I had no idea Brando turned down the “Godfather” Oscar in 1973 (video)

Someone happened to tweet today a photo of a Native American accepting – refusing to accept, in fact – Marlon Brando’s “Best Actor” Oscar in 1973 for “The Godfather.”

Rejecting the award for Brando was Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache. She was quite eloquent, and just had the perfect tone. She even apologized. You couldn’t have done a better job of getting the point across in a way that could win people over.


It was interesting to hear a few people boo at the beginning.

Also, it’s interesting to see that this is now posted on the official Oscar YouTube account.

Here’s the video.  And here’s the follow-up story about Littlefeather, forty years later.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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21 Responses to “I had no idea Brando turned down the “Godfather” Oscar in 1973 (video)”

  1. ComradeRutherford says:

    One of the best things Brando did. And Littlefeather’s speech is excellent.

  2. woodroad34 says:

    I remember this moment–it was during the break-out of using the Oscars as bully pulpit and people weren’t used to that–hence the booing. Most films look outdated nowadays due to changing mores; but would anyone say they’d never watch a Charlie Chan movie or Mr. Wong or Mr. Moto movies (Sydney Tolar, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre); The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power; Daniel Boone w/Ed Ames as Mingo; or any of a slew of comic actors who did effeminate gay representations or just watch “Birth of a Nation”? I’d be upset with people doing that nowadays–but back then, you have to just roll your eyes and enjoy the movie.

  3. woodroad34 says:

    Like Frank DeKova playing Chief Wild Eagle or Donald Alan “Don” Diamond (son of a Russian émigré) playing “Crazy Cat” or Edward Everett Horton playing “Roaring Chicken” on F-Troop

  4. TampaZeke says:

    Who made judgments. I just made the point that some of the things that were considered OK in the 60’s and 70’s are anathema today. Therefore there are certain episodes of some shows that should never be aired again. Include them in sets for sale but keep them off of television.

  5. Silver_Witch says:

    I remember this fairly well….and the aftermath of her shaming – threats and accusations that she was not “real”. As if anyone getting an ocsar is real?

  6. mtblaze says:

    But all of those Italians would have been out of work if they couldn’t portray Native Americans.

  7. olandp says:

    It is unfair to make judgments of the past based upon the morality of today. We may cringe at the stereotypes presented but that was the feeling of the time. Thankfully society evolves and as Dr King said, “The arc of history bends toward justice.”
    In fifty years people will look back on us today and say, “How could they have been so backward.”
    Just be grateful for those who came before us, their work allow us the freedoms we have today, and know that those who follow us will have an even better life in ways we can’t imagine.

  8. TampaZeke says:

    Oh, absolutely. Even some of my favorites, like the Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy sometimes throw in something that, while common and accepted at the time, is just sooooo wrong today. At least when I watch old episodes of All in the Family I know that it was satire and intended to offend; even in the 70’s.

  9. Indigo says:

    Leonard Peltier is still in federal prison.

  10. frogview says:

    Every time I pass (or go to) the Hard Rock Cafe on the Seminole reservation in Hollywood fl, I smile and say to myself, “good job, bro, you done good”.

  11. BeccaM says:

    I concur. Either that, or slap a disclaimer on the front of the show saying, “This program/film depicts Native Americans in ways that are stereotypical, bigoted, and untrue. Native American cultural practices were nothing at all like you will see shortly in this show. It should be noted these views were commonplace at the time, but nevertheless are ignorant and shameful to behold, especially today.”

    On the other hand, I gotta tell ya: It’s painful to watch almost anything from that era anymore, even my beloved Star Trek, crammed full of cringe-inducing sexism.

  12. TampaZeke says:

    I believe we are referred to as the “gay Gestapo”. At least according to Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins.

  13. TampaZeke says:

    Even today there are reruns of television shows that make my skin crawl and my blood boil in the way that they portray Native Americans. Some episodes of old syndicated shows (i.e. Gunsmoke, Bonanza…) should be permanently shelved and never shown again on television. It’s the least that could be done in the name of decency after hundreds of years of abuse, genocide, concentration encampment, exploitation and slander of native peoples.

