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Brian Donlevy Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (16)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 9 February 1901Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland [now in Northern Ireland], UK
Date of Death 5 April 1972Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (throat cancer)
Birth NameWaldo Brian Donlevy
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

It seems that Brian Donlevy started out life as colorfully as any character he ever played on the stage or screen. He lied about his age (he was actually 14) in 1916 so he could join the army. When Gen. John J. Pershing sent American troops to invade Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa--Mexican rebels under Villa's command raided Columbus, NM, and killed 16 American soldiers and civilians--Donlevy served with that expedition and later, in WW I, was a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille, a unit of the French Air Force comprised of American and Canadian pilots. His schooling was in Cleveland, OH, but in addition he spent two years at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. However, he gave up on a military career for the stage. After having landed several smaller roles, he got a part in "What Price Glory" and established himself as a bona fide actor. Later such roles on stage as "Three for One", "The Milky Way" and "Life Begins at 8:30" gave him the experience to head off to Hollywood. Donlevy began his Hollywood career with the silent film A Man of Quality (1926) and his first talkie was Gentlemen of the Press (1929) (in which he had a bit part). There was a five- to six-year gap before he reappeared on the film scene in 1935 with three pictures: Mary Burns, Fugitive (1935), Another Face (1935) and Barbary Coast (1935), which was his springboard into film history. Receiving rave reviews as "the tough guy all in black", acting jobs finally began to roll his way. In 1936 he starred in seven films, including Strike Me Pink (1936), in which he played the tough guy to Eddie Cantor's sweet bumpkin Eddie Pink. In all, from 1926 to 1969 Donlevy starred in at least 89 films, reprising one of his Broadway roles as a prizefighter in The Milky Way (1940), and had his own television series (which he also produced), Dangerous Assignment (1952). In 1939 he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the sadistic Sgt. Markoff in Paramount's Beau Geste (1939), its remake of an earlier silent hit. The Great McGinty (1940), a Preston Sturges comedy about a poor homeless slob who makes it to Governor of a state with the mob's help, is a brilliant character study of a man and the changes he goes through to please himself, those around him and, eventually, the woman he loves. A line in the film, spoken by Mrs. McGinty, seems a fitting description of the majority of roles Brian Donlevy would play throughout his career: ". . . You're a tough guy, McGinty, not a wrong guy." Donlevy's ability to make the roughest edge of any character have a soft side was his calling card. He perfected it and no one has quite mastered it since. He later, in 1944, reprised that role in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944). By 1935 Donlevy was working for 20th Century-Fox and had just completed filming 36 Hours to Kill (1936) when he became engaged to young singer Marjorie Lane, and they married the next year. The marriage produced one child, Judy, but ended in divorce in 1947. It was 19 years before he remarried. In 1966, Bela Lugosi's ex-wife Lillian became Mrs. Brian Donlevy, and they were married until his death in 1972. Donlevy had always derived great pleasure from his two diverse interests, gold mining and writing poetry, so it was fitting that after his last film, Pit Stop (1969), he retired to Palm Springs, CA, where he began to write short stories and had his income well supplemented from a prosperous California tungsten mine he owned. Having gone in for throat surgery in 1971 he re-entered the Motion Picture County Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA, on March 10th, 1972. Less than a month later, on April 6, he passed away from cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jane Byron Dean <McGinty@aol.com>

Spouse (3)

Lillian Arch Lugosi (25 February 1966 - 5 April 1972) (his death)
Marjorie Lane (31 December 1936 - 20 January 1948) (divorced) (1 child)
Yvonne Grey (5 October 1928 - 1 February 1936) (divorced)

Trivia (16)

Sassy-talking, rugged-looking, square-shouldered supporting actor said, however, always to have gone through this necessary morning ritual before arriving on the movie set: 1) insert dentures; 2) don hairpiece; 3) strap on corset; 4) lace up "elevator" shoes.
Played historical figure William Quantrill, the leader of a Confederate guerrilla band during the US Civil War, in two films: Kansas Raiders (1950) and Woman They Almost Lynched (1953). The second was not a sequel to the first.
His character, Gil Warren, in In Old Chicago (1937) died as a result of the Chicago fire. His character, Steely Edwards, in 'The Great Man's Lady (1942) died in the San Francisco fire.
When he was working on I Wanted Wings (1941) with Ray Milland they filmed on an actual military base and he played Capt. Mercer. He got so uncomfortable with soldiers thinking he was a real captain and saluting him that he wore a sign around his neck that said, "Actor".
On January 11, 1950, he crashed the plane he was flying into a hillside near Solvang, CA, but miraculously walked away unhurt.
The two overriding interests in his life were gold mining and writing poetry.
According to a statement in a 1944 movie magazine, Donlevy did not smoke or play cards. The only smoking he did was "for the movies".
It's widely believed that Ray Milland accidentally cut Donlevy's shoulder during the filming of Beau Geste (1939) when he missed Donlevy's protective padding with his bayonet. This legend was recently repeated on American Movie Classics (AMC) during an airing of the film. In actuality, Ray stabbed him in the lower left ribcage. The wound was deep enough to not only make him bleed but resulted in a scar that Donlevy bore for the rest of his life.
In Birth of the Blues (1941) Donlevy's cornet playing was dubbed by 'Pokey' Carriere.
He was William Holden's best man at his 1941 wedding to Brenda Marshall.
Father of Judy Donlevy.
Step-father of Bela Lugosi Jr..
Besides television, he also portrayed government spy Steve Mitchell on NBC Radio's "Dangerous Assignment" (1949-1953).
Although he is typically credited as having been with the Lafayette Escadrille, he was not. However he was a member of a group of young American men who went to France and received flight training there in WWI. As such, he was an honorary member of The Lafayette Flying Corps (also known as the Franco-American Flying Corps). The Corps was never officially a unit, it is a collective name for all American pilots -- including the Lafayette Escadrille pilots -- who flew for the French during World War I. The exact number of actual pilots who flew for the French is open to question and many different numbers exist depending on who is counting. The numbers range from as low as 180 to over 300. The most widely accepted number of men who were recognized as having successfully completed French flight training (received their "brevets") is 209. Of this 209, only 180 actually served at the Front in combat divided among 66 French pursuit escadrilles and 27 bomber/observer escadrilles.
He is the only actor to play Professor Bernard Quatermass on screen more than once, which he did in the Hammer science fiction film The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and its sequel Enemy from Space (1957). In spite of this, he was reportedly "Quatermass" creator Nigel Kneale's least favourite actor in the role.
Was wounded twice while serving as a fighter pilot in France during World War I.

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