Christian Brando (May 11, 1958 – January 26, 2008) was the eldest of the offspring of the late actor Marlon Brando. He was convicted of the voluntary manslaughter of his half-sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend on May 16, 1990 at Marlon Brando’s residence on Mulholland Drive. He was released from prison in 1996. In 2005, he pled guilty to spousal abuse with his then wife Deborah Presley, for which he was given probation.
Death of Christian Brando
Christian Brando died of pneumonia on 26 January 2008 at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Christian Brando was 49 years old at the time of his death.
He was admitted into Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center on 11 January. On 17 January, Christian’s attorney Benjamin Brin announced that the Brando was hospitalized with pneumonia. "The prognosis is for a complete recovery," Brin said, "He’s going to be OK." But another friend that asked not to be identified at the time claimed that Brando was in grave condition. "He’s in the hospital, and he’s not doing very well. He has pneumonia with complications," they said.
- Christian Brando’s biography continues on next page
Brando was born in Los Angeles, California, the result of an affair between the Hollywood legend Marlon Brando and actress Anna Kashfi. They met in 1955. Kashfi became pregnant in 1957, and married Brando in 1958. Brando later claimed he had only married Kashfi because of the pregnancy, and had maintained additional romantic relationships away from home. Kashfi turned to barbiturates and alcohol and a year after Christian’s birth the couple divorced. Christian was passed between the two as their relationship became more and more hostile and abusive. The author Nellie Bly claimed that “When the Brandos quarreled, Anna displayed a ‘frightening’ rage,” and that “Anna left baby Christian alone in her car parked on Wilshire Boulevard while she confronted Brando in his office, ‘beating at him with her fists, in a frenzy of rage.” There was a protracted custody battle between Kashfi and Brando until he eventually won custody of Christian aged 13 after an incident when Christian was taken out of school to Mexico by Kashfi without Brando’s consent.
Christian had little contact with his father. He was primarily raised by nannies and servants and moved between Hollywood and the family’s private island near Tahiti. A reluctant witness to his father’s sexual exploits and bizarre behavior, Christian complained that: “The family kept changing shape, I’d sit down at the breakfast table and say, "Who are you?"”.
Brando had two small early movie roles as a child in 1968 in The Secret Life of an American Wife and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!. He appeared in a number of films and TV productions using the stagename Gary Brown between 1980 and 1990.
Christian was convicted of manslaughter for killing Dag Drollet in 1990. Dag was in a relationship with Christian’s younger (half-)sister Cheyenne; he was the father of the child she was expecting at the time, her son Tuki. Christian and Cheyenne had discussed Dag over dinner at the Musso & Frank Grill. Cheyenne alleged that Dag was abusive, which may have been untrue. Christian confronted Dag at the family home and shot him. After heavily publicized pretrial proceedings, Christian pled guilty to manslaughter.
Bonnie Lee Bakley
Robert Blake claimed that Christian Brando was involved in the murder of Blake’s 44-year-old wife Bonnie Lee Bakley in 2001. Blake was however charged with the murder and acquitted, then later found liable in a civil case.
Testimony during criminal pre-trial hearings and civil trial implicated Christian in the murder. Testimony included that he had the same motive as Blake to have Bonny Lee Bakley killed. Bonnie Lee Bakley was dating Robert Blake and Christian Brando at the same time. Letters to Robert Blake from Bakley outlined financial motives for the relationships with Blake and Brando. Bakley became pregnant and claimed to both Brando and Blake that they were the father. Bakley named Christian Brando as the father in the official birth certificate and named the baby Christian Shannon Brando. After a DNA test, Robert Blake was proven to be the father.
According to trial testimony, just days before her murder Bakley sent a letter to Brando with pictures of the baby still claiming Brando was the father. A witness, Dianne Mattson, testified that Brando became enraged and at one point stated "somebody should put a bullet in that bitch’s head!". In a tape recorded conversation between Brando and Bakley, Brando stated, "You’re lucky. You know, I mean, not on my behalf, but you’re lucky someone ain’t out there to put a bullet in your head.”
According to pre-trial testimony and corroboration, Christian Brando was in Washington state the night of Bakley’s death. He could not have shot Ms. Bakley. Other pre-trial testimony alleged associates of Christian Brando were involved in the murder. One of those allegedly involved was the prosecution star witness: a stuntman named "Duffy Hambleton". Hambleton claimed that Blake tried to hire him as the gunman to kill Bakley but he refused. Blake testified that he hired Hambleton for private security to protect him and Bakley from a stalker. Criminal pre-trial and civil trial testimony claimed that Duffy Hambleton was an associate of Christian Brando and he arranged the murder of Bakley to curry favor with Brando. The judge in the criminal case prevented the defense from presenting that view during trial.
Brando appeared as a witness in actor Robert Blake’s civil trial but refused to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination. Although Brando refused to testify, his objectionable behavior in court earned him a "contempt of court" charge and conviction.
According to legal analyst Andrew Cohen, Blake’s acquittal was a result of defense lawyer M. Gerald Schwartzbach’s successful impeachment of the prosecution’s "stuntmen" witnesses and suggestions that others could have been involved in the murder. Another civil trial witness, Brian Allan Fiebelkorn, testified that he alerted authorities to information that could confirm prosecution witness Duffy Hambleton was not being truthful in his assertions against Robert Blake. More importantly, Fiebelkorn (as well as other trial witnesses) asserted that Duffy Hambleton had an association with Christian Brando, but Fiebelkorn was rebuked by law enforcement.
The civil trial verdict found Robert Blake liable in the death of Bonnie Lee Bakley. An appeal was filed on February 28, 2007.
Marriage and spousal abuse
Brando married artist Deborah Presley on October 16, 2004 in Las Vegas. Presley, two years Brando’s senior, claims to be an illegitimate daughter of Elvis Presley. On January 10, 2005, Christian Brando was charged with two counts of spousal abuse in relation to battery of his wife. Pleading guilty, he was sentenced to three years’ probation, two months drug and alcohol treatment, and he was ordered to complete a spousal abuse prevention program. The couple divorced in June 2005.
In December 2005, Deborah Brando launched a suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking financial damages for multiple counts of violence and threats of violence and murder against her and her 13-year-old daughter. Deborah claimed that Christian repeatedly forced her into sex by threatening to smother her with a pillow or to cut her daughter "into a million pieces.". The former couple reached a settlement in February, 2007