Active in amateur theatricals from age three, Briton Brian Aherne studied for his craft at the Italia Conti School, making his professional bow when he was eight. Aherne would later claim that he remained an actor into adulthood (after a tentative stab at becoming an architect) mainly because he liked to sleep until ten in the morning. Successful on stage and screen in England, Aherne came to America in 1931 to appear in the first Broadway production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street. His first Hollywood film was 1933's Song of Songs, in which he appeared with Marlene Dietrich. Free-lancing throughout the 1930s, Aherne established himself as a gentlemanly Britisher who was willing to defend his honor (or someone else's) with his fists if needs be. Many of his roles were secondary, though he played the title role in 1937's The Great Garrick and was starred in a brace of Hal Roach productions in 1938 and 1939 (the actor wasn't crazy about the improvisational attitude at Roach, but he enjoyed the roles). He was Oscar-nominated for his sensitive performance of the doomed Emperor Maximillian in Juarez (1939). In the late 1950s, he put film and TV work aside for a theatrical tour as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Off-camera, Aherne was a licensed pilot and an aspiring writer: he penned a 1969 autobiography, A Proper Job, as well as a biography of his close friend George Sanders, A Dreadful Man. At one point in his life, Aherne was married to Joan Fontaine, but he knew the honeymoon was over when, out of pique, she ripped up a collection of his best reviews. Brian Aherne was the brother of Patrick Ahearne, a character player who showed up in such films as Titanic (1953), The Court Jester (1955) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).
by Hal Erickson biography