The day a Hollywood legend visited Norwich
PUBLISHED: 09:30 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 09 October 2019
A couple who renovated a Norwich house have uncovered it has a Hollywood link.
Gurpreet Padda and Matthew Williams spent almost two years transforming the historic house, off Bracondale, but when they bought it in 2017 they were curious about a photo belonging to the former owner.
"I was intrigued by a photo of Marlon Brando on the window sill of the main bedroom," said Gurpreet, a fisheries PhD researcher at the UEA.
The previous owner was formerly lady mayoress of Norwich, Zaharat Power-Clare, who is now in her seventies and in a care home in London. Mrs Power-Clare met double-Oscar winner Brando while he was filming The Ugly American in 1962.
But she always kept a framed black and white photo of the celebrated actor in her bedroom. When the couple asked the agents selling the house, they were told the actor - famous for classic movies like A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather and Apocalypse Now - was a friend of Mrs Power-Clare and even visited her at the house.
The couple then did some digging and found Mrs Power-Clare had spoken publicly only once about her platonic relationship with Brando, who she affectionately called "Bud".
"We were fascinated to know Marlon Brando had once been here," Matthew, an architect, said.
Mrs Power-Clare spoke to defend Brando's name after a book was published following his death making scandalous claims about his life. Her interview back in 2006 reveal the actor had visited her at Southgate House. It's a poignant tale as Mrs Power-Clare said he did not resemble the handsome man she had first met on a movie set in 1962, when he was in his 30s.
He said: "By this time Bud was very, very fat. Too fat. He had to wear canvas shoes because he couldn't get on any other sort. He was recuperating from a film he was making in London, and he slept a lot of the time.
"On that visit he had to wear an oxygen mask in the house because of his emphysema. And he had a terrible cough. I didn't realise he was so ill with cancer."
Sadly Brando died a few years later. "Bud's death was a terrible shock. I lead a quiet life now but I had to speak out and clear his name. After all, I am one of the only people left who knew him," Mrs Power-Clare said at the time.
Today it is unlikely Brando would recognise the house his friend used to own. Gurpreet and Matthew have sympathetically updated the property using contemporary interiors and adding a glass extension. Southgate House, a grand three-storey home, was built in the mid 1800s for a harbour master in an elevated position so he could see vessels on the river.
How a former lady mayoress of Norwich met a Hollywood legend:
Zaharat Power-Clare met Marlon Brando when she appeared in The Ugly American and the photograph she kept all those years showed a moustached Brando from that movie.
She insisted there was no romance but they were good friends and in fact when the movie star came to visit her, he wanted to meet her husband, lord mayor, Arthur Clare.
Norwich's former first lady, Zaharat Power-Clare came from India where she gained the equivalent of O levels aged just 13 and became the youngest ever MA graduate from Dhaka University, aged 19. She acted in the first Bengali-made feature film and over her career was an actress, dancer, and the first female television presenter on Pakistani television.
Her first husband David Khalid-Power was secretary of state in the central government of Pakistan. They moved to Norwich in 1974 and bought Southgate House but sadly Mr Khalid-Power died six months later. She met her second husband, Arthur Clare, then Norwich Labour party secretary, in 1975 and they were married four years later. He went on to become mayor in the early 1990s but sadly died from a brain haemorrhage in 1996. She had five children.
What she said publicly in 2006 about Marlon Brando:
"Marlon Brando was my friend for more than 40 years. He was a complex man who had a lot of women in his life who all adored him. We were never lovers, but for a few golden years in the early 1960s, he was my mentor and our relationship grew into a lasting friendship that ended only when he died in 2004.
"The Brando I knew was learned and sophisticated. He didn't do any clubbing or drinking or smoking or drugs. I first met Brando, whom I knew as Bud, on the set of The Ugly American in 1962. I was a beautiful, confident young woman, and actually rather spoilt, the child of a highly educated family in Pakistan.
"I had come to America as a Fulbright scholar, to work for Kennedy's election and study at University of Michigan.
Bud was in his late thirties and had starred in Mutiny on the Bounty. I was in Los Angeles with some other students at a big festival of culture. I met Bud while on a tour around the Hollywood studios. As soon as Bud saw me he came over to speak. We shook hands, he was always very polite� and I could see he was taken with me. We just �clicked. From that day on, I was sort of adopted by Bud's family. I'd stay with him in the holidays. Every month I'd fly first class, which Bud paid for, from the brown soil of Michigan, at -20C, to the green grasses of sunny California, to stay with him.
"He was affectionate and kind. In those days I loved to dance. I'd say to him: �I want to let my hair down and go dancing!� And he'd dance with me around the drawing room. He told me I was very beautiful and talented, but as I said, I was never one of Bud's women. I was a properly brought up Muslim girl, engaged to a barrister back home. Actually, Bud visited me in Lahore, after I married David Power and had three children. Then, later in Norwich, he came to see me when I was married to Arthur Clare.
"I think one of the reasons Bud liked me so much is that his own family all tried to bask in his glory. But I never cared a damn about it because I came from such a well-connected family myself. I could talk to him on his own level, and Bud liked that.
"When I first knew him, he was leading a chaotic life, but it was also honest and clean-living. As for his overeating, I'd just try to stop him eating too much ice cream, by scooping it up from his plate with my hand. Sometimes we'd go out and meet people like Jack Lemmon and David Niven, but Bud loathed producers and directors.
"He hated acting, really hated it. He said to me: 'Acting just fell into my lap, and I have to pay the bills.'�The truth is that in many ways he led a pathetic life. His dream was to live with his children in his house but this didn't work out."