She is best known for having been married to actor Marlon Brando.
By the age of 22 Joan O’Callaghan had transformed herself into the exotic ethnic “Indian” model and actress Anna Kashfi, using a name invented by her and Glyn Mortimer, the head of a London modeling agency.
As Mortimer told Parade magazine for its 1959 investigation into Kashfi’s past, “Kashfi was the name of a dear friend of mine. Joan picked the name Anna from Joanna [sic], which she apparently had used from time to time”.
The matter of Kashfi’s ethnic heritage has remained in question. Both her English-born parents maintained she was their biological daughter, born, her father told Parade magazine in 1959, “to my wife in 1934 when I was employed by the Bengal-Nagupur railway as a station master”.
Parade stated that its investigation determined that “her baptismal certificate bears this out” and furthermore stated that she had a brother, Bosco O’Callaghan, who was then attending a technical college in Cardiff.
However, upon her 1957 marriage to Marlon Brando a year after adopting her stage name, Kashfi failed to list either on her marriage license, instead stating her real father was one Devi Kashfi and biological mother named Selma Ghose.
In an October 14, 1957, wedding day interview with the The New York Times (entitled “Kashfi Still Enigma: License Does Not List Welsh Couple As Parents”), a friend of the bride was quoted as stating that Kashfi’s purported Indian father had died six weeks before the ceremony.
Nevertheless, the O’Callaghans’ were adamant that Kashfi was their child, and William O’Callaghan was quoted in Time magazine as saying, “That’s our daughter, and both me and missus were born in London.
Upon her family’s relocation to Wales, the then still O’Callaghan worked as a waitress and in a butcher shop in Cardiff before moving to London, where she became a model.
She made her screen debut as an actress in 1956 in The Mountain (1956) for Paramount with Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner.
Using the stage name Anna Kashfi, the twenty-two-year-old played a Hindu girl. In her next film a year later, Battle Hymn (1957), she co-starred with Rock Hudson as a Korean girl.
A year after that she played a Mexican in Cowboy (1958) with Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon.
Her next and last film during this period was Night of the Quarter Moon (1959), where she played the African American wife of singer Nat King Cole.
She made a few appearances on television, including the series Adventures in Paradise, though drug and alcohol problems reportedly contributed to the premature end of her acting career.