Marlon Brando & James Dean: Gay Love Affair Revealed in New Biography?

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It's impossible have a conversation about the biggest film stars of the 20th Century without mentioning Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Marlon Brando
James Dean photo

The two screen icons revolutionized movie acting in the 1950s, and over the years, their private lives have become as legendary as their onscreen performances.

After just a trio of starring roles, Dean was killed in a car accident at the age of 24. 

Brando lived to be 80 and continued to work until his final years, but his life was frequently touched by tragedy, including the suicide of his daughter and the imprisonment of his son for murder.

Now, the authors of a new biography about Dean claim the premature death of the handsome young star was the first major loss in Brando's life, as the two actors allegedly fell in love while carrying on a secret homosexual relationship for several years.

The book contains long-buried interviews with several of Dean's friends, including famed composer Alec Wilder, who had this to say about the affair just before his death in 1980:

“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 abreast of the affair. I really believe that Jimmy fell in love with Brando that year."

The writer Stanley Haggart, another friend of Dean's, claimed that the actors often engaged sado-masochistic sexual activities, which involved Brando putting out cigarettes on Dean.

Haggart claims Brando's delight in tormenting his young lover extended to every part of the couple's relationship:

"I got the impression that Jimmy was engaged in a cat-and-mouse affair with Brando, with Brando being the cat, of course," Haggarr said. "Brando seemed to be toying with Jimmy for his own amusement.

"I think Brando was sadistically using Jimmy, who followed him around like a lovesick puppy with his tongue wagging."

As with the alleged affair between Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, it's unlikely that any definitive evidence proving or disproving the relationship will ever emerge.

It's worth noting that Brando admitted to carrying on affairs with other men several times throughout his life, and there are photos that suggest he and Dean enjoyed, if nothing else, a very close friendship.

Of course, no one aside from the late actors will ever know if the relationship between two of Hollywood's most towering legends ever went deeper than that.