Christian Brando dead at 49


Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 3:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 3:13 p.m.

LOS ANGELES - Christian Brando, the troubled eldest son of the late actor Marlon Brando, has died from pneumonia at a Los Angeles hospital, an attorney said Saturday. He was 49.

Christian Brando
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Christian Brando

Christian Brando, a key figure in the case surrounding the murder of actor Robert Blake's wife, arrives at the Burbank Superior courthouse in this Friday, May 26, 2006, file photo. Brando, the troubled eldest son of the late famed actor Marlon Brando, has died from pneumonia at a Los Angeles hospital, an attorney said Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. He was 49.

Nick Ut/The Associated Press

Brando died Saturday morning at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, said David Seeley, an attorney representing Marlon Brando's estate. Seeley said Brando was taken to the hospital on Jan. 11.

"This is a sad and difficult time for the family," Seeley said.

Born on May 11, 1958, Brando was a high school dropout and never had much of a career. He had small roles in a handful of movies, including 1968's "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!" but he was better known for his brushes with the law.

He spent five years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 1990 for killing his sister's boyfriend, Dag Drollet, at the Brando family's hilltop estate.

Brando said he accidentally shot Drollet as they struggled for a gun during an argument over whether Drollet, 26, had beaten Brando's pregnant half-sister, Cheyenne.

Cheyenne, who later gave birth to Drollet's son but lost custody of the child, committed suicide in 1995. She was 25. Family associates said she had been distraught since her boyfriend's death.

In a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Brando said he never intended to kill Drollet, but wanted to scare him. "I just sat there and watched the life go out of this guy," Brando said.

At his son's trial, Marlon Brando pleaded for leniency, telling the court: "I think that perhaps I failed as a father."

Brando's ex-wife, Deborah Brando, sued him for domestic violence in 2005. She claimed that shortly after their 2004 marriage, Brando repeatedly beat her and threatened to kill her in the presence of her teenage daughter.

Brando countersued, alleging that his ex-wife broke into his home and beat him because he wanted to annul their marriage only 10 weeks after exchanging vows.

The lawsuits were settled last year on undisclosed terms.

Brando was charged January 2005 with two counts of spousal abuse and he later pleaded no contest. He was placed on three years' probation and ordered to drug and alcohol rehabilitation as well as a spousal-abuse prevention program.

Brando also was the one-time lover of Bonnie Lee Bakley, who was shot to death in 2001. At one time, Bakley claimed Brando had fathered her child but tests showed it belonged to actor Robert Blake, whom she later married.

Blake was tried for her murder and acquitted but later ordered to pay $30 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. During that civil case, Blake's lawyer suggested Brando was the killer, although police never implicated him.

Brando, who had denied any involvement, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the stand during the trial.

Seeley said Brando was not married at the time of his death and did not leave any children.

Brando was the eldest of the actor's nine children, according to a will the Oscar-winner left following his death in 2004. Brando's mother was actress Anna Kashfi. She and Marlon Brando divorced after a year.

That touched off a 16-year custody battle for Christian, who was 5 months old at the time of the separation.

"I found him to be an extremely personable, bright gentleman," said Bruce Margolin, an attorney who represented Brando. "He was very well-loved in his family. I think his life was too short."

There are no funeral plans yet scheduled, he added.

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