George Brent

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George Brent
George Brent 1-M-2004.jpg
George Brendan Nolan

(1904-03-15)15 March 1904
DiedMay 26, 1979(1979-05-26) (aged 75)
Years active1924–1960, 1978
Helen Louise Campbell
(m. 1925;div. 1927)

Ruth Chatterton
(m. 1932;div. 1934)

Constance Worth
(m. 1937;div. 1937)

Ann Sheridan
(m. 1942;div. 1943)

Janet Michaels
(m. 1947;died 1974)

George Brent (born George Patrick Nolan, 15 March 1904 – 26 May 1979) was an Irish-American stage, film, and television actor.

Actor Person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.


Early life

Brent was born in Ballinasloe, County Galway, on March 15, 1904, [1] [2] to John J. and Mary (née McGuinness) Nolan. His mother was a native of Clonfad, Moore, County Roscommon. [3] In September 1915, [3] he moved with his younger sister Kathleen to New York City. There, they joined their mother, who was living in the USA after her separation from her husband.

Ballinasloe Town in Connacht, Ireland

Ballinasloe is a town in the easternmost part of County Galway in Connacht. It is one of the largest towns in County Galway with a population of 6,662 people as of the 2016 census.

County Galway County in the Republic of Ireland

County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West of Ireland, part of the province of Connacht.

Brent returned to Ireland in February 1921, [3] during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1922), and was involved in the Irish Republican Army. During this period he also became involved with the Abbey Theatre. [4] [5]

Irish War of Independence Guerrilla war (1919–1921) between the IRA and British forces, ended by the Anglo-Irish Treaty

The Irish War of Independence or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army and British forces: the British Army, along with the quasi-military Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and its paramilitary forces the Auxiliaries and Ulster Special Constabulary (USC). It was an escalation of the Irish revolutionary period into warfare.

Irish Republican Army Irish republican revolutionary military organisation

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and the 21st century. The political movement is dedicated to Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic free from British rule. The original Irish Republican Army formed in 1917 from those Irish Volunteers who did not enlist in the British Army during World War I, members of the Irish Citizen Army and others. Irishmen formerly in the British Army returned to Ireland and fought in the Irish War of Independence. During the Irish War of Independence it was the army of the Irish Republic, declared by Dáil Éireann in 1919. Some Irish people dispute the claims of more recently created organisations that insist that they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA, often referred to as the "Old IRA".

He fled Ireland with a bounty set on his head by the British government, although he later claimed only to have been a courier for guerrilla leader and tactician Michael Collins. According to Ballinasloe Life (volume 2, issue 4, Oct/Nov 2012), [1] the Irish War of Independence careers of three different men named George Nolan (Brent and two others; one from County Dublin and the other from County Offaly) were apparently conflated, which may explain some of the discrepancies regarding Brent's year of birth, life, and activities during the 1919 to 1922 period. [4] [6] [7]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Michael Collins (Irish leader) Irish revolutionary leader

Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary, soldier, and politician who was a leading figure in the early-20th-century Irish struggle for independence. He was Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State from January 1922 until his assassination in August 1922.


American stage career

Brent travelled from England to Canada and returned to the United States in August 1921. [8] [9]

He decided to become a professional actor. He made his Broadway debut in director Guthrie McClintic’s The Dover Road. He did numerous plays throughout the 1920s, including running several of his own stock companies. He appeared in productions of Abie's Irish Rose (on tour for two years), Stella Dallas , Up in Mable's Room , Elmer the Great , Seventh Heaven, White Cargo and Lilac Time. He acted in stock companies in Colorado, Rhode Island, Florida, and Massachusetts. In 1930, he appeared on Broadway in Love, Honor, and Betray, alongside Clark Gable. [4] [10] [11]

Guthrie McClintic American director

Guthrie McClintic was a successful theatre director, film director, and producer based in New York.

