Welcome to the first stop on the Brando’s Bride blog tour! It’s only fitting that this tour kicks off on a significant day; it was on October 11th 1957 that Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi – the bride of the title – got married. If that wasn’t serendipitous enough, Anna Kashfi was the stage name of Joan O’Callaghan, which (give or take an O) is my gran’s name. V. random, right? Actress Anna Kashfi’s life was ‘a complex and convoluted journey from invisibility to infamy’ and that is the story that author Sarah Broughton tells here. Sarah not only met Anna Kashfi in 2009 but had a similar family background, so you can tell this is a personal story for her; you can see the passion that has gone into the research and the telling of Anna’s story on every page.
Before reading this book, I (I’m guessing like a lot of people) had never heard of Anna Kashfi. Being Marlon Brando’s first wife (marrying him when she was only 23, he was 33) was both her brief claim to stardom and the reason her acting career never took off; she made a four films in the 1950s and was then dropped by her studio when her relationship with Brando fell apart. Brando himself is not really talked about in great detail in this book so as not to pull focus from Anna’s story, but what is established is that Anna married him at the peak of his fame, he’d just won an Oscar and acted like the biggest star in the world – because he was. We get the gist of his character (a selfish womaniser prone to an argument or two) and see the impact his awful treatment of Anna had on her life.
Anna achieved notoriety just after she married Brando for her somewhat embellished biography; she claimed to be Indian and was billed in Hollywood as an exotic ingenue, ‘India’s answer to Grace Kelly‘ but then her father, William O’Callaghan, spoke to the press and claimed she had no Indian blood at all – she had been born and educated in India, with her family moving to Wales in 1948, but was categorically not Indian. Once the newspapers sunk their teeth into this story, Anna’s life was ripped apart. The confusion about her origins was a story embellished not only by the Hollywood biography writers, but Anna herself is documented giving different versions of her bio, going as far as to make up Indian parents. This is what Sarah Broughton aims to get to the bottom of, what was Anna’s real story and if she did lie about it, why?
Brando’s Bride is very well researched, it delves into Anna’s life but also puts her career in context, revealing lots of interesting facts about the inner workings of Hollywood in the 1950s, the way the stars were treated (like disposable commodities), and tells the stories of other tragic young starlets – such as Belinda Lee – who befriended Anna and were also chewed up by the corrupt Hollywood system. Another interesting facet in Anna’s story is that she had no formal acting training and no real desire to be an actress until a role was offered to her based solely on her looks. She was an opportunist and took it, for better, or worse as it turned out.
I was truly riveted reading Brando’s Bride, I finished this book feeling that I’d learnt so much both about Anna and the Hollywood era she was in. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for this girl who’d been caught up in the Hollywood whirlwind, spat out and then spent the rest of her life trying to deal with consequences of that, including breaking all ties with her family. It’s all quite heartbreaking really. Sarah Broughton says, ‘In this book I have pieced together the story of the life that Anna Kashfi led in order to try and redress the casual and erroneous disregard in which she is held.’ Sarah achieved what she set out to do, I won’t forget about Anna now, or ever simply think of her as Marlon’s first wife.
/ Published by Parthian 2019
/ 249 pages
/ Rating: 4/5
About the Author:
Sarah Broughton (@sjbroughton124) was born in London, lives in Cardiff and is the Creative Director of Martha Stone Productions. She has written a novel, Other Useful Numbers, and this non-fiction book about the mysterious first wife of Marlon Brando, Brando’s Bride. Both are published by Parthian Books.
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