What makes Marlon Brando’s Rolodex a special piece of Hollywood history

This Rolodex was used by Brando in the 1970s and 1980s, and includes entries for countless actor and director friends, as well as journalists, ambassadors, politicians and even Middle Eastern royalty

"Brando was rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was," Los Angeles Magazine once said of the American actor. The bad boy of Hollywood, known as much for his disruptive on-set behaviour, and numerous marriages and offspring, as he was for his movie roles, held audiences in thrall for the best part of five decades.

Brando was featured in Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century, one of only three actors, along with Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe to make the Time magazine list. Encyclopaedia Britannica describes him as "one of the greatest actors of his generation". Credited with popularising so-called method acting, Brando's career included Academy Award-winning performances in On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972), as well as roles in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Julius Caesar (1953), The Wild One (1953), Last Tango in Paris (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979) and A Dry White Season (1989).

This Rolodex was used by Brando in the 1970s and 1980s, and includes entries for countless actor and director friends, as well as journalists, ambassadors and politicians – not to mention Middle Eastern royalty. There are more than 1,000 entries in total, including numbers for the likes of Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Henry Kissinger and Muhammad Ali, although the famed boxer’s first name is spelt incorrectly.

There are also dozens of entries highlighting Brando's activism. The actor was a strong supporter of the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements, and Native American communities. At the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony, Brando refused to accept his Oscar for The Godfather, sending Sacheen Littlefeather to represent him instead. She appeared in full Apache attire, claiming that due to the "poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry", Brando would not accept the award. Hers is one of the numbers found in this Rolodex, along with those for tribal leaders and institutions such as First Americans in Mexico, Amnesty International and the Anti-Defamation League.

The steel Rolodex stands 8 inches high, and is 8.5 inches long and 7.5 inches wide. The key used to lock it is missing, but apart from that, it is fully operational and in very good condition. A throwback to a pre-technological era, this Rolodex offers a peak into Hollywood society and a glimpse of Brando’s own psyche.

The estimated value of the Rolodex is Dh91,825. It was part of an online auction held last month by Nate D Sanders Auctions, a specialist in fine autographs and memorabilia, but was withdrawn, so Brando fans will have to wait patiently for it to come back on sale. Other items in the auction included: a signed Christmas card from Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall; reel-to-reel studio tapes for Prince's For You album; a Tiffany pen belonging to president Ronald Reagan; an Emmy award from 1971; and a negligee worn by Farrah Fawcett in Poor Little Rich Girl.

Read this and more stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, May 11.

sdenman@thenational.ae