Marlon Brando's son dies at 49 in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Christian Brando, the eldest son of Hollywood icon Marlon Brando who made worldwide news in 1990 by shooting dead his sister’s boyfriend, died on Saturday at the age of 49, his lawyer said.

Defendant Christian Brando, son of late actor Marlon Brando, is shown after being sentenced to ten years in prison for the murder of his sister's boyfriend Dag Drollet in Santa Monica, California in this February 28, 1991 file photo. Brando has died according to U.S. media reports on January 26, 2008. REUTERS/Pool

Brando, son of the Oscar-winning screen star and Welsh actress Anna Kashfi, died early on Saturday of complications from pneumonia, attorney Bruce Margolin said.

He had been hospitalized at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center since January 11 with pneumonia and his ex-wife, Deborah, told People magazine in a story for their Web site that he had been comatose and on a respirator.

“His body was totally compromised,” she said. “He’d lived so hard ... this is just so sad.”

Representatives for Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center declined to comment.

Brando fatally shot Dag Drollet on May 16, 1990, after his sister Cheyenne told him that her 26-year-old boyfriend had been beating her.

His arrest and subsequent legal proceedings made international headlines, fueled by Marlon Brando’s tearful plea for leniency on his eldest son’s behalf in a Southern California courtroom.

Christian Brando pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, serving almost five years behind bars before he was released.

He told the Los Angeles Times in a 1991 interview that he never intended to kill Drollet, but that the gun went off accidentally while the two struggled.

“I just sat there and watched the life go out of this guy,” Brando told the newspaper.

Cheyenne Brando committed suicide in 1995, at the age of 25, by hanging herself at her mother’s home in Tahiti.

Brando also figured in the murder trial of actor Robert Blake, who was acquitted in the May 4, 2001 shooting death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

Christian Brando had briefly dated Bakley, and defense lawyers suggested that he could have been the killer, but he was never arrested or charged in her death and police cleared him of any involvement.

Brando was called as a witness during Blake’s subsequent civil trial but refused to testify and was fined for contempt of court.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to spousal abuse charges involving his then-wife, Deborah, and was placed on probation.

Marlon Brando, considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, won Academy Awards for his acclaimed roles in “On the Waterfront” and “The Godfather.”

He died in 2004 at the age of 80.

Editing by Eric Walsh