Marlon the master and James Dean his slave: Stars had ‘secret SM master-slave relationship’ as Streetcar star Named Desire stubbed out cigarettes on his young lover
James Dean and Marlon Brando had a secret sadomasochistic relationship fueled by the Godfather star’s ego and insatiable desire for control, according to a new book.
The two met for master and servant style sex sessions where Dean demanded to be burned with cigarettes, he claims.
Friends revealed that Brando was so responsible that he made Dean watch him have sex with strangers he had just met as part of a twisted mind game.
Brando never reciprocated Dean’s love and played a “game of cat and mouse” with his young lover for his own amusement.
Friends said Dean was like a “puppy” who would hang out outside Brando’s flat in the cold – in the desperate hope that his idol would invite him in for sex.
Dean and Brando were two of the icons of their generation, but their personal dark undercurrents brought them together, the book says.
The two men both studied under acting coach Lee Strasberg, they were both discovered by director Elia Kazan, and they were both intense and brooding characters.
In some ways Dean was seen as Brando’s successor and only got his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden because Brando turned them both down.
In James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes, out soon on Blood Moon Productions, writers Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince reveal their relationship was far more complex than previously thought.
The book is based on conversations with sources and seasoned journalists who had known Dean before his death in 1955 at the age of 24.
They reveal that the first time Brando met Dean was not on the set of East of Eden in 1954 as he claimed in his own memoir, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”.
Instead, it was in 1949 that, after an extended stay in Paris, Brando flew to New York to make a public appearance at the Actors Studio where he had studied under Strasberg.
After his starring role in A Streetcar Named Desire both on stage and on screen, Brando was idolized and wanted to give a speech to his alma mater.
In the back of the audience was a young man whom Brando would later describe to Bobby Lewis, one of the founders of the actor’s studio, as watching him so intently that he “felt my skin burning”.
Brando thought Dean had a “childlike sincerity” and thought Dean was in love with him – and he was right.
Then Dean introduced himself telling Brando he was his “biggest fan” and was confused about a lot of things but “not confused in my admiration for you”.
The two men talked about Dean’s ability to predict the days when people would die – he was wrong – before a long pause when they looked into each other’s eyes.
Brando leaned over and kissed him, the book says.
Prince and Porter claim that Brando downplayed the extent of his relationship with Dean in Songs My Mother Taught Me.
But it was pretty obvious to their famous friends who included playwright Tennessee Williams, composer Alec Wilder and Rogers Brackett, a Manhattan advertising executive who was Dean’s on-and-off boyfriend.
Dean reportedly told Brackett that Brando was “fully responsible for our romantic relationships.”
Brackett recalled Dean, saying, “I gotta have sex with Brando, which I’ve been wanting to do ever since I first heard of him…he told me what he wanted and I went around.”
Stella Adler, the acclaimed actress and acting teacher, said after that she saw Brando “everywhere” with Dean.
Wilder said: “They were definitely a couple. Of course, the words “sexual fidelity” would be unknown in each of their vocabularies.
“Jimmy and I used to sit and talk for hours in my room at the Algonquin Hotel (in New York). He kept me informed of the case.
“I really believe Jimmy fell in love with Brando that year. As for Brando, I don’t think he ever loved Jimmy.
“I only met Brando three times and each time he was with Jimmy. In my opinion, Brando was in love with Brando’.
Dean ditched his signature white t-shirt and jeans and started dressing smarter and more like Brando.
Another friend of Dean’s, Stanley Haggert, said that Dean never had any money and that he thought Brando “wouldn’t lend him a dime”.
Haggert believed that Brando “deliberately wanted him skinny and mean on the street, looking for a present”.
He said: “Dean often spoke about Brando and his frustration in the relationship.
“I felt like Jimmy was engaged in a cat-and-mouse affair with Brando, Brando being the cat, of course. Brando seemed to be playing with Jimmy for his own amusement.
“I think Brando was using Jimmy sadistically, following him around like a puppy in love wagging his tongue.”
Prince and Porter say Brackett thought there was a ‘terrible loneliness’ in Dean and that despite asking him to be in a monogamous relationship, he couldn’t get him away from Brando.
Brackett said Brando rubbed it in Dean’s face that he was having relationships with other people.
His cruelty extended to inviting Dean over and making him watch while he had sex with someone he had just met on the street.
Brackett said: “When Brando was out on one of his many dates, Jimmy often stalked him, even following him home.
“Several nights, Jimmy stood under Brando’s apartment, staring out his bedroom window as the lights went out, waiting to be in that bedroom himself.
“One very cold morning, Brando came downstairs in his pajamas and invited Jimmy, shivering with cold, to come upstairs with him. But I fear that these acts of kindness are the exception and not the norm.”
In his memoirs, Brando denied that such a relationship took place and claimed that Dean had “never been a friend of mine”.
He admitted that the young actor had a “fixed idea about me”, but nothing more.
Porter and Prince claim this is untrue and say Dean and Brando’s fates also seemed to intertwine in their professional careers.
At the time, Dean was trying to land the role of Nels in the TV series I Remember Mama – the same role Brando played in the stage version.
During a dinner party, Brackett was shocked when Dean took off his shirt to reveal that he was covered in chest burns.
When he looked closer, he could see they were caused by cigarettes that Dean said Brando had stuck in his skin.
Brackett said, “I was pretty much ready to call the police on the brutal son of a bitch until Jimmy told me he had Brando do this to him.”
“For the first time in my life, I realized what a masochist Jimmy was – or was becoming”
According to Truman Capote, there was no doubt about the relationship between Dean and Brando but the way he saw it, there was no love – just sex.
Others believed that their professional rivalry was the source of their sexual tension and that if Dean hadn’t died so young, it would have continued.
Ironically, Dean’s relationship with a young Steven McQueen took on some of the similarities of his relationship with Brando, but in reverse.
Friends recalled how McQueen imitated everything about Dean, including the way he turned the newspaper and the way he drank his coffee.
The pair were seen in the village of Greenwich in the 1950s riding shirtless on their motorbikes through the neighborhood and spending hours together in cafes.
Dean also reportedly had a fling with Marilyn Monroe when they spent two weekends at a beach house on Fire Island, an idyllic getaway east of New York.
The book claims that another of Dean’s lovers was Walt Disney, who faced repeated rumors that he was secretly gay.
In 1976, a decade after his death, gossip newspaper The Hollywood Star ran a front-page article with the headline: “Walt Disney Was Homos*xual” that claimed to reveal the truth.
Porter and Prince say that, according to dozens of sources, Disney was indeed gay and that he rented apartments in Los Angeles under different names where he met lovers.
Disney reportedly met Dean one night at George Cukor’s house, the director whose films included My Fair Lady.
Cukor felt he owed Dean a favor to make up for casting Anthony Perkins in place of him in the 1953 drama The Actress.
Disney’s initial impression was that Dean was a “clean All-American boy” and after getting assurances from Cukor that he was being low key, the three went upstairs to have sex together.
Dean later claimed to a gossip reporter that he had been devoured by two ‘ravenous mouths’, but afterwards Cukor would not return his phone calls.