Dodie Brando: American actress (1897 - 1954)
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Dodie Brando
American actress

Dodie Brando

Dodie Brando
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actress
Known for Mother of actor Marlon Brando
A.K.A. Dorothy Pennebaker Brando
Was Actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender female
Birth 20 January 1897, Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA
Death 16 August 1954 (aged 57 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Mother: Bessie Grace Gahan
Father: William John Pennebaker
Spouse: Marlon Brando, Sr.
Children: Jocelyn BrandoMarlon Brando Frances Elizabeth Brando Loving
The details


Dorothy Pennebaker Brando, a.k.a. Dodie Brando (20 January 1897 - March 31, 1954) was an American actress. She was the mother of actor Marlon Brando


Dorothy Pennebaker was born on January 20, 1897, in Omaha, Nebraska, to William Johnson Pennebaker and Bessie Gahan Myers. Her maternal grandfather, Myles Gahan, was an Irish doctor and her maternal grandmother, Julia Watts, was born in England.

She was an actress and theater administrator and part of the first class of the theater Omaha Community Playhouse; she starred in the theater's first production, “The Enchanted Cottage.” She had helped Henry Fonda, son of her friend Herberta Fonda, begin his acting career at the theater. Later, she also recruited Henry Fonda's son, Peter Fonda, at Omaha Community Playhouse, while he was attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Dorothy was married to Marlon F. Brando, Sr; she was nicknamed Dodie and her husband, Bowie. The couple had three children: daughters Jocelyn Brando (1919–2005) and Frances Elizabeth Brando Loving (1922–1994), and son, the famed actor Marlon Brando (1924–2004). 

When Marlon was six years old, the family relocated from Omaha to Evanston, near Chicago. Dorothy suffered from alcohol addiction and the problem only got worse in Evanston; she often had to be brought home from Chicago bars by her husband. As a result of which, Marlon and his sisters felt deserted. Her husband also was an alcoholic and eventually, they both joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

In around 1935, Dorothy separated from her husband and subsequently, she and her children went to Santa Ana, California to live with her mother, Bessie Gahan Myers. Marlon was 11 years old at the time. She reconciled with her husband after two years of separation and, starting afresh, the family moved to a farm in Libertyville, near Lake Michigan, Ilinois.

In her later years, the family had moved to California.


Dorothy Brando died on March 31, 1954, in Pasadena, California, at the age of 57. Her husband, Marlon F. Brando, Sr, died on 11 July 1965 in Los Angeles, California.

Marlon Brando on her mother Dodie

In the mid-1940s, Marlon was chosen for a role in the French playwright Jean Cocteau's play titled The Eagle Has Two Heads. However, he didn't get along with her co-star Tallulah Bankhead because she was older and alcoholic –– the characteristics that reminded Marlon of his mother. Marlon wanted to get fired from the play and began acting out. His tactics worked and he was replaced by German actor Helmut Dantine.

In a 1994 Chicago Tribune article titled Becoming Brando, Marlon said, "...my mother was out drinking and my father was out whoring. As a result, I sought-as I still do-affection, loyalty and friendship from animals." 

In the 2007 TCM biopic, Brando: The Documentary, his childhood friend, film director George Englund recalled Marlon's earliest acting as imitating the cows and horses on the family farm as a way to distract his mother from drinking. In his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Marlon expressed sadness when writing about his mother: "The anguish that her drinking produced was that she preferred getting drunk to caring for us." 

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