Jan. 26, 2008 — -- Christian Brando, the troubled son of late actor Marlon Brando, has died in a Los Angeles hospital, according to published statements by Brando family representatives. He was 49 years old.
Brando died early Saturday morning, according to a statement by David Seeley, an attorney representing Marlon Brando's estate.
"This is a sad and difficult time for the family," Seeley said in the statement, published by The Associated Press.
TMZ.com recently reported that Brando had been admitted into Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Jan. 11 with an undisclosed illness and was in the facility's intensive care unit. The New York Post reported today that Brando was suffering from pneumonia.
The People magazine Web site today quoted his ex-wife, Deborah, as saying that he was in a coma and on a ventilator when he died.
"His body was totally compromised," she told the magazine. "He'd lived so hard. ... This is just so sad."
The roller coaster that was Christian Brando's life began even before he was born, as his famous parents -- his mother was tempestuous actress Anna Kashfi -- married just around the time of his birth, then parted acrimoniously less than two years later. That set off a lengthy custody battle that was resolved in Brando's favor when the boy was 13 years old.
Christian, the oldest of Brando's 11 biological and adopted children, grew up in both Los Angeles and Tahiti, where his father owned an island and later sired several half-siblings for Christian. Among them was a beautiful but unstable half-sister, Cheyenne, with whom Christian was close.
In 1990, when she was 20 years old, Cheyenne confided to him that her boyfriend, Dag Drollet -- father of her unborn child -- had been physically abusive to her (though that was never substantiated). Soon afterward, Brando shot Drollet dead in his father's mansion on lofty Mulholland Drive, sparking a media frenzy.
Cheyenne was immediately whisked away to a hospital in Tahiti, and was not made available to testify at legal hearings before Christian's murder trial. He ended up pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison; he served six years and was released in 1996.
Cheyenne commited suicide in 1995. Her son, Tuki, is being raised in Tahiti by her mother, Tarita.
Once released from prison, his notariety faded, Brando seemed to live a quieter life -- though not for long. When Robert Blake's wife, Bonnie Lee Bakely, was murdered in Los Angeles in May, 2001, Blake pointed the finger at Brando, saying that he was dating Bonnie Lee at the same time, had made threats against her and was the father of a child she gave birth to in June 2000 (she had named the baby girl Christian Shannon Brando, though the child was renamed Rose Blake after a paternity test proved that Blake was the biological father).
Brando was never formally charged in the crime and was cleared because he was away from Los Angeles when it occured. But Blake claimed that it was commited by a friend of Christian Brando's trying to curry favor with the actor's son. Blake was acquitted in the criminal trial but was found liable in a civil trial the following year.
If that wasn't enough time in the tabloids, Christian made more headlines in January 2005 when his new wife, Deborah Presley, accused him of spousal abuse. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years probation, as well as required drug and alcohol counseling. The couple divorced six months later.
In between his bouts with the law, Brando tried to launch an acting career, appearing in small roles in several films including, incongruously, the Barbra Streisand film "Yentl." But he was never able to move beyond the shadow of Marlon Brando, who died in July 2004.