1950s Hollywood: a time when the factory of illusions was at its most gloriously fabulous. Façade was everything and the studios maintained the tightest grip on their primary assets – the stars of the screen. Anyone who threatened this magical mirage was quickly disposed of – mere collateral damage for the businessmen who were intently focussed on their pursuit of profit.
Enter Anna Kashfi, stunning, demure Indian starlet, adored by Paramount Studio and by her husband to be – Marlon Brando, the most famous and profitable movie star in the world. The morning after the golden couple’s wedding, the apparent truth about Anna’s origins is splashed across the front pages of the world’s press. Anna is derided as a fake. Her parents publicly denounce her claim to Indian heritage – and Brando, it is implied, is a fool for believing her lies.
The gleeful headlines reveal that she is in fact Joan O’Callaghan, a butcher’s assistant from Cardiff who has tricked an innocent Brando into marrying her. The Hollywood illusion busted, Anna soon becomes the Studio’s worst nightmare. The consequences for her are devastating.
Drawing from Sarah Broughton’s brilliantly researched book, BRANDO’S BRIDE tells Anna’s surprising and complex story, taking the viewer on a journey of false claims and fantasy, finally revealing the hitherto unknown explosive truth behind the mystery of this complicated and fascinating woman.
This is an entertaining and tempestuous fable which is fiercely relevant to a contemporary audience. The public demonising of a young woman is a familiar story as is the casual racism that followed Anna’s every move. But beyond that are questions of identity and belonging. This is an immigrant’s tale. ‘Marlon’s little Indian girl’, as she was mockingly labelled, looked for a place to belong, to be herself, to call home. And for that she paid the highest price.
While Brando and his forthcoming centenary in 2024 provide an obvious hook, this is an ambitious film seeking to explore the legacy of fantasy and dreams, stardom and reality, fucked-up families, race and class and post-colonial Britain.
There have been many extraordinary women like Anna Kashfi whom Hollywood swallowed up and spat back out – but this story is unique. Anna didn’t die, she survived. She never wavered. BRANDO’S BRIDE is her story.
With the support of Ffilm Cymru Wales, BRANDO’S BRIDE is currently at treatment stage developed by Sarah Broughton (A Poet in New York; Legends) with writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti (Behzti; A Kind of People, Royal Court) and producer Bethan Jones (War and Peace; Les Miserables).
When Sarah met Anna.
Producer Sarah Broughton with Anna Kashfi, 2007.
Living in Cardiff Sarah became fascinated by the story of Marlon Brando’s first wife Anna Kashfi. She wrote Brando’s Bride partly to correct all the mis-information around Anna but also as part of a journey of discovery into her own hidden Anglo-Indian roots.
Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton; published by Parthian Books.
Finalist, Wales Book of the Year, 2020.
“There will not be a better written, more understanding and forensically researched biography published this year” Roger Lewis, Daily Mail Book of the Week.
“Easily one of the best researched and elegantly expressed books to appear in Wales this year” Jon Gower, Nation Cymru.
“Compulsive. A real page turner”. Andrew Davies
“As much as a biography, Brando’s Bride is a cool dissection of an era”. Chris Moss, New Welsh Review.
“Highly recommended” Good Reads