Born in Connecticut to an immigrant Irish couple, Ed Begley ran away from home several times before making a complete break from both his family and his formal education at the age of 13. For the next two decades, Begley knocked around in a variety of activities, from Naval service to working as bowling alley pin boy, before obtaining an announcer's job at a Hartford radio station in 1931. Ten years later, Begley moved to New York, where he became a prolific radio actor; from 1944 through 1948, he played the title role in the radio version of Charlie Chan. His belated Broadway debut at age 43 came in a short-lived play titled Land of Fame. In 1947, Begley created the role of benighted war profiteer Joe Keller in Arthur Miller's All My Sons; that same year, he was assigned a solid supporting part in his first film, Boomerang (1947). He was a familiar figure in TV's "golden age" of the 1950s, co-starring in the original video productions of Twelve Angry Men and Patterns. In 1955, he made the first of 789 appearances as the William Jennings Bryan counterpart in the Broadway drama Inherit the Wind, co-starring first with Paul Muni and then with Melvyn Douglas. Despite his ever-increasing activity, Ed Begley was standing in the unemployment compensation line in 1961 when he was informed that he'd been Oscar-nominated for his performance in Sweet Bird of Youth. Justifiably proud of his Oscar statuette, Begley reportedly carried it with him everywhere he went, even on short airplane flights! Ed Begley died at 69 while attending a party at the home of Hollywood press agent Jay Bernstein; he was the father of popular movie and TV leading man Ed Begley Jr.
by Hal Erickson biography