Nearly 50 years ago, Marlon Brando refused to attend the Academy Awards as he received the highest honors in acting for his role in The Godfather. Instead, Sacheen sent Littlefeather to the ceremony with instructions to refuse the Oscar, if his name was called.
On Saturday, in a celebration of Native American culture at the Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy formally apologized for what happened next at the 1973 ceremony.
Littlefeather, at the event which ran out completely, requested that everyone remember the importance of acting, long after she was not with us. She was also offered a blanket and joked about how she knew it would be cold.
The evening featured performances from all the singers and dancers, Steve Buhai (Kiowa/OK), Sooner Nation Singers and Dancers, and White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers (Apache/AZ).
Watch the live event
Marlon Brando’s request
To express his anger at Hollywood’s portrayal of typical indigenous racism and to draw attention to the American Indian movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Brando sent Littlefeather, an activist, actress, and model, to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Theater for a retreat. Best Actor Award.
said Littlefeather, whose father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes in Arizona.
“I beg at this time that I did not intrude this evening, and that in the future, our hearts and understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.”
reaction in 1973
Some of the audience booed, others taunted her with a tomahawk cut, and John Wayne, according to Feather Hill, the concert’s director and producer, should have prevented him from trying to rush to the stage and approach her.
[Note: While reporting a previous story on this recollection, Ethan Wayne, John Wayne’s son, issued a statement to us, saying in part, “…it’s hard for me to imagine this telling of events, because the man I knew believed in and defended everyone’s right to freedom of speech right up until his death in 1979.”]
Littlefeather later struggled to find work, and was harassed and targeted in tasteless smears like these from Dennis Miller, speaking of Senator Elizabeth Warren: The Godfather. “
In June of this year, Little Feather spoke at length about her experience on LAist Studio’s Academy Museum podcast “And The Oscar Goes To….”
Listen to her account
1973: “Marlon Brando cannot accept this very generous award”
Shortly after the release of this podcast, co-produced with the Academy Museum, then Academy President David Rubin wrote a letter to Littlefeather:
“The abuse I was subjected to…was unwarranted and unwarranted. The emotional burden you have experienced and the cost of your career in our industry cannot be compensated for. For too long, the courage you have shown has not been recognized. For this, we offer our deepest apologies and sincere admiration.”
On Saturday, the Academy will honor Littlefeather and formally apologize during an evening gala at its new museum. The academy says the event is for “conversation, meditation, healing, and celebration.”
The program includes an acknowledgment of the land, a reading of the Academy’s letter of apology, and a conversation between Littlefeather and Bird Runningwater, who both chair the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance. Singers include San Manuel Bird, Michael Bellanger, All Nation Singers and Dancers, and Urgent Nation Singers and Dancers.
While the entire event is on sale, it can be streamed live over here.
Littlefeather, now 75, plans to be present.
What questions do you have about film, television, music, or arts and entertainment?
Host John Horne, who hosts the weekly podcast recap, asks: Do the stories Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what’s going on?