Anna Kashfi, Actress and First Wife of Marlon Brando, Dies at 80

Anna Kashfi Obit - H 2015
Everett Collection

They met in the Paramount commissary while she was making 'The Mountain,' but their marriage was brief.

Anna Kashfi, an alluring and ethnically ambiguous actress who was the first wife of Marlon Brando, has died. She was 80.

Kashfi died Aug. 16 at a care center in Woodland, Wash., Cowlitz County coroner Tim Davidson told the Los Angeles Times.

Kashfi met Brando at the commissary at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood while she was making her movie debut in The Mountain (1956). In the film, she starred opposite Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner as a Hindu woman who survives an airplane crash in the French Alps.

The 19-year-old “was a revelation out of Marlon’s dream book, brown skin, lustrous eyes, fatal smile, and over the commissary commotion, tinkling fragments of her English-Hindi accent,” Brando’s friend George Englund wrote in a 2004 memoir, The Way It’s Never Been Done Before: My Friendship With Marlon Brando.

Kashfi and Brando married in October 1957 at his aunt’s home, but they separated soon after their son, Christian, was born the following May. A divorce was finalized in 1960, but their custody battle over Christian was tempestuous and not resolved (in Brando’s favor) until the boy was 13.

Kashfi also played a Korean teacher in Rock Hudson’s Battle Hymn (1957) and a Mexican in Cowboy (1958), starring Glenn Ford, and she was the African-American wife of singer Nat King Cole in Night of the Quarter Moon (1959).

In her 1979 memoir Brando for Breakfast, Kashfi wrote that she was born in Darjeeling to Indian parents. However, shortly after her marriage to Brando, two white people from Cardiff, Wales, said they were her parents and that Kashfi’s real name was Joan O’Callaghan.

Christian, the oldest of Brando’s 11 children, shot and killed the boyfriend of his half-sister, Cheyenne, in their father’s L.A. mansion in 1991 after she said she was being abused.

After he served five years in prison and Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995, Christian died in 2008 at age 49, reportedly from pneumonia. His father died in July 2004.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4