James Dean is photographed with Sammy Davis Jr. at the villa Capri,1955.
"I was surprised as anyone when t-shirts,jeans and leather jackets suddenly became symbols of rebellion.In the film there was a scene in which somebody asked my character,Johnny,what I was rebelling against,and I answered ‘Whaddya got?’ But none of us involved in the picture ever imagined that it would instigate or encourage youthful rebellion."
Marlon was a lifelong idealist and crusader for the underdog.He found it incomprehensible that "I was born only sixty-two years after one human being could still buy another human being in America." Brando’s compassion came naturally and was enhanced by the examples of his grandmother and mother: Bess Myers,a Christian Science healer and social activist,secretary to the attorney who defended the Ponca Chief,Standing Bear,in a case responsible for Indian citizenship; and Dorothy Brando,an early promoter of women’s suffrage,Black civil rights,and protections for migrant laborers.
As a young actor on Broadway,Brando raised money for the American League for a Free Palestine,to help Holocaust refugees immigrate to Israel.His closeness to the famous theatre family,the Adlers,forged a lasting admiration for Jewish culture,and support for its causes. Researching the life of the half-Indian Mexican leader Emiliano Zapata (for Viva Zapata! 1952),Brando was moved by the injust treatment of North American Indians and spent the next fifty years promoting their cause.He participated in acts of civil disobedience,read Indian history with the passion of a scholar (he owned nearly 1000 books on the subject),and pursued political channels in Washington (even meeting with Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas).By the time he refused the Academy Award in 1973 to protest Hollywood’s negative stereotyping of Indians,he had been active on their behalf for two decades and was planning an ambitious Indian film project.
Brando’s travels during the 1950s exposed him to worldwide poverty and hunger.He responded by making his own film with a 16-millimeter camera about the starving Bihari Children in India.He continued over the next three decades to work for UNICEF,and advocate for diplomacy and world peace.An early believer in the principle that social responsability must transcend one’s nationality,Brando considered himself a global citizen.
But his biggest commitments as a social activist were always in America.For most of his life Brando read two daily newspapers - the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.Like his favorite philosopher,Hannah Arendt,he considered it a civic responsability to be informed.
Brando was one of the earliest leading actors involved in Black Civil Rights. He stood behind Martin Luther King during his “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963, and used his celebrity throughout the South and closer to home, protesting housing discrimination in California. As with all of his political commitments, Brando educated himself, reading deeply in Black history (his personal library included many books on the subject), pursued people whose ideas he admired (his friendship with James Baldwin dates back to the early 1940s, and he spent hours on the phone with Toni Morrison, in the final decade of his life), and met with prominent Black leaders such as King, and Eldridge Cleaver. Brando’s other great humanist commitment was to environmentalism, which was kindled by his abiding interest in nature and science.
Many of these projects were focused on Tahiti, a place he had been drawn to since adolescence, and visited for the first time in 1961 while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1967 he purchased his own island, Tetiaroa, which he “treated as a laboratory where I could experiment with solar power, aquaculture and innovative construction methods.” To the end of his life, he was engaged in efforts to protect local wildlife (e.g. hawksbill turtles threatened with extinction) and develop area resources (e.g. generating electricity from eels, solar power).
Fucking shit I totally forgot I’m turning 20 tomorrow