Son of stage star Taylor Holmes, Phillips Holmes enjoyed a privileged childhood and a good education at Princeton, Trinity College, and in Paris. Holmes made his film bow in 1928, virtually cornering the market in confused, sensitive young men. Though well cast in such roles as victim-of-circumstance Clyde Griffiths in An American Tragedy (1931) and the guilt-ridden war veteran in Lubitsch's Broken Melody (1932), Holmes' screen characters all tended to look and sound alike, and accordingly his star faded early on. His last American film appearance was in Hal Roach's General Spanky, where he valiantly played second fiddle to the Little Rascals. Working in England at the outset of World War II, Phillips Holmes joined the Canadian Royal Air Force; he was only in his early thirties when he killed in a mid-air collision.