The 45th Academy Awards And The Brando Legacy Of Oscars Boycott

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Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars in 1973. She represented Marlon Brando
Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars in 1973. Photograph: Globe Photos/REX/Shutterstock

The boycott of the Oscars by Brando was in response to the treatment of Native Americans in the film industry, which he believed was discriminatory and stereotypical

On 27 March 1973, the 45th Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

While the event was hosted by Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, and Rock Hudson, the evening was marked by two significant events: Marlon Brando’s boycott of the Oscars and his subsequent sending of Sacheen Littlefeather to explain his absence.

Brando, who had been nominated for Best Actor for his performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, decided to boycott the ceremony in protest of the treatment of Native Americans in the film industry. He believed that the industry’s portrayal of Native Americans was discriminatory and stereotypical. Instead of attending the ceremony, Brando asked Littlefeather, who was Apache and president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, to represent him.

When Brando was announced as the winner, Littlefeather walked onto the stage and raised her hand to decline the Oscar trophy that Roger Moore offered her. She then delivered Brando’s speech, which criticized the treatment of Native Americans in the film industry and referenced the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee.

When Littlefeather Came To The Oscars

Littlefeather’s appearance at the Oscars sparked controversy and criticism, with some accusing her of being a political pawn and others feeling that Brando’s boycott was disrespectful to the film industry. John Wayne reportedly wanted to force Littlefeather offstage but was restrained by security guards. Littlefeather later revealed that she was subjected to racial slurs and mocking gestures as she left the stage.

Despite the backlash, Brando’s boycott had a significant impact on the film industry. It drew attention to the lack of diversity and representation in Hollywood and paved the way for future activism.

The Boycott By Brando Was An Inspiration To The Industry

Brando’s boycott also inspired other actors and filmmakers to speak out against discrimination in the film industry. In 1975, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave used their acceptance speeches to criticize the Vietnam War and support the Palestinian cause, respectively. In 1978, Vanessa Redgrave caused controversy again by denouncing “Zionist hoodlums” who had protested against her involvement in a pro-Palestinian documentary.

In recent years, the issue of representation in Hollywood has become even more urgent. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign highlighted the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees and sparked a conversation about the need for more inclusive storytelling. In 2020, the Academy Awards introduced new diversity guidelines, which require films to meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for Best Picture.

However, in the midst of this ongoing conversation about representation in Hollywood, it has come to light that Sacheen Littlefeather may have falsified her claims of Native American ancestry. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Littlefeather’s sisters revealed that their sister’s claim to have Apache and Yaqui ancestry through her father was “a lie” and “a fantasy.”

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While this revelation does not diminish the impact of Brando’s boycott and Littlefeather’s subsequent appearance at the Oscars, it does raise important questions about authenticity and representation. As Hollywood continues to grapple with issues of diversity and inclusion, it is essential that the voices and experiences of underrepresented communities are given the space and respect they deserve.

In conclusion, Marlon Brando’s boycott of the 45th Academy Awards and Sacheen Littlefeather’s subsequent appearance at the ceremony were significant moments in the history of Hollywood activism. While the authenticity of Littlefeather’s claims of Native American ancestry has recently been called into question, the conversation about representation and diversity in the film industry remains as urgent and relevant as ever. As we continue to push for more inclusive storytelling, it is essential that we listen to and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities.