After a rough-and-tumble adolescence, Victor Jory attended high school in California, studying acting with Gilmor Brown at the Pasadena Playhouse. Jory's subsequent tenure at the University of California lasted all of one year before he was bitten by wanderlust; he joined the coast guard, where he distinguished himself as a champion in several contact sports. Sharp-featured, muscular, and possessed of a rich theatrical voice, Jory made his New York stage bow in 1929, and one year later co-starred in the original Broadway production of Berkeley Square. Inaugurating his film career with Renegades (1930), Jory spent the next five decades in roles ranging from romantic leads to black-hearted villains. Highlights in his screen career include a sinister but strangely beautiful performance as Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935); the vicious Injun Joe in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938); white-trash carpetbagger Jonas Wilkerson in Gone With the Wind (1939); Texas patriot William Travis in Man of Conquest (1939); the hissable, crippled patriarch in The Fugitive Kind (1960); the taciturn father of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962); and the ancient South American Indian chief in Papillon (1973). In 1940, Jory starred in the Columbia serial The Shadow (1940), essaying the dual role of the mind-clouding Shadow and his alter ego Lamont Cranston (with several disguise sequences along the way).
The outspoken Jory was supremely confident of his talents, remarking on several occasions that he was "damn good" -- though he was tougher than any movie critic in assessing his lesser performances. He was also more than generous with young up-and-coming actors (except for self-involved "method" performers), and was a veritable fountain of Broadway and Hollywood anecdotes, some of which were actually true. An occasional theatrical director and playwright, Jory wrote the Broadway production Five Who Were Mad. On TV, Jory starred in the popular syndicated detective series Manhunt (1959-1960) and guested on dozens of other programs. Long married to actress Jean Innes, Victor Jory was the father of Jon Jory, who for many years was artistic director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville.