagine your dad is a movie star, and not just
any movie star, but like an icon, one who's going
to be remembered for as long as we care about movies.
But his narcissism relegates you and the rest of the
family to walk on roles in his life, and that
leads to depression, drugs, and murder. I'm Patty Steele, Marlon
Brando's dysfunctional family. Next on the backstory. The backstory is back.

(00:28):
There's something about movie stars, especially the really iconic ones,
that make you think they're not like the rest of us.
The late actor Donald Sutherland said a casting director once
told him he didn't get a role in a film
because they wanted a guy next door type character. The
guy said to me, you're not that. You don't seem
like anybody's ever lived next door to you. That's what

(00:50):
most of them seem like to us, Right, So when
these people's lives or their kids' lives are touched by violence, sex,
and even murder, he really gets sorry tension. Marlon Brando
was an icon among icons. Early movies included a streetcar
named Desire and on the Waterfront, which won him his
first Academy Award. Later roles included an Oscar winning performance

(01:14):
in The Godfather, but his personal life was like a
Shakespearean tragedy, from multiple failed marriages to health problems, legal issues,
and mental illness. He'd had a childhood dominated by a nasty,
womanizing father and an alcoholic mother, so not much in
the way of role models there. Right, he was a

(01:34):
terror as a kid and nobody could control him. In fact,
in acting school with the legendary teacher Stella Adler, he
bragged about grabbing her breasts, but she kept him on
and nurtured his talent. That wouldn't happen these days. Brando
had eleven children by three wives and four other women.
He had dozens of affairs with both women and men,

(01:56):
and drove several of his lovers to attempt suicide due
to his cheating, including the actress Rita Moreno. In the
aftermath of that breakup, he asked his secretary, can you
believe she really thought I loved her? They'd been together
for eight years. He was famous for cheating and lying,
and he didn't really care what anybody else thought, including

(02:17):
his kids. In his autobiography, he said, I enjoyed pushing
the emotional buttons of women making him feel they were
of value to me and offering security to them and
to their children. It was pure seduction. Later, he had
close friendships with stars like Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.
Late in life, Marlin weighed over three hundred pounds and

(02:39):
was sick with diabetes. That's when he was really close
with Michael. Brando's son, Miko, who worked as a bodyguard
for Jackson, said Michael would invite Marland to stay at
his Neverland ranch and treated him with such care and
respect that made the end of Brando's life so much gentler.
Despite all his other problems. The darkest in his life

(03:01):
happened in the spring of nineteen ninety. He had a son,
Christian and a daughter, Cheyenne. Both had been neglected by
their parents. Their dad, Marlin, was constantly away on film
shoots and really not interested in them anyway, and their
mothers were not terrific mothers. Christian's mom, after divorcing Marlin,

(03:21):
lost custody because of her drug and alcohol abuse, and
he was sent directly to a boarding school. But when
he was fourteen, his mom kidnapped him and took him
to Mexico, where he was later found living in a
tent suffering from bronchitis. Not a great childhood right. As
for Cheyenne, she was Marlin's daughter by his third wife.

(03:42):
Born in Tahiti, her parents divorced when she was just two.
She rarely saw her dad since he was off on
film shoots and living his own life on the other
side of the world. She felt abandoned, just like the
rest of Marlin's kids, and after dropping out of school,
began taking all sorts of drugs, including pc p LSD tranquilizers.

(04:02):
For a short time, she became a fashion model, but
when she tried to visit her dad on a movie
set in Toronto and he wouldn't see her, she sped
away and got into a nasty car accident. Marlin sent
her for reconstructive surgery, but her modeling career was over
and she was only nineteen years old. She never got
over her upset with her father and went into even

(04:24):
deeper depression. In a nineteen ninety interview, she said, I've
come to despise my father for the way he ignored
me when I was a child. He came to the
island maybe once a year, but really didn't seem to
care whether he saw me or not. He wanted us,
but he didn't want us, and he would never let
us visit the mainland. Meantime, Cheyenne had gotten involved with

