Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra hated each other – One was so scared he hired bodyguards
Guys and Dolls: Frank Sinatra stars in 1955 trailer
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One of Tinseltown’s biggest and most iconic stars was tossed out of a car, beaten and bloodied after a horrifying night when he was threatened with castration and death. He told a friend he was “p***ing blood” and was so traumatised “I sh** my pants.” Hollywood, especially in the glorious Golden Age, has been filled with famous feuds and affairs – often connected and often ending very badly. Brando, who died on July 1, and Sinatra were probably fairly typical of leading men in their era, both with voracious sexual appetites (the former notoriously for women and men). However, one of them also had terrifying connections which escalated their clash to terrifying levels.
The Brando biography Unzipped by Darwin Porter reports his close friend Carlo Fiore’s account of a night when the star disappeared while out riding his motorbike. Fiore was woken at 2am and rushed downstairs to find the actor in great distress.
Fiore said: “He looked like he’d just visited hell and escaped with his life…”
Apparently Brando told him he had been “accosted” by three men when he had visited a rest stop. One pulled a gun out and they forced him into a black car.
Fiore added: “Marlon told me, ‘One of the goons told me he was going to offer me a choice. He could kill me, a quick and easy death with a bullet in the heart. Or else he’d let me live. If he let me live, he’d castrate me and carve up my face so that no plastic surgeon could ever repair it… Marlon told me he had never been so frightened in all his life, ‘I was sweating blood. I also sh** my pants.'”
Apparently, Brando was eventually dumped in the Hollywood Hills and managed to flag down a passing car to bring him home. He had bruises but no damage to his face and told people he had had a motorbike accident.
Although Marlon made no official accusations, Fiore said: “I’m sure Sinatra was behind this whole thing. He threatened and intimidated other people in his life – or so I head. Why not Marlon? His arch-enemy number one…”
From then on, Brando gave his co-star “a wide berth” and “even hired a bodyguard.”
It had all exploded on the set of the movie musical Guys and Dolls, constant antagonism during the shoot culminating in Sinatra finding his wife Ava Gardenr with Brando.
Their bad blood was already well known before they starred together in the 1955 film. To make it worse, Sinatra had been devastated not to land the lead role of Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls and was even more furious about who did.
A juicy report described a phone call from Cary Grant to Brando: “I suggested you for the part… Frank Sinatra desperately wants the role. I heard you don’t like Sinatra. Take the role to p**s him off.”
Brando himself said his singing sounded “like the mating call of a yak” and was understandably hesitant. He accepted the role on the condition that his voice would be dubbed, a common occurrence in Hollywood musicals with non-singing stars. To his horror, that did not happen.
Sinatra’s rage at losing the lead role was intensified after Brando won the Oscar for On The Waterfront as Guys and Dolls started filming. Old Blue Eyes flatly rebuffed Brando’s request for help with his vocals and the situation exploded into open hostility on set.
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As the press openly mocking reports from the set of Brando’s performance, tensions escalated. With both actors refusing to speak to each other, Sinatra sent one of his (possibly Mafia-linked) henchmen to pass on messages while Brando sent Fiore.
Brando’s devotion to method acting and love of multiple takes, plus his notoriety for fluffing lines, was openly mocked by Sinatra who called him “Mumbles.”
Sinatra liked to do as few takes a possible, so Brando began to purposefully mess up his own lines, most famously in a scene where his co-star is also eating a rich cake, openly relishing watching him becoming increasingly angry and queasy.
Another scene shows Brando lightly grabbing Sinatra by the neck, ostensibly to cover his bow tie. Fiore later said: “It appeared Marlon actually wanted to choke Sinatra…”
As the situation continued to worsen, Fiore added: “It got so bad I feared Sinatra was going to order his goons to beat up Marlon.”
Unfortunately, the bad blood reached a whole new level when Sinatra’s wife Ava Gardner became involved. Even though they were effectively separated, he still “carried a torch for her.” He was also a jealous and possessive man, and Brando’s voracious sexual appetite for men and women was well known. And then Sinatra heard his wife had spent an entire day on set, when he was not around – in Brando’s dressing room.
Shortly after, Brando took that fateful late-night motorbike ride…
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