Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Screen legend Marlon Brando dies

CONTENDER Though he was generally considered the greatest actor of his generation, Brando's bizarre lifestyle left him broke and corpulent on his deathbed

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Marlon Brando addresses the audience during Michael Jackson's ``30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years'' concert at New York's Madison Square Garden on Sept. 7, 2001. Brando died on Thursday in a hospital in Los Angeles.

FILE PHOTO: AP

Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, hailed as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century in a career that also contained eccentric behavior and personal tragedy, has died at the age of 80.

The reclusive and brooding two-time Oscar winner and star of such classics as On the Waterfront, The Godfather and A Streetcar Named Desire died of progressive lung failure in a Los Angeles hospital on Thursday.

"It all just happened rather suddenly," Brando's friend of 50 years, Jay Kanter, said, adding that Brando had been ill "on and off" for some time but that he had seemed "fine" just a few weeks ago.

"He passed away peacefully on Thursday in the early evening. There were a couple of members of his family present," he said, adding that Brando's funeral would be "very private."

The definitive "method" actor had been vastly overweight and reportedly ill for years and was rarely seen in public.

The reluctant star had lived for years as a recluse in his hilltop home in Los Angeles and, despite his huge professional success, was reportedly deeply in debt when he died.

In a forthcoming biography called Brando in Twilight, author Patricia Ruiz said that Brando, once the movie industry's highest-paid actor, was nearly destitute with debts amounting to US$20 million.

Devastated by mammoth legal fees incurred by his son Christian's murder trial, he was reduced to surviving on federal retirement insurance, a Screen Actors Guild pension and small residuals, according to the manuscript.

The cinema world mourned the loss of the enigmatic superstar, one of its last connections with Hollywood's Golden Age, with celebrities including Sophia Loren and US President George W. Bush paying tribute to him.

"Marlon would hate the idea of people chiming in to give their comments about his death. All I'll say is that it makes me sad he's gone," said Francis Ford Coppola, who directed him in 1979's Apocalypse Now.

Brando had a dramatic life marked by dizzying highs and great tragedy, notably the 1995 suicide of his daughter Cheyenne and the manslaughter conviction of Christian for killing Cheyenne's abusive fiance in 1990.

Born in 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska, Brando grew up in a broken and alcoholic household that spawned demons that would plague him for the rest of his life.

Brando, who made more than 40 films in his half-century career, won best actor Oscars for On the Waterfront and for his role as the mafia boss Don Corleone in 1972's The Godfather. But in his later years, he lost his seductively chiseled looks and became bloated by his gluttonous appetite and famed for his reclusive lifestyle and turbulent liaisons with women.

He became known for his on-set temper tantrums and bizarre behavior. In 1973, he sent an actress disguised as an American Indian to refuse his Godfather Oscar in an effort to highlight the plight of Native Americans.

Brando, who was married and divorced three times, had around 11 children with his wives and several other women, including his Guatemalan housekeeper.

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