This series recalls famous visits and historical landings at Helsinki Airport. First up: the story of Marlon Brando’s visit to Helsinki in 1967.
In October 1967 Helsinki Airport received a true world class star when American actor and movie idol Marlon Brando arrived in Finland as a Unicef ambassador. Brando appeared in a Unicef’s charity gala held in Helsinki and televised to 13 countries around the world. The actor’s message drew attention to the famine he had recently witnessed in India.
"Children are dying in their mothers’ arms,” Brando described the situation to television cameras in an interview at the airport.
Though the actor’s career was in a relative slump in the late 1960s, he still held huge star power and received a warm and grand welcome at the airport. Brando also reportedly made a great impression on the Finnish audience at the Unicef gala.
”When he appeared on stage, I could see the audience experiencing a ‘collective orgasm.’ In five seconds, they were on their knees and fully receptive to his message,” described Finnish TV host Lenita Airisto, who interviewed Brando at the gala event.
However, during the charity event, Brando’s visit took a turn for the worse. The actor, who had travelled to Helsinki from Tahiti via the United States, had been awake for over 40 hours by the time he appeared on stage. After his performance, Brando reportedly had a severe convulsive episode in the dressing room. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with exhaustion and circulatory problems. The actor, fortunately, recovered quickly and travelled to London the next day.
A documentary about Brando’s visit, Marlon Brando tuli Suomeen [Marlon Brando Came to Finland] was released in 2011.
The documentary reveals that Brando inadvertently left a peculiar memento for one Finnish fan. The nurse who was on duty while Brando was treated at the hospital, Astrid Winter, had to shave some of his chest hair for an EKG. Instead of chucking it in the trash, however, she stashed the hair and has kept it in her photo album since.
Which historical landing at Helsinki Airport would you like to read about? Send us requests at [email protected].