(04:46):
the son of a wealthy Tahitian politician. It was the
late nineteen eighties when she met Dad Drolet, who was
said to be a really sweet guy. Pretty soon Cheyenne
was pregnant and the family was actually happy. Karln insisted
the young couple move into his home in Beverly Hills
to wait for the baby's birth. But while pregnant, Cheyenne's

(05:07):
mental health began to deteriorate, making her depressed and paranoid.
So now it's May sixteenth, nineteen ninety. Her brother Christian
was also living at the family's huge estate on Mulholland Drive.
He too was a mess, dealing with addiction and the
same feeling of being abandoned by his famous dad. On

(05:27):
that night, Christian was in the house and overheard an
argument between Cheyenne and Dag. Now the problem is, Cheyenne
had told Christian that Dag had physically abused her, which
later turned out to be probably untrue. So Christian said
he went after Dag thinking he was protecting his sister.
It got really heated, and in a fit of rage,

(05:48):
Christian pulled out a gun, always great to have those handy,
and he shot Dad, killing him instantly. Their tumultuous lives
became even more disturbing. In the aftermath of the shoe duoing,
the cops arrested Christian and he was charged with murder.
The trial was hugely publicized, which is even more upsetting
to the family. Marlon Brando spent a fortune on Christian's

(06:10):
legal defense. During the trial, he cried on the witness stand,
saying how sorry he was and how deeply he loved
his kids. For her part, Cheyenne was subpoened by the
prosecution to testify, but she refused to do so and
fled to Tahiti. A court there declared her mentally disabled
and the prosecution had to proceed without her testimony, which

(06:33):
made it tougher to prosecute. The defense claimed Christian had
acted in a fit of passion, and in nineteen ninety
one he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced
to ten years in prison, but was released after five.
What happened to Christian and Cheyenne after all that well,
Cheyenne gave birth to a baby boy, but had no

(06:54):
ability to take care of him, so her mother raised him.
Her drug abuse and mental illness continued, and on April sixteenth,
nineteen ninety five, Cheyenne Brando hanged herself at her mother's home.
She was just twenty five years old. Neither her father
nor her brother were at her funeral, and she was
laid to rest in Dad Droley's family mausoleum, heartbreaking into

(07:17):
her life. As for Christian, after his release from prison,
he pretty much kept out of the public eye, though
his personal life was certainly troubled. In two thousand and five,
he was called to testify in the civil trial against
Robert Blake, in part because of his previous brief romance
with Blake's wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. Blake and his attorneys

(07:39):
claimed that Christian was involved in Bakeley's two thousand and
one murder. In a tape recorded conversation between Christian and Bakeley,
he said to her, you know you're lucky someone ain't
out there to put a bullet in your head. But
Christian's testimony was useless because he pleaded the fifth and
refused to answer any questions about their relationship. In the end,

(07:59):
he was fined one thousand bucks for contempt of court,
but cleared of any involvement in the murder. That same year,
he was charged with spousal abuse against his then wife. Finally,
due to years of drug abuse, Christian Brando died in
two thousand and eight. He was forty nine. Marlin, who
had already endured so much, was left to mourn the
loss of his daughter when she died. His family's dramas

(08:23):
were in stark contrast to the Hollywood glamour that had
defined so much of his career. Marlon Brando lived for
almost another decade after Cheyenne's death, passing away in two
thousand and four, four years before his son Christian. He
left behind a legacy as one of the greatest actors
of all time, but his personal life was forever marred

(08:44):
by the tragedies that claimed his children. Hope you like
the backstory with Patty Steele. I would love it if
you would subscribe or follow for free to get new
episodes delivered automatically, and feel free to DM me if

(09:07):
you have a story you'd like me to cover On Facebook,
It's Patty Steele and on Instagram Real Patty Steele. I'm
Patty Steele. The Backstories a production of iHeartMedia, Premiere Networks,
the Elvis Durand Group, and Steel Trap Productions. Our producer
is Doug Fraser. Our writer Jake Kushner. We have new

(09:28):
episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Feel free to reach out
to me with comments and even story suggestions on Instagram
at Real Patty Steele and on Facebook at Patty Steele.
Thanks for listening to the Backstory with Patty Steele, the
pieces of history you didn't know you needed to know.
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