Born in Canada, he was brought up in New York City. For a while he was a professional swimmer in a water carnival. He became a stage actor, appearing in many productions in stock and on Broadway; he often appeared in Shakespeare. In the mid '40s he began working in films, at first in lead roles that tended to be introspective; as time went by, he was cast in secondary roles, often as a pessimistic bad guy. For his work in All the King's Men (1949) he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. In the '60s his career began to dry up, and he appeared in many low-budget Italian films; however, he stayed busy as a screen actor into the '80s, often appearing in action or horror films. He co-directed and co-produced the film Outlaw Territory (1953). From 1949-56 he was married to actress Joanne Dru.