  14. BeccaM says:

    I was just old enough at the time — 10 years old — to see and understand what news reports there were about the Wounded Knee occupation.

    In short, the Oglala Sioux of South Dakota were being cheated and mistreated in many ways, some of from within their own ranks in the form of Richard Wilson, their controversial — and extremely corrupt — tribal chairman. Wilson famously said, “There’s nothing in tribal law against nepotism.” There were also issues of overt discrimination and hate crimes against Sioux in nearby towns, as well as unequal treatment in land and grazing rights.

    Amid accusations of authoritarian tactics and (literally) goon-squads (and I mean literally — they ere named Guardians Of the Oglala Nation), there were protests, and about 200 activists led by the American Indian Movement (AIM) tried to ‘occupy’ the town of Wounded Knee. The stated reasons for the protests were opposition to Wilson’s corrupt chairmanship and the failure of the Feds to honor treaty guarantees.

    Rather than attempting to defuse the situation, Wilson’s GOONs and about 50 U.S. federal marshals and a bunch of FBI agents blockaded the town and cut off all water, electricity, and food. The Feds were armed as if for a war, including heavy weaponry and armored personnel carriers.

    The protest and blockade was in February and March — winter in South Dakota — and lasted into early April. There were deaths and injuries on both sides of the blockade lines.

    Further complicating matters was the fact the DoJ ordered a media blackout. So few knew anything about what was going on until afterwards.

    Anyway, 1973 was also a time when, finally, Native Americans began to object to their “violent savages” portrayals in film and on TV. It’s worth remembering, there have always been re-runs — and in the early 70s, it would’ve been shows from the 50s and 60s, and believe me, Native Americans were NOT shown to be ‘noble’ or anything of the sort.

    Unfortunately, we haven’t come very far, and the reservations continue to be the places in America with the highest levels of unemployment, poverty, and bad healthcare.

  15. Ninong says:

    I definitely remember that episode. Brando was always a noncomformist. I assume you already know that Brando was a self-described bisexual, right? That he admitted he had an affair with Montgomery Clift, among others, right? That he was married several times and had children all over the place, including three by his long-time live-in housekeeper. That he had 15 children!

    That he married his Tahitian wife (I think she was No. 3?) when she was only 20 and he was 38. That their daughter Cheyenne had a son, Tuki Brando, after her husband had already been killed by her brother Christian? Remember that? That was wild. Then right after Tuki was born, Cheyenne was put in a mental hospital, so her son was raised by his Tahitian grandmother, which is why his first language is French. Then his mother, Cheyenne, committed suicide when he was only 5.

    Tuki is presently a medical student in Bordeaux, France but he’s also a Fashion model. He was the face of Versace when he was only 17. Just do a Google image search on Tuki Brando. He’s currently 23.

  16. Strepsi says:

    And if you think he had a point about Hollywood’s treatment of Indians (and he did) it gets worse — this week maybe the ONLY NATIVE CHARACTER in English children’s literature was cast… with a white actress Rooney Mara!

    Makes my blood boil


  17. Drew2u says:

    Yeah, John, Even I knew that (after your post reminded me, I wasn’t alive in 1973) and my gay card has been revoked more times than Jennifer Aniston’s advances (or something gay).

  18. Strepsi says:

    You had no idea?!!!

    John, I will not make you turn in your gay card — because of all the good that you do — but the gay council is docking 5 points from your Gay Agenda.

  19. cole3244 says:

    i guess one can criticize almost anything but i presume brando did this to get the most attention possible and the oscars were the avenue to take imo.

    it certainly didn’t help him with the movie industry, so i have no problem with it and i have no problem anytime the establishment gets criticized for its faults and this is an obvious fault even today.

  20. perljammer says:

    I was watching the Oscar broadcast when this strange little tableau unfolded. I think he could have gotten his point across a little more cleanly if he hadn’t accepted a Golden Globe award for the same role only a few weeks earlier. I remember thinking at the time that the whole thing was a bit odd. Despite having turned down the Oscar, Brando is sill recorded as having received the award for that year.

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