Auction sheds rare light on the very private life of Marlon Brando

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The Independent US

For 44 years, Marlon Brando lived far removed from his fellow humans behind high-security gates guarded by snarling dogs on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. To anyone who was not his friend - and he had plenty - he came across as remote, elusive, enigmatic even.

For 44 years, Marlon Brando lived far removed from his fellow humans behind high-security gates guarded by snarling dogs on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. To anyone who was not his friend - and he had plenty - he came across as remote, elusive, enigmatic even.

Hence the unusual degree of interest in an auction of many of his personal effects, which will begin in New York next week. As Christie's, the auction house, puts it, the sale will not only offer people the chance to glimpse the inner world of one of the 20th century's greatest actors. It will also remove the mask from one of Hollywood's most famously private celebrities.

So bidders will be invited to vie for Brando's character notes on Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather - the part that initiated a second flowering for his career and won him a best actor Oscar in 1973. (He jots down ideas for the vocal delivery, assuming that the nasal quality he brought to the part was the result of a broken nose in Corleone's youth.) They will be able to snap up an elegant leather belt, with the letters MB inscribed on the sterling silver buckle that Brando was given by the cast and crew of One-Eyed Jacks in 1959, or a pair of bongos he picked up on a 1956 trip to Cuba.

His correspondence includes exchanges with directors Elia Kazan and Francis Coppola and Karl Malden, his co-star in On The Waterfront. Mario Puzo once wrote to tell him he was "the only actor who can play the godfather". Coppola sent a missive apologising for his distraction in the preparation of Apocalypse Now and giving Brando the outline of his character, the renegade Colonel Kurtz, known in early versions of the screenplay as Leighley.

"This movie has been a nightmare for me, but I am trying to take it slowly, one step at a time, letting my intuition guide me," Coppola wrote in single-spaced typewriter type. "[N]othing is impossible, and together we can accomplish anything, even make a movie about Vietnam."

Other items include school yearbooks, childhood summer camp medals, drawings of faces that Brando made during the 1980s, harmonicas, boxing gloves, a football table, sun hats and baseball caps, two of his California driving licences and the white Lexus in which he drove to Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch in the last year of his life.

Some of the more alluring items are quirky rather than valuable: a piece of headed notepaper on which Brando has signed his name many times, along with a line of Blanche Dubois' from Streetcar Named Desire: "Sometimes there is god so quickly ..."

In a copy of Edmund Carpenter's book They Became What They Beheld, Brando wrote: "This book belongs to anyone who reads it, at least while he's reading it." The auction is being held at the request of nine of Brando's children,named in his will as his sole beneficiaries. A tenth, adopted child called Petra inherited nothing.

Christie's expects the sale to fetch at least $400,000 (£220,000) to $500,000, but the proceeds could be many times that. When Marilyn Monroe's estate came up for auction in 1999, it fetched six times the expected figure.

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