<i>Abies Irish Rose</i> literary work

Abie's Irish Rose is a popular comedy by Anne Nichols familiar from stage productions, films and radio programs. The basic premise involves an Irish Catholic girl and a young Jewish man who marry despite the objections of their families.

Stella Dallas is a 1923 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, written in response to the death of her three-year-old daughter from encephalitis. It tells the story of a woman who sacrifices her own happiness for the sake of her daughter.

Early films: Fox and Universal

He eventually moved to Hollywood and made his first film, Under Suspicion (1930). [4] [5] It was made by Fox, who used Brent in support roles in Once a Sinner (1931), Fair Warning (1931), and Charlie Chan Carries On (1931). [12]

Brent went to Universal for Ex-Bad Boy (1931) and Homicide Squad (1931), then was in the Rin Tin Tin serial The Lightning Warrior (1931) at Mascot Pictures.

Warner Bros

Brent went to Warner Bros where he played Barbara Stanwyck's leading man in So Big! (1932). This established him as a leading man for female stars. [4] [5] Bette Davis had a small role.

Brent did The Rich Are Always with Us (1932) with Ruth Chatterton; again, Davis had a support role. [13]

This was followed by Week-End Marriage (1932) with Loretta Young, The Purchase Price (1932) with Stanwyck, Miss Pinkerton (1932) with Joan Blondell, The Crash (1932) with Chatterton, and They Call It Sin (1932) with Young.

Paramount borrowed Brent for the leading man role in Luxury Liner (1933). Back at Warners Brent was one of several studios names in 42nd Street (1933), playing the lover of Bebe Daniels.

He returned to supporting female stars: The Keyhole (1933) with Kay Francis, Lilly Turner (1933) with Chatterton, Baby Face (1933) with Stanwyck, and Female (1933) with Chatterton

In October 1933 he and Chatterson refused to make a film they had been assigned, Mandalay (they were replaced by Lyle Talbot and Kay Francis). His salary was then $1,000 a week. [14]

Brent was top billed in From Headquarters (1933) with Margaret Lindsay then MGM borrowed him to play Myrna Loy's leading man in Stamboul Quest (1934). In September 1934 Chatteron filed for divorce. [15]

Bette Davis

Brent was top billed in Housewife (1934) with Bette Davis, who was his co star. He was leading man to Jean Muir in Desirable (1935) then MGM used him for The Painted Veil (1934) with Greta Garbo.

Brent supported Josephine Hutchinson in The Right to Live (1935), Francis in Living on Velvet (1935) and Stranded (1935). He then made two films with Davis, where she was top billed: Front Page Woman (1935) and Special Agent (1935).

Brent did The Goose and the Gander (1935) with Francis, then was borrowed by RKO to make In Person (1935) with Ginger Rogers. At Warners he was top billed in a comedy Snowed Under (1936), then Walter Wanger borrowed him to play Madeleine Carroll's leading man in The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936). [16]

At Warners he was reunited with Davis in The Golden Arrow (1936) and Francis in Give Me Your Heart (1936). Columbia borrowed him to support Jean Arthur in More Than a Secretary (1936) then Warners gave him top billing in God's Country and the Woman (1936) with Margaret Lindsay.

Brent made Mountain Justice (1937) with Hutchinson and The Go Getter (1937) with Anita Louise. Warners then put Brent in his first male-orientated movie: Submarine D-1 (1937) with Pat O'Brien and Wayne Morris. In November 1937 he became an American citizen. [17]

Brent did Gold Is Where You Find It (1938) with Olivia de Havilland, then made Jezebel (1938) with Davis - only he was the second male lead, with Henry Fonda playing Davis' main love interest.

Warners put him in an action "B" with Humphrey Bogart, Racket Busters (1938) then he was reunited with Francis in Secrets of an Actress (1938). He did a military drama Wings of the Navy (1939) with de Havilland and John Payne.

He did Dark Victory (1939) with Davis, a huge success. So too was The Old Maid (1939) where Davis and Miriam Hopkins fought over Brent. Both films were directed by Edmund