Marlon talks more about his decision to reject the Oscar for his performance in The Godfather.
Date aired - 12th June 1973 - Marlon Brando
Everyone was stunned when a young actress named Sacheen Littlefeather came to the stage instead of Brando. Littlefeather’s given name was Marie Louise Cruz, her ancestors were White Mountain Apache, and she was an Indian rights activist. She had agreed to decline the award on Brando’s behalf. Brando was an activist throughout his career. He protested the portrayal of Native Americans in the American film industry and argued that Natives were mostly portrayed as alcoholics, slackers, and unintelligent criminals. The incident that prompted Brando to refuse the award was the U.S. law enforcement’s violent involvement in the quashing of the protest at Wounded Knee in February 1973. The protesters were Oglala Indians and members of the American Indian Movement who objected to the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its treaties with Native Americans.
Sacheen Littlefeather was supposed to read Brando’s 15-page-long speech at the ceremony; however, before the ceremony started, the producers warned her that she would be allowed to stay on stage for a maximum of 60 seconds. If she exceeded this time limit, she would risk being forcefully removed by security officers. She then read the shortened version of Brando’s statement and briefly disclosed his reasons for the refusal of the award. L.A. Times reported that, among other things, she stated the following:
“It’s hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.”