Marlon Brando thrived in Hollywood despite risqué photo, sexuality rumors: author

on Jun20
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It was 1953 when Marlon Brando found himself in a compromising position.

The actor, who had returned to Hollywood from New York City to begin filming, was featured in another picture – one that remained underground for more than 50 years. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that the risqué photo, which showed the star engaged in a sexual act with an unidentified male, was posted on the internet.

For decades, many wondered who the other participant was or if the racy snap was even real. Burt Kearns told Fox News Digital it’s legit but was meant as a joke.


Marlon Brando posing in a ripped white tank top

A racy photo of Marlon Brando performing a sex act on another man has been the stuff of legends for over 50 years. (Getty Images)

“It’s been talked about for 40 years,” said Kearns, author of the new book “Marlon Brando: Hollywood Rebel.”

“It’s been out there,” he said. “It’s even been in a few legitimate biographies of Brando. They’re saying, ‘It’s ridiculous.’… They mischaracterize it. It was published in a book about 20 years ago. Now you can find it on the internet, and apparently, yes, it’s real.”

According to Kearns, the photo was taken at a party in New York City. It was meant to be “a joke.”

A close-up of Marlon Brando smoking a cigarette

The photo in question was taken as “a joke” at a party in Harlem, says author Burt Kearns. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“It was a party that was hosted in Harlem by one of the people who founded the drag balls, which later became the vogue balls in the ‘80s,” Kearns said. “[The unidentified man] was one of the initial people that ran those. And yes, apparently the photo was real.”

“Brando laughed about it,” he added.

In his book, Kearns wrote that within weeks, the photograph was in wide circulation. Actor Roddy McDowall was quoted as saying that he “found the picture being sold openly at kiosks along the Seine” in Paris. Kenneth Anger, the controversial author of “Hollywood Babylon,” alleged to an interviewer that he possessed a copy of the photo and attempted to convince a publisher to print it for years but was unsuccessful.


Anna Kashfi slapping Marlon Brando

Actress Anna Kashfi slaps her ex-husband, Marlon Brando, in the face as they leave the courtroom after Brando won a long fight to increase his visitation rights to his 3-year-old son. (Getty Images)

In the 2006 book “Brando Unzipped,” author Darwin Porter wrote that Brando’s first wife, Anna Kashfi, intended to show the photo in court as proof of his “perversity” during their bitter divorce and child custody fight that began in 1959.

Kearns said Brando wasn’t fazed by the photo. Instead, Brando prioritized his acting, which led to a decades-long career in Hollywood without ever being blackballed.

“It wasn’t a big deal to him,” Kearns said. “What can you do to someone? You can cancel them? How do you cancel somebody if they don’t care if they’re canceled or not? Part of that also has to do with Brando’s mastery of the press and the media.”

Book cover for Marlon Brando Hollywood Rebel

Burt Kearns has written a new book, “Marlon Brando: Hollywood Rebel,” about the late Oscar-winning actor. (Applause)

“You [can] see how the gossip columnists and the entertainment journalists in the ‘50s didn’t know what to make of this guy. [They] would make up stories about his life; he would just brush them off. He wouldn’t answer their questions. [For] every movie he made, he’d say, ‘This is my last movie. I’m out of here. I can’t take this town. This is ridiculous.’ And the only thing that kept him from being canceled was the fact that he was so talented.”

Marlon Brando holding an Oscar

Marlon Brando is all smiles as he holds his Oscar, which was awarded to him for “Best Actor” of 1954. (Getty Images)

“His first four pictures, he gets three Academy Award nominations for ‘Best Actor,’” Kearns continued. “Then he made ‘The Wild One’… and after that, he gets his Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ for ‘On the Waterfront.’ And there was no denying that this guy was changing Hollywood. He was a revolutionary talent, so he was able to get away with that.”

Brando died in 2004 at age 80. Despite expressing his contempt for acting, many film aficionados still hail him as one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men.


Marlon Brando surrounded by women in lingerie

Marlon Brando’s sexuality has been speculated about over the years. (Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As a sex symbol, Brando’s love life made tabloid headlines. In his lifetime, he was married three times and fathered 11 children. He was also open about his bisexuality, telling a French journalist in 1976, as quoted by People magazine, “Like a large number of men, I, too, have had experiences, and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much [attention] to what people think about me.”

Marlon Brando in motorcycle gear for the film The Wild One

Marlon Brando was married three times and fathered 11 children. (Getty Images)

Kearns’ book noted that Phil Black, a female impersonator who hosted the Harlem bash Brando attended, allegedly dared the star to take the photo. Porter quoted actor Tom Ewell as claiming that Wally Cox, Brando’s childhood friend, “went along with it.”

Kearns told Fox News Digital that while Brando and Cox’s relationship has driven speculation over the years, it was strictly platonic.

Wally Cox holding glasses in his mouth

“He was a little Woody Allen type with the glasses,” said Burt Kearns about actor Wally Cox. (Getty Images)

“Marlon Brando met Wally Cox when he was about 9 years old, back when he was living outside of Chicago,” said Kearns. “He met him in elementary school, and Wally Cox … was a spindly little guy. … When Brando moved to New York City in the 1940s, he’s walking on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village with his sister. Who comes along walking down the street? Wally Cox. [Brando] goes, ‘Hey Wally!’ And they hit it off just like they were never away from each other for 10 years.”

A close-up of Marlon Brando looking sternly

Intimate details of Marlon Brando’s friendship with Wally Cox came up after his death. (Getty Images)

“Marlon Brando would say that Wally Cox was more than a friend, more than a brother to him,” Kearns said. “People said he was his lover because Marlon Brando was … very open about his sexual relationships and his relationships with men and women. … But it seemed that … the relationship between Brando and Wally Cox was much different than that. They were soul brothers. Brando loved him like the brother he never had.”

Kearns said Brando, an intensely private star, was devastated when Cox died from a heart attack in 1973 at age 48. A heartbroken Brando turned to Cox’s widow and pleaded to scatter his ashes in the hiking places they once frequented together. She said yes.


Wally Coxs widow holding a photo of Wally Cox sitting next to Marlon Brando

Patricia Cox Shapiro, widow of Wally Cox, holds some photos of her late husband and Marlon Brando together. (Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“She found out 20 years later that Brando never scattered those ashes,” said Kearns. “He kept them next to his bed. He would carry them in the urn in his car. When he drove, he talked to them. He stole a pair of Wally Cox’s pajamas and kept them with him.”

“When Brando died, his ashes and Wally Cox’s ashes, portions of them were scattered together in Death Valley,” Kearns said. “So, their friendship lasted beyond into eternity. … For people to think that they were lovers, I think they were more than that, and that sort of cheapens it.”

Milagros Tirado “Millie” Beck, Cox’s second wife, and Patricia Cox Shapiro, Cox’s third wife, told the Los Angeles Times that they didn’t believe the two actors were lovers.

Wally Cox and Marlon Brando acting out a scene for a film

From left: Yul Brynner as Captain Mueller, Janet Margolin as Esther, Wally Cox as Dr. Ambach and Marlon Brando as Robert Crain are shown on the set of “Morituri” in 1965. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“I never had a sense of that,” said Beck. “I had a sense of true brotherly love.”

“I never saw [evidence of] that,” Shapiro said. “I saw two guys pillow fighting. First of all, I knew Wally pretty well. Even though Marlon had orgies, Wally never participated in them. I trusted Wally implicitly. They’d do all sorts of athletic things together, like swimming, motorcycles, hiking, Indian wrestling.”

Another relationship Kearns wanted to address was the one Brando had with James Dean.


A close-up of James Dean in a red jacket

James Dean famously starred in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause.” (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“Everybody said that Brando and Dean were lovers,” said Kearns. “Well, if you look at the story … do you see that really? No, James Dean was in love with Marlon Brando, but he was in love with the character in ‘The Wild One.’ He loved Johnny Strabler. And after Brando did the role, he moved on. … He’s like, ‘I moved on from this, and this Dean kid keeps bothering me.'”

“There was a famous scene at a party where Dean sees Brando and starts following him from room to room,” said Kearns. “And Brando just ices him and eventually said, ‘Look kid, I really think you should see a psychiatrist or an analyst and just talk about this because you’ve got to be yourself.’”

“Brando said he figured the kid would grow out of it, and he would eventually become a great actor because he could identify with his upbringing in the Midwest … and the issues he had with his parents. But then Dean died unexpectedly, and he never did get to fulfill that.”

A group of people, including Marlon Brando and James Dean, posing together for a photo

Marlon Brandon, James Dean and an unidentified woman are pushed in a wheeled wicker chair by two men on the set of director Henry Koster’s film “Desiree” circa 1954. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Dean died in 1955 from injuries he sustained in a car crash. He was 24.

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