In October 1957 Marlon Brando married a young studio actress called Anna Kashfi. He was thirty-three and at the pinnacle of his beautiful fame having recently won an Oscar for ‘On the Waterfront’.
The wedding was front-page news around the world. His new bride was twenty-three, claimed to be an Indian princess and was pregnant.
The day after the wedding a factory worker living in Wales, William O’Callaghan, revealed that Brando’s bride was, in fact, his daughter, Joan O’Callaghan. He said she had been a butcher’s assistant in Cardiff.
Who was telling the truth and who was lying? And, perhaps most importantly, why?
It’s no secret to anyone who regularly reads my blog that I love a true story and go off down rabbit holes after reading books as I’ve got so caught up in the lives that have unfolded before me. I think that Hollywood’s thin veneer of glamour and the grit behind the greasepaint particularly fascinating and so I was dying to read this book when Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour.
Anna Kashfi, the first wife of Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, is someone who I’d never even heard of – but the blurb was absolutely intriguing. Although her troubled life has largely been forgotten in the annals of Hollywood legends, I was delighted to discover Sarah Broughton’s vivid and fascinating research and literally could not put this book down.
Strikingly ‘exotic’ Anna Kashfi was born to Indian parents Devi Kashfi and Selma Ghose. and actually grew up in India, relocating to Wales when her mother met William Patrick O’Callaghan. Anna first hit the bright lights when she was cast in The Mountain (1955), with Hollywood icons Robert Wagner and Spencer Tracy. and the rest, as they say, was history…
The truth – if you prefer to believe Patrick O’Callaghan – was that all this was absolute balderdash: his daughter was actually called plain old Joan and didn’t have a drop of Indian blood running through her veins at all. The myth behind the legend was absolutely that – total myth. So who do you believe? This novel will let you have a look at the full story, warts and all.
This book allows us to go ‘behind the stage’ and get a closer view of the story from all perspectives. Looking at the way Hollywood operated and the lure of the bright lights and how it encouraged young starlets to have a ‘story’ and stick to it whatever the cost.
Anna’s story would still be absolutely fascinating in its own right, even if she had never even met Marlon Brando. But the fact that her life collided with genuine Hollywood royalty added another layer of intrigue and fascination to the story for me. I
Brando’s Bride is an intriguing and exceptionally clear portrait of the inner workings of Hollywood at this time and the dense and impenetrable logic of the fabled studio system. These studios maintained an absolute iron grip over their budding starlets – and the psychological impact of this intense scrutiny and pressure is abundantly clear to see as we look at Anna’s trajectory and of the fellow starlets she was surrounded by on these lots.
Broughton’s writing is clear and reads well, it never comes across as research shoehorned into a story and I feel that we are allowed to see Anna as a real person rather than an incidental starlet who intersected with Brando the legend.
After finishing it, I went off happily to pore over old photographs and read more about Anna and her foray into the bright lights and stardust of Hollywood and came away curious about the other British actresses that made their way across the pond and the personal cost that comes with this level of fame and the levels of scrutiny you are living your life under.
Buy yourself a copy of the book here. I read it last Sunday and got totally lost in it – the way I used to over old black and white movies on my grandmother’s settee on a cold wintry afternoon.
This article came up in my research and was a fascinating companion piece to the book itself
Writer On The Shelf
Sarah Broughton has worked in the television industry for the last two decades. Her company, Martha Stone Productions, made the recent BBC 4 documentary Andrew Davies: Rewriting the Classics – and has various other film and television projects in development. Parthian Books published Sarah’s first novel, Other Useful Numbers. She is currently completing a part-time PhD in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales.
Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton is published by Parthian
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest review, as well as to the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour.
The tour continues until 20 October 2019 so do check out the other fab bloggers on the tour…