Jocelyn Brando (November 18, 1919 – November 27, 2005) was an American film, stage and television actress.
Her film debut came in the war movie China Venture (1953) with Edmond O’Brien and Barry Sullivan. Her best-known movie role was as detective Glenn Ford’s wife in the film noir The Big Heat (1953).
Jocelyn Brando, the older sister of Marlon Brando, was born in San Francisco, California, to Marlon Brando, Sr., and Dorothy Julia Pennebaker Brando. Jocelyn and Marlon Brando and their sister Frances grew up mostly in the Midwest—in Omaha, Nebraska, Evanston and Libertyville, Illinois, though the family also spent time in California.
The bane of the children’s existence was the alcoholism of both parents, which was particularly acute with their mother, who later became a leader in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Although Jocelyn, a talented actress, was blacklisted for having signed a peace petition, she managed a career that spanned five decades in the theater, film and television.
Jocelyn Brando came to the stage naturally, first appearing in a theatrical production under the direction of her mother, who was a principal in an Omaha community theater group. Her mother, Dorothy Brando, had given Henry Fonda his start in theater in this same group.
She made her Broadway debut soon after her 22nd birthday, appearing in The First Crocus at the Longacre Theatre on January 2, 1942; the play closed after five performances. Her next appearance on Broadway came two months after her younger brother began his role as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
Even before that, however, in the fall of 1947, both Jocelyn and Marlon would become two of the first fifty or so members of New York’s newly formed Actors Studio, Jocelyn studying with Elia Kazan, Marlon with Robert Lewis.
On February 18, 1948, Jocelyn appeared in her second role on Broadway, which was considerably more successful than her debut. She played Navy nurse Lieutenant Ann Girard in Mister Roberts, which starred family friend Henry Fonda in the eponymous title role. The play was a smash hit, running about three years (1157 performances).
Brando did not complete the run of the play, appearing in the comedy The Golden State in the 1950-51 season, a flop that lasted but 25 performances.
She rebounded with the critically acclaimed, but commercially unsuccessful, 1952 revival of O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, which ran for only 46 performances. One of her co-stars was the lead actress Colleen Dewhurst. Jocelyn Brando would later appear with Dewhurst in a Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra.
Back in uniform as a military officer, Jocelyn made her film debut in Don Siegel’s war drama, China Venture (1953). When she first arrived in Hollywood, she gave an interview with The New York Times in which she commented on her brother’s advice—or lack of it—to the tyro film actress: “Marlon is a sweet fellow, and he works very hard.
I asked him for a tip about pictures, and he answered, ‘Oh, I just say the words. That’s all I know about picture acting.’ He probably was smart at that to let me find my own way.”
It was her second film that was her best-known movie role: detective Glenn Ford’s doomed wife in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953). Her character is killed by a car bomb, intended for her husband. She also appeared in supporting roles in two of her brother’s films, The Ugly American (1963) and The Chase (1965).
In the late 1960s, Jocelyn joined the cast of the CBS soap opera, Love of Life, where she created the role of Mrs. Krakauer, mother of Tess (Toni Bull Bua) and Mickey (Alan Feinstein). On primetime television, she played the recurring role of Mrs. Reeves on Dallas.
Other television series that featured her work include Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Riverboat, The Virginian, Kojak and Little House on the Prairie
Many fans of the 1981 film Mommie Dearest believe Jocelyn portrayed actress Barbara Bennett, sister to Constance Bennett and Joan Bennett, in the movie, but this is incorrect. It is merely coincidence that the Redbook writer in the movie has the same name as the actress.
In later life, Brando ran her own bookstore in Santa Monica, California, known as The Book Bin. She wrote poetry and conducted workshops at her home in the Intensive Journal method, a self-therapy technique developed by Ira Progoff.
Jocelyn Brando had two sons, Gahan Hanmer, by actor Don Hanmer, and Martin Asinof, by writer Eliot Asinof. She died at her Santa Monica home, nine days after her 86th birthday, from undisclosed causes and one year after her brother died.