Anna Kashfi was an Indian-born-American film actress known less for her acting prowess and more for her marriage with Hollywood superstar Marlon Brando, and the controversies surrounding her background. Being of brown skin, she was mostly used in the films as a foreign exotic beauty, and Hollywood was in awe of her enchanting looks for quite some time, before turning its back on her. She started her initial career with modelling in London and made a move to Hollywood sometime later to make a career in films and her first ever Hollywood film was ‘The Mountain’ which got released in 1956, and in the same year, she got married to Brando, and the divorced happened just a year and a half later. The battle between them for the custody of their son Christian was in news for quite some time, which Brando eventually won. She did not get any Hollywood film after her 1959 film ‘Night of the Quarter Moon’, and Anna spent rest of her life away from all the glitz of Los Angeles. She died at the age of 80 in August 2015 and was survived by a grandson Michael Brando.
Childhood & Early Life
Anna Kashfi was born Joan O’Callaghan on September 30, 1934 in Darjeeling, India, to William and Phoebe. His father was an Irishman stationed in the British occupied India and moved his family to Kolkata (then Calcutta) for his job at the Indian railways. Anna’s mother was a Hindu devotee and living among Hindus had a major impact in shaping the beliefs of the family. Right from her childhood, she had been inspired from the Hindu way of life and adopted a pseudonym, Anna Kashfi when she grew up.
She did her early schooling from Kolkata and although most of the details about her life in India are just based on her personal records and statements, they are widely disputed. She had an Indian accent, wore Indian clothes, followed Hindu rituals of touching feet, and worshiped Hindu idols. Whether she converted officially or not, but it was apparent that she was heavily influenced by the Hindu culture.
India got freedom from the British rule in August 1947 and the O’Callaghan family had to move back to Europe and they got settled in Cardiff, where her father started working in a steel factory. Anna was an aspiring model and being of an unnaturally brown skin, she was considered an ‘exotic foreign beauty’. But before modelling, she did her schooling from St Joseph’s Convent School and later, Cardiff School of Art and did odd jobs after passing out.
She worked in a butcher shop, ice cream parlors and also worked as a waitress, before trying her hand at modelling. Her looks helped her in quickly becoming the favorite of many top modelling agencies in England and she modeled for a few years in London, until 1952, when she was spotted by a major Hollywood studio executive, who immediately invited her over to the USA to work in films and just like that, Anna headed to Hollywood.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Anna Kashfi got her screen name at the age of 22; it was given by the head of a famous London modelling agency. She liked it and adopted it and even got her name officially changed. However, she landed in America by her birth name only. She started working on her first Hollywood project, ‘The Mountain’ which was released in 1956, in which she played a Hindu girl. However, she became an instant figure of controversy when her film released as she copied Indian accent for her role while her features looked western.
Somehow, she managed to grab the eyeballs of many Hollywood producers, who wanted to cast her as this ‘foreign exotic beauty’, who left everyone mesmerized through her good looks. Some magazines went further saying that she bathed in coffee to achieve that brownish complexion, which contributed greatly to her attractiveness. Her next film was ‘Battle Hymn’ in 1959, where she played a Korean girl, a survivor of a plane crash.
Anna went on to play a Mexican character in her next film titled ‘Cowboy’ which came out the next year. The film ‘Night of the Quarter Moon’ marked the end of a very short film career. However, she did a couple of stints on the TV but the drug and alcohol problems she suffered from didn’t let her career blossom and above all her falling out with Marlon Brando, her first husband, who also happened to be one of the biggest Hollywood stars at that time, did not help her cause .
Anna Kashfi met Marlon Brando in 1956, while she was working on her very first feature film ‘The Mountain’ and immediately became Marlon’s subject of curiosity and they started dating right away. She married Brando in 1957 and however, her official documents identified her real name as Joanna O’Callaghan, she tried changing it to Anna Kashfi but failed. Being the wife of Brando immediately brought her into the limelight and the controversies surrounding her past started emerging.
She claimed that her father was Devi Kashfi, an Indian and her mother was Selma Ghose, and that she was an Indian by ethnicity. An Indian friend of her gave an interview on her wedding and said that her real father, Devi, died a few months ago and hence, he couldn’t be present at the wedding. Both her Irish parents came ahead and claimed that she was lying and that she was their biological daughter, faking her background to retain the mysterious quality that surrounded her.
However, with the release of her book ‘Brando for Breakfast’ in 1979, the whole speculation resurfaced again as she mentioned that William was in fact her step-father and that she was half-Indian. She was openly called a liar by her parents as her mother said that she was Irish and had no blood of any Indian in her. She loved India while she was there, and that’s why she lives in the delusion that she is an Indian.
Marriage with Marlon Brando
Just like her career and the talks surrounding her true background, Anna’s married life was always on the rocky side of things. She married Marlon in 1957, and things were fine for some time, but eventually, it all started going downhill. They even had a son, who Anna named Devi, but Marlon wanted the name Christian and hence, he was christened as Christian Devi Brando. Somehow, the couple didn’t make it and after one and a half year of togetherness they went for a divorce.
Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi got embroiled in a long legal battle for the custody of their son, Christian, and the court eventually gave the custody to Marlon, due to Anna’s alcohol and drugs issues. In later interviews, Anna openly expressed her hate towards Marlon and said that he was sexually weak and a bi-sexual who couldn’t please women and hence, turned to men for his own sexual pleasures. This created a stir in the industry, and the bitterness between the two grew further.
She married James Hannaford in 1974, but she was never happy in her second marriage, as she explains in her book ‘Brando for Breakfast’. In this book, she openly talked about her bitter relationship with Brando.
Anna Kashfi died on August 16, 2015 in Washington at the age of 80.