OBITUARIES

Movita Castaneda dies at 98; film actress was Marlon Brando's second wife

Film actress Movita Castaneda married Marlon Brando in 1960 and had two children with him

Movita Castaneda, a movie actress who married Marlon Brando in 1960 and had two children with him, has died in a Los Angeles rehabilitation center. She was believed to be 98.

Her death Thursday came after hospitalization for a neck injury, said Barbara Sternig, a family friend.

One of Castaneda's first films, "Mutiny on the Bounty", a 1935 classic with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, came back to play a powerful role in her life decades later.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Movita Castaneda obituary: In the Feb. 17 California section, the obituary of actress Movita Castaneda, Marlon Brando's second wife, misspelled the last name of Brando's first wife. Her name is Anna Kashfi, not Khashi.
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Castaneda, who was known as Movita, had a small role as a beautiful Tahitian maiden who married one of the mutineers.

The film was remade in 1962, with Brando, Movita's husband, playing the mutiny's leader, Fletcher Christian. Nineteen-year-old Tarita Teri'ipaia played his Tahitian lover — and the two also became lovers off-screen.

After Movita and Brando split, Teri'ipaia became Brando's third wife. They were divorced in 1972.

It was another wrenching but intriguing twist in Movita's colorful life.

Born to Mexican parents on a train crossing the border into Nogales, Ariz., Maria Luisa Castaneda grew up in Los Angeles.

Her actual birth date varies in different accounts. It was April 12, 1916, according to her family, but some sources list it as 1921. Movita told writer Michael Taub that MGM inflated her age. At the time, she said, she was 14 — not 19, as the studio claimed on government documents.

Movita was a name coined for her by MGM executives who thought it sounded Polynesian.

As a girl, she developed a talent for singing and dancing, and performed with a Mexican duo known as Rosita and Moreno. In 1933, she was spotted by RKO producer Pandro Berman, who signed her as a singer in "Flying Down to Rio," the first film in which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced together.

In the 1930s, Movita appeared in a number of films, including "Paradise Isle," "The Hurricane" and "Captain Calamity." In a romance followed by gossip columnists, she married Irish prizefighter Jack Doyle in 1939. Their civil ceremony took place in Ensenada, Mexico, because he had been ordered out of the U.S. for illegally entering it.

Doyle, a tenor known as "the Irish thrush," performed with Movita at European cabarets. For a time, the two owned a London nightclub called the Swizzle Stick.

They were "as popular as Burton and Taylor were later on or David and Victoria Beckham are today," the Irish Independent, a Dublin newspaper, said in 2008.

But Doyle was an alcoholic who cheated on her and eventually became abusive. They divorced in 1944.

Movita met Brando on a movie set in the early 1950s. They did not publicly disclose their marriage until he was asked about it in court a year later. He and his ex-wife, actress Anna Kashfi, were at each other's throats over visitation and alimony problems when he dropped the bombshell.

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FOR THE RECORD

Feb. 17, 10:23 a.m.: A previous version of this story referred to Brando’s first wife as Anna Khashi; her name was Anna Kashfi.

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He also revealed that he and Movita had a son named Sergio. Known as Miko, he became an aide and longtime confidant of Michael Jackson's. The couple later had a daughter named Rebecca.

In 1968, Movita won an annulment from Brando in Santa Monica Superior Court, prompting The Times to declare that the "eight-year marriage ... has ended as it began: mysteriously."

Though they remained friendly until his death in 2004, there were some rough patches.

Shortly after their breakup, Sternig said, the actor replaced Movita's Mercedes-Benz with an old station wagon. Trying to spend as much time as she could with her children, she delivered batteries and radiators for a Santa Monica auto shop. She later had roles on TV shows, including "GE Theater" and "Trapper John, M.D."

In addition to Miko, Rebecca and four grandchildren, Movita's survivors include her 102-year-old sister, Petra.

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

Twitter: @schawkins

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