Why Marlon Brando Refused To Accept His Oscar For The Godfather

The annual Oscar ceremony is no stranger to charged social and political statements from its attendees. More than ever, the Academy Awards are something of a platform that celebrities use to voice their discontent with things going on outside of the movie world. Whether or not you agree with what they're saying, everyone has something on their mind. Marlon Brando was no exception. 

In 1973, Brando was awarded the Best Actor Oscar after his performance in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather." In what is now looked back on as one of the most historic and infamous moments in Oscar history, Roger Moore announced Brando's name while presenting the award, and nobody was shocked. His performance was unprecedented and radiant, so everyone expected it. He'd won that award previously, for his performance in 1954's "On the Waterfront."

The shock factor came immediately after when a young Native American woman appeared before the podium in place of Marlon Brando and held out her hand in a polite but refusing gesture when Moore presented her with the little golden statue, declining to accept it on Brando's behalf (via The Guardian).

In her words

"I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech that I cannot share with you presently, because of time ... that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award," Sacheen Littlefeather (above) declared before the audience. "And the reasons for this being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry" (per Vogue).

The gesture was hardly well received. In a crass display of obvious disapproval, the crowd reacted with a shameful barrage of "boo's" to express their contempt and disgust. Nonetheless, Littlefeather maintained her composure and finished her statement.

Despite being of primarily Dutch, Irish and English descent, Marlon Brando sympathized with the sentiments of Native American Indians at the time and considered the insensitive depictions of them in movies and TV shows to be unacceptable. Calling out his own trade was his way of showing it. Following her debut on stage at the Oscars, Littlefeather would go on to represent Native American social issues throughout her life. Now 75 years old, she remains active in her efforts today (via The Guardian).