January 30, 2024 | J. Clarke

Mysterious Facts About Anna Kashfi, The Girl Who Broke Brando

Getting discovered and going from a nobody to a Hollywood actress sounds like a total dream. But when it comes to the life of Anna Kashfi, the “dream” turned into a horrifying nightmare.

1. She Started With Nothing

Though much of her youth is shrouded in mystery, Anna Kashfi was born in India, where both her parents held very modest jobs. They reportedly led a simple life there until she turned 13, when they moved to Wales. Kashfi took up work in a butcher’s shop, but had her eyes firmly set on a much more star-studded future. It ultimately became her undoing.

Portrait of Anna KashfiBettmann, Getty Images

2. She Used Her Body

Kashi moved to London in the 1850s, quickly finding work as a model on Regent Street. She held what the media at the time referred to as “exotic” beauty. In short, with her dark, hair, skin, and exaggerated features, she didn’t look like the typical American beauty icons of the time. 

Perhaps that explains her unusual entry into the acting industry. 

Anna Kashfi portrait facing frontMGM, Wikimedia Commons

3. She Made An Impression

Just 18 years old then, Kashfi made her way into London’s social scene. On one fateful evening, she met a Hollywood executive at a party. It’s not completely clear why exactly he found her so enticing. It’s quite possible she fell into doing anything to get ahead. 

Whatever she did do, though, it gave her an unbelievable push forward toward stardom. 

Anna Kashfi By Ina Berneis, 1959Ina Berneis, Wikimedia Commons

4. She Hit The Big Screen

Shortly after this meeting, Kashfi burst onto the film scene in The Mountain. While it wasn't exactly a starring role—her character was “mute Hindu”—she still managed to leave a lasting impression. Not yet 20, she was already making a name for herself in Hollywood. 

But "making a name for herself" required much more deceitful methods than she had expected.

Anna Kashfi in The Mountain (1956 )Paramount, The Mountain (1956)


5. She Went Hollywood

Once Kashfi began garnering attention, Hollywood fixer Howard Strickling decided she needed a strong story to match her foreign appearance. Considering her actual birth place, they settled on a backstory detailing an uncomplicated, fully-Indian heritage, with parents named Devi Kashfi and Selma Ghose.

With this backstory, "Anna Kashfi's" star continued to rise. Soon, she caught the eye of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor. 

Anna Kashfi In traditional Indian clothesBettmann, Getty Images

6. A Superstar Noticed Her

By 1955, Marlon Brando was already experiencing the luxury of fame, following huge roles in several films like A Streetcar Named Desire and Julius Caesar. Audiences knew him for his charisma onscreen, and something a little less endearing—his obsession with "exotic" women. As you can guess, Kashfi’s looks totally enticed him.

Marlon Brando In 1950Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

7. She Played It Cool

Brando and Kashfi reportedly met in the dining area at Paramount Studios. He introduced himself then, but didn’t make a move on her until weeks later. Finally, he called and invited her to dinner. She obliged, though with one caveat—she requested a double date. She attributed this to her traditional roots. 

Luckily (or unluckily) for her, Brando agreed.

Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi portrait looking at the cameraBettmann, Getty Images

8. She Wasn’t Enough

Reportedly, the relationship seemed somewhat doomed from the very beginning. Brando began officially dating Kashfi, but that didn’t mean he wasn't still going to sleep with other women. Their relationship became a game of on-again off-again—until one terrifying day that nearly took Kashfi from him all together.

Marlon Brando, Anna Kashfi in formal wear looking at the cameraullstein bild Dtl., Getty Images

9. She Frightened Him

Shortly after the start of the romance, Kashfi became very sick. Doctors diagnosed her with tuberculosis, and the disease confined her to bed for several weeks. Maybe seeing her that sick moved Brando deeply, as he suddenly became incredibly attentive. 

According to Kashfi, that’s when she fell in love—which might explain her next "mistake".

Marlon Brando in suitEdward Cronenweth, Wikimedia Commons


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10. Everything Changed

Not even a full year into their relationship, Kashfi got pregnant. While neither explicitly stated so, it certainly seems mostly likely that neither she nor Brando actually planned to have a baby. Either way, the two decided to marry, hoping to protect both their images. 

It didn’t take long for the major cracks in their relationship to show.

Anna Kashfi in Asian-style costumeBettmann, Getty Images


11. They Had A Bad Start

Neither Brando nor Kashfi actually wanted to get married, but Brando wanted a child enough to try, and Kashfi felt the wedding seemed the only appropriate option. They clashed from the very beginning. Kashfi wanted a Buddhist wedding, while Brando wanted a zen one. 

In the end, they got neither—which is a great set-up for the disappointing ceremony.

Marlon Brando In The MenStudio publicity still, Wikimedia Commons

12. The Wedding Sucked

Brando harbored a burning distaste for the paparazzi. He kept the entire wedding as quiet as possible—not even their parents attended. His father disapproved, anyway. The elder Brando thought Kashfi only wanted his son’s money. And Kashfi’s parents? Nowhere to be found. 

That particular detail led to the scandal that haunted Kashfi for the rest of her life.

Marlon Brando And New Wife, Indian ActressBettmann, Getty Images

13. Her Lies Came Back To Get Her

The day after the wedding, things took a sharp turn for the worst. Questions about Kashfi’s background headlined tabloids all over the country. Reporters insisted that Kashfi made up her Indian heritage to lure Brando in. We can only imagine her displeasure—though, to be honest, she did her part to keep the lie alive.

Marlon Brando during his visit to FinlandFinnish Heritage Agency, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

14. She Blurred The Lines

Though “Kashfi” became the name she went by, it didn’t even belong to her. The modeling agency she started her career with helped her create the name. And when she hit film screens, she kept up the ruse of a foreign background, playing a Mexican, Korean, and even African American on screen. The truth? A lot less unique. 

Anna Kashfi in plaid suitFairfax Media Archives, Getty Images

15. The Truth Came Out

News media continued to question Kashfi’s authenticity for the remainder of her life. But reports seem to indicate that her parents, though both European in descent, lived in India, and she likely had Indian relatives somewhere in her background. Either way, her true ethnicity soon became the very least of her worries.

Mumbai (Bombay), India; about 1950David Foster, Flickr

16. They Skipped The Honeymoon

In their rush to get married, Kashfi and Brando never even planned a honeymoon. They just skipped right past that step and went straight into marital misery. For one, Brando showed no real interest in a faithful, committed marriage.

 How did he so quickly lose interest in Kashfi? She came up with one intriguing but rather bitter explanation.

Marlon Brando Publicity For One-Eyed JacksParamount Pictures, Wikimedia Commons


17. She Didn’t Need Him

Kashfi eventually concluded that Brando lost interest in her way back when she recovered from her illness. She felt he didn’t want her once she actually got better and could live her life by her own desires. Her pregnancy became the only thing keeping them together. Even so, life with Brando got even worse after the birth.

Marlon Brando waves farewellKenneth Allyn Barton, Flickr

18. He Didn’t Care Enough

Kashfi gave birth to their son, Christopher Devi Brando, seven months after the wedding. By now, it might not surprise you to know Brando missed the birth. In fact, he didn’t show up to see his new baby until days later. And he didn’t stick around very often after.

Anna Kashfi Reading to Christian BrandoBettmann, Getty Images

19. She Did It Alone 

In the early months of her son’s life, Kashfi often found herself alone with the child. She attended to him without her husband’s help, which likely began fueling the anger that eventually exploded between the two. Or perhaps Brando did all the fueling, by doing things that showed his utter disrespect for the woman he married.

Photo of Marlon Brando from the television program MGM Parade in suitABC Television, Wikimedia Commons

20. He Brought His Affairs Home

Having a wife seemingly did nothing to deter Brando's womanizing. Once, he got so bold he even brought one of his dates home. As if it couldn't get any worse, his date said something truly awful to Kashfi: When Brando’s mistress found her feeding the baby, she saw Kashfi's skin and said, "You know you can't eat curry when you do that, it's bad for the baby". You can imagine how that went. 

But mistresses aside, whenever Brando and Kashfi did get intimate, that's when he showed his truest colors.

Maureen O'Hara and Marlon Brando at a dinnerkate gabrielle, Flickr

21. He Treated Her Like A Nobody

With his record, you might expect Brando to be an exceptional lover. But according to Kashfi’s report, he only cared about getting what he came for. She said her husband always left her presence immediately after getting intimate. At this point, you’re likely wondering how she put up with all this. Well, she didn’t go down without a fight. 

Marlon Brando in leather jacket and hatUr Cameras, Flickr

22. She Was Unpleasant 

Brando never denied his wife’s natural beauty. However, that proved to be the limit of his affection for her. Talking about their relationship, he said, “She came close to being as negative a person I have met in my life”. I can’t imagine what remained in their relationship to be positive about—but he wasn't finished. He complained about her behavior too.

Anna Kashfi posing in blackFilm Favorites, Getty Images


23. She Lashed Out

Brando further described Kashfi as moody and histrionic. A woman driven by her unpredictable moods, he alleged she often got physical with him, and not in a good way either. In just a few months, their marriage raced toward an inevitable end. But not before Kashfi found vices that ultimately destroyed her future in Hollywood.

Marlon Brando On The WaterFrontJohn Springer Archive, Getty Images

24. She Had Her Vices

During her marriage to Brando, Kashfi began engaging in behavior that many celebrities of the time found themselves entangled in. She took solace in substances, drinking and self-medicating her pain away. Reportedly, these addictions caused the end to her career—though I’ll let you be the judge. 

Either way, she soon turned to desperate measures.

Marlon Brando in suitNational Archives and Records Administration, Picryl

25. She Wanted To End It All

Reports about Kashfi’s life at this time come in mixed detail, despite a book she herself eventually wrote on the topic. What seems consistent, though, is her total despair. Things finally got so unbearable she tried to take her own life. Fortunately, she didn’t succeed. But something drastic needed to happen, and fast.

Anna Kashfi Brando talks about her book, Bettmann, Getty Images

26. They Gave Up

Kashfi and Brando separated the year following their marriage, after only eleven months together. They made their intention to divorce clear from the beginning of the separation, but that didn’t make the break up any easier. Things got even more volatile between the couple when it came to the one thing life forced them to share—their child. 

Actress Anna Kashfi (right) and her divorced husband, actor Marlon Brando at courtBettmann, Getty images

27. They Made Their Case

From the start of their custody battle, both Kashfi and Brando resolutely claimed only they could properly care for their son Christian. Brando argued Kashfi didn’t have the resources or the capacity to keep their son. Kashfi argued she didn’t want her son living in a home with the many women Brando brought in and out. The situation got uglier at every turn. 

Anna Kashfi  in white dress Enters Court And Brando IgnoresBettmann, Getty Images

28. They Both Messed Up

The custody case over their son wore on for years. Neither shied away from revealing the dirty secrets of their marriage if they thought it would give them an edge. In fact, they both claimed that the other physically hurt them within their relationship, and more than once. 

On one occasion, though, this accusation turned from hearsay into a real life smackdown.

child custody caseStudio Romantic, Shutterstock

29. She Didn’t Care Anymore

Though Kashfi and Brando undeniably hated each other by this point, one day in court pushed Kashfi too far. Allegedly, she walked right up to her ex-husband after one of their appearances, disregarded the photographers around him, and slapped him in the face. Outside the court, though, they both went to even more outrageous extremes.

Anna Kashfi Slapping Marlon BrandoBettmann, Getty Images

30. She Broke In

On one notable occasion, Kashfi snuck into Brando’s house and destroyed a table. There's not much explanation for her behavior in any remaining reports, but she did admit to the table-smashing on record in court. For his part, Brando admitted to a similar infraction, but with a little added venom.

Vikki Dougan factsBob Sinclair, Flickr

31. He Forced Her

Rather than getting to her at home, Brando got to Kashfi while she stayed in a hotel with their son. He forced himself into her room and, against her will, left with the child. Later, Brando freely admitted to this in court. But while the media frenzy around this custody battle reached a fever pitch, Kashfi lost the energy to stay at it.

Composite of Marlon Brando and Anna KashfiBettmann, Getty Images

32. He Moved On

Kashfi eventually lost the custody battle, and Brando got to keep their son Christian. Next, while she started spiralling downward, Brando went from strength to strength. His career flourished, and his love life never missed a beat So much so that he married two more times after his divorce from Kashfi. 

But while his wealth and status protected him, he shared one tragic commonality with his ex-wife forever—the sad life of their son.

Marlon Brando in tuxedo looking at the cameraoneredsf1, Flickr

33. He Struggled Through

Even though he likely grew up with all the pleasures his rich father could afford, Christian’s life turned into a tragic tale. He definitely got the chance to make his own decisions, but considering the things that made him overreact, it seems right to point at his parents. One reaction landed him in more trouble than any of them expected. 

Christian Brando as a childBettmann, Getty Images

34. He Tried To Protect Her

In 1990, Christian Brando received disturbing news about his half sister. He heard her boyfriend at the time, Dag Drollet, put his hands on her. Perhaps this brought back memories of Kashfi’s physical confrontations with Brando, because Chrstian saw red. 

He attacked Drollet—but when the man pulled out a 5mm, everything went awry.

Cheyenne BrandoThierry RANNOU, Getty Images

35. He Lost Control

The two got into a wrestling match over the gun. Somewhere in the chaos, a shot rang out—and by the end of it, Drollet lay fatally wounded. The encounter landed Christian behind bars for five years. While Kashfi didn’t comment much on the matter, it can't have been easy to see her son locked up like that. 

But this was just the start of the nightmare.

Christian Brando after being arrestedLos Angeles Police, Wikimedia Commons

36. He Followed In Their Footsteps

Still young when authorities finally released him, Christian still had the chance to make something of his life. In 2004, he married Deborah Presley. Tragically, though, his future just didn’t hold any true hope of a happily-ever-after. Like his parents’ own marriage, his own took a sharp turn toward its end shortly after the wedding.

Christian Brando at courtHulton Archive, Getty Images

37. They Didn’t Make It

Only a few weeks after their marriage, Christian claimed his new wife attacked him, pushing him to annul their marriage, even breaking into his house to threaten him. A lawsuit against him soon followed, and the relationship went down in flames. Things never improved.

Christian Brando in gray suitDr. Osaqeel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

38. She Lost Her Son

After a life filled with strife from the very beginning, pneumonia tragically cut Christian's life short in 2005. Kashfi took her son’s passing to heart, mourning deeply over her only child. And with her son gone, she found herself leading an existence she likely never imagined when she hit Hollywood as a young, gorgeous starlet. 

Christian Brando in brown shirtDr. Osaqeel, CC BY-SA 4.0,  Wikimedia Commons

39. She Ended Up Alone

Kashfi spent her final years living alone. Reportedly she spent this time rather quietly, and took up hobbies like painting to fill up her time. Even so, the mystery around her life continued to stir into her old age. And, if one late life decision is any implication, it seemed she liked the attention. 

Person paintingDaian Gan, Pexels

40. She Held Onto The Story

In 2015, writer Sarah Broughton went on the hunt for Kashfi, hoping to write a more authentic story of her life than the one paraded for the tabloids. This came after Kashfi’s own book decades prior, which made many interesting claims (including an assertion that she actually had an Indian father). When she finally met Kashfi, she got far more than she expected.

Woodland, Washington, U.SJoe Mabel, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

41. She Spoke Her Piece

Kashfi declined to answer multiple letters from Broughton. However, when she showed up on Kashfi's doorstep, the elder actress easily let her in. The writer noticed all her letters laid out on Kashfi’s table. Kashfi shared her version of events easily, almost like she wanted to recount it all. She gave her words just in time and passed later that same year. 

Actress Anna Kashfi outside the Santa Monica courthouseFrank Edwards, Getty Images

42. They Took Her Baby

There was so much more to Kashfi and Brando's custody battle that appeared on the surface. While in the heat of proceedings, Kashfi suddenly found herself feelings extremely unwell. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with epilepsy, and prescribed her a cocktail of medication. 

According to her, this put the final nail in the coffin of the custody battle. Courts entrusted their son to Brando—but Kashfi refused to let it stand.

Actress Anna Kashfi and son Christian Devi BrandoBettmann, Getty Images

43. She Hatched A Plan

Kashfi couldn’t accept her only son being taken from her—and her plan to get him back proved devious. With a payment of thousands of dollars, she hired someone to take her son without Brando’s knowledge and hide him away somewhere in California. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it didn’t go quite as planned.

Woman giving moneyPanumas Yanuthai, Shutterstock

44. He Suffered

Authorities found the boy in bad shape. Kashfi seemingly didn’t think the plan through, as it landed her son living in a tent. Furthermore, he fell sick with bronchitis. Authorities returned him to his father, where he spent most of his formative years. His mother still saw him, but continued to struggle with her own serious issues.

Marlon Brando and Son ChristianBettmann, Getty Images

45. She Couldn’t Cope

Due to her epilepsy diagnosis, Kashfi found herself dealing with all kinds of physical issues. Her medical problems got progressively worse, first paralyzing her before eventually leaving her in a coma. She didn’t revive until doctors stopped administering the prescribed medication—and just in time for a knight in shining armor to ride in.

Portrait of Anna KashfiBettmann, Getty Images

46. She Tried Again

Somewhere amongst all her strife with her child’s custody and her medical situation, Kashfi met James Hannaford. He proved himself quite the opposite of Brando, at least by social status. He worked as a salesman, and although not particularly flashy, he was just what Kashfi needed. He showed up just in time to save her life.

Marlon Brando in jacket facing leftCarl Van Vechten, Wikimedia Commons

47. He Investigated Her

When Hannaford proposed to Kashfi, she declined. She told him about her epilepsy, and insisted she didn't want to burden him with her care. The diagnosis didn’t sit right with Hannaford, though. After all, she’d earned a driver’s license, which that sickness should keep her from. He eventually uncovered a shocking truth.

Anglo-Indian actress Anna Kashfi posingMGM Studios, Getty Images

48. Someone Framed Her

Hannaford reportedly discovered that Kashfi never suffered from epilepsy at all. After all, her episodes stopped when she went off her medication. But this started to make Kashfi paranoid. As this disease became the deciding factor in losing custody of her son, she concluded the whole thing to be a plot against her. Still, she somehow found a way to move on. 

Marlon Brando meeting the First Lady of FinlandUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

49. She Tried Again

Anna Kashfi married James Hannaford in 1974. By then, her acting career lay completely dormant. Reports on her living conditions with her new husband are not many. But some do imply they lived in rather poor conditions, nothing like the Marlon Brando-level of grandeur and luxury she came from. Either way, their bliss didn’t last nearly long enough.

grayscale close up photo of wedding ringsMegapixelstock, Pexels

50. Her Knight Left Her

Kashfi and Hannaford remained together for over a decade, and managed to do so without creating any notable scandals or issues. Sadly, he passed in 1987, after which Kashfi continued her life alone, seemingly enjoying a quiet existence—until the day, right at the end, when Sarah Broughton came to hear her story.

Press Photo Of Marlon Brando And Miiko TakaWarner Bros., Wikimedia Commons

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