George Brent Edit Profile
In less than a dozen years he appeared in eleven moxies with Bette Davis (she said he had “an excitement he rarely was in the mood to transfer to the screen. In his mid-forties he was still making a big impression—on the very young Jane Powell, who played his daughter in the 1948 Luxury Liner ( Richard Whorf).
Born in Ireland in 1904, the young Brent got mixed up with the Abbey Theatre and The Troubles, from the latter of which he soon fled to America and Broadway (once arrested by the Black and Tans, he hid documents in his hair). In 1931, he went to Hollywood and made six insignificant films—one, a serial (The Lightning War-rior); four for Fox: Under Suspicion (A. F. Erickson); Once a Sinner (Guthrie McClintic); Fair Warning (Alfred L. Werker); and Charlie Chan Carries On (Hamilton McFadden); and two for Universal: Fox-Bad Boy (Vin Moore) and Homicide Scpiad (George Melford), before moving on to Warners. There—when he wasn’t playing first or second fiddle to important ladies—he was expected to carry minor films with the help of equally minor actresses, such as Margaret Lindsay—From Headquarters (34, Dieterle); Jean Muir—Desirable (34, Mayo); Josephine Hutchinson—The Right to Live (35, Keighley) and Mountain Justice (37, Curtiz); Beverly Roberts—God's Country and the Woman (37, Keighley); Anita Louise—The Go-Getter (37, Busby Berkeley, his first nonmusical); Doris Weston—Submarine D-l (37, Lloyd Bacon); Virginia Bruce—The Man Who Talked Too Much (40, Vincent Sherman); Brenda Marshall—South of Suez (40, Lewis Seiler) and You Can’t Escape Forever (42, Jo Graham).
During this period he played in several highly respectable films—42nd Street (33, Bacon), The Rains Came (39, Clarence Brown), and, with Merle Oberon in the roles originally taken by William Poyvell and Kav Francis, in Til We Meet Again, Edmund Goulding’s effective 1940 remake of his memorable tearjerker, One Way Passage. He also appeared in They Call it Siti (32, Thornton Freeland); Miss Pinkerton (32, Bacon); Weekend Marriage (32, Freeland); Lux¬ury Liner (33, Lothar Mendes—not the one with Jane Powell); Private Detective 62 (33, Curtiz); In Person (35, William Seiter); Snowed Under (36, Ray Enright); The Case Against Mrs. Ames (36, Seiter); More Than a Secretary (36, Green) Gold Is Where You Find It (38, Curtiz); Racket Busters (38, Bacon); Wings of the Navy (39, Bacon); The Fighting 69th (40. Keighley); Adventures with Diamonds (40, George Fitzmaurice); Honeymoon for Three (41, Bacon); They Dare Not Live (41, James Whale); International Lady (41, Tim Whelan); Twin Beds (42, Whelan); and Silver Queen (42, Bacon).
After a short break during the war, he came back for a few major pictures: with Hedv Lamarr in Experiment Perilous (44, Jacques Tourneur); with Joan Fontaine in The Affairs of Susan (45, Seiter); with Stanwyck in My Reputation (46, Curtis Bernhardt); a mad killer, for once, threatening Dorothy McGuire in The Spiral Staircase (46, Robert Siodmak); with Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles in Tomorrow Is Forever (46, Irving Pichel).
Then the slide began. In 1946, Lover Come Back (Seiter) and Temptation (Pichel). In 1947, Slave Girl, with Yvonne de Carlo and a talking camel named Lumpy (Charles Lamont); The Coi~p.se Came C O D. (Henry Levin); Out of the Blue (Leigh Jason); and Christmas Eve/Sinners’ Holiday (Edwin L. Marin). In 1948, the Jane Powell Luxury Liner and Angel on the Amazon (John H. Auer). In 1949, Red Canyon (George Sherman); Illegal Entny (Frederick de Cordova); The Kid from Cleveland (Herbert Kline); and Bride for Sale (William D. Russell). Nothing in 1950. In 1951, he was second-billed to Cesar Romero in FB I. Girl (William Berke). In 1952, Man Bait (Terence Fisher) and Montana Belle (Allan Dwan). In 1953, Tangier Incident (Lex Landers) and Mexican Manhunt (Rex Bailey). Three years later, a cameo in Death of a Scoundrel (56, Charles Martin). The rest was silence, except, amazingly, a brief appearance twenty-two years later as Jndge Gesell in a Watergate recap, Born Again (78, Irving Rapper).
Brent was typed as a romantic lead despite his somewhat porcine face and his stieklike acting— his performances divide neatly between those in which he’s wearing a mustache and those in which he isn't; not much else distinguishes them. That he was borrowed by other studios for their female stars—most bizarrely by MGM for Garbo in The Painted Veil (34, Richard Boleslavsky) and Mvrna Lov in Stamboid Quest (34, Sam Wood)—would seem impenetrably mysterious if we didn’t know that Garbo, too, had responded to that off-screen “excitement” noted bv Bette Davis.
He married Chatterton although she was considerably older and a far bigger star—one of a series of romantic conquests that seems inexplicable today. He later married Ann Sheridan.