The oldest child of an itinerant bridge builder, actor Neville Brand intended to make the military his career, and indeed spent ten years in uniform. During World War II, he became America's fourth most decorated soldier when he wiped out a German 50-caliber machine gun nest. He also decided that he'd seek out another line of work as soon as his hitch was up. Paying for acting classes with his GI Bill, he started his career off-Broadway. In 1949, he made his film debut in D.O.A., playing a psychotic hoodlum who delights in punching poisoned hero Edmond O'Brien in the stomach. Brand spent most of the early '50s at 20th Century Fox, a studio that surprisingly downplayed the actor's war record by shuttling him from one unstressed supporting role to another (though he's the principal villain in 1950's Where the Sidewalk Ends, he receives no screen credit). He fared far better on television, where he won the Sylvania Award for his portrayal of Huey Long in a 1958 telestaging of All the King's Men. Even better received was his portrayal of Al Capone on the TV series The Untouchables, a characterization he repeated in the 1961 theatrical feature The George Raft Story. In 1966, Brand briefly shed his bad-guy image to play the broadly hilarious role of bumbling Texas Ranger Reese Bennett on the TV Western series Laredo. His off-camera reputation for pugnacity and elbow-bending was tempered by his unswerving loyalty to his friends and his insatiable desire to better himself intellectually (his private library was one of the largest in Hollywood, boasting some 5000 titles). Fighting a losing battle against emphysema during his last years, Neville Brand died at the age of 70.
photo credit: Universal Pictures
by Hal Erickson biography