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Christian Brando Is Dead at 49; Another Early End for a Troubled Hollywood Life
Written By : Gina Cobb
January 26, 2008

Christian Brando is dead at 49, of pneumonia.

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There’s no report of why pneumonia took Brando’s life — whether he had a weakened immune system, for example, or was just a victim of circumstance.

It’s an early end for an incredibly troubled life.

If you need any further evidence of the destruction that is regularly wrought by the Hollywood lifestyle — frequent divorces while children are young, parents who don’t bother to get married at all, drugs, alcohol, handing off the kids to others to raise –just look at this man’s life.

Christian Brando was born in Los Angeles on May 11, 1958. His mother was Marlon Brando’s first wife, the Calcutta-born actress Anna Kashfi. But Christian was still a toddler when the couple separated and divorced. A protracted custody battle ensued.

Kashfi was initially awarded custody of her son, but that order was removed five years later when a judge declared that her “reliance on drugs and alcohol” contributed to an uncontrollable temper. The court ordered that Christian, then 6, live with the actor’s older sister. By 1972, Marlon Brando — who by that time had married twice more and had three more children — was granted custody of Christian, who was raised by nannies and sent to boarding school in Ojai.

But while the actor was out of the country filming “Last Tango in Paris,” Kashfi allegedly kidnapped Christian and took him to Baja. The boy was eventually found living in a tent and ill with bronchitis.

Kashfi continued to press for custody but gave up her struggle in 1974 when her ex-husband pledged that she would get reasonable visitation rights with her son.

As for Christian, he dropped out of school in 11th grade and began drinking and using LSD, tried a variety of jobs including welder and tree trimmer and lived for a time in Alaska, piloting a barge for a fish processor during the summers. But he mostly lived for years with his father in Brando’s hilltop estate.

It was there that on May 16, 1990, Christian Brando confronted Drollet after Cheyenne confided that he had been beating her.

“I did not go into that room to kill Dag Drollet,” Christian Brando told The Times in 1991. “I just wanted to scare him.”

Brando said that as he turned to leave, his arm still outstretched, Drollet tried to grab the gun and it went off.

“I just sat there and watched the life go out of this guy,” Brando said.

In the interview with The Times, Brando said that later revelations about Cheyenne’s mental health made him later question whether she was ever beaten by Drollet.

“I feel like a complete chump for believing her,” he said.

In pleading for a reduced sentence for his son, the elder Brando took the stand in the Santa Monica courthouse and said: “I think that perhaps I failed as a father.”

“I’m certain that there were things that I could have done differently, had I known better at the time,” the elder Brando said, at times choking back tears. “But I didn’t.”

While in prison, Christian Brando completed his high school equivalency degree and worked in a vocational education machine shop.

His father died at 80 on July 1, 2004. In 1995, Cheyenne hanged herself at her mother’s home outside Papeete, the French Polynesian capital on the island of Tahiti. She was 25. Cheyenne was the daughter of Brando and Tarita Teriipaia, who were married after appearing together in the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Cheyenne’s son, Tuki, was being raised in Tahiti by Drollet’s parents.

Remember this next time you hear Hollywood actors waxing eloquent about causes, political candidates, and social issues. Take a close look at the Hollywood lifestyle and the misery that goes with it. If you’re going to take advice on how to make the world a better place, take it from people whose lives are not riddled with one thoughtless, risky, destructive choice after another.

Trouble can come to any family; but Hollywood too often seeks it out. Celebrity is everything; rebellion is celebrated even when it’s damaging; and traditional values that have stood the test of time are given about as much respect as tissue paper. It’s a prescription for troubled lives. I feel especially sorry for children raised in Hollywood. That’s why I note the death of Christian Brando with sadness — not because he was a saint — he certainly wasn’t — but because he didn’t stand a chance.

Cross-posted at GINA COBB

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