The Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather attended the ceremony in Brando’s place, stating that the actor “very regretfully” could not accept the award, as he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film.
Now revered by many as the greatest actor of his generation, Brando earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the brutish Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). The role was a reprisal of Brando’s incendiary performance in the 1947 stage production of Tennessee Williams’ play, which first brought him to the public’s attention. Nominated again for roles in Viva Zapata! (1952) and Julius Caesar (1953), he won his first Academy Award for On the Waterfront (1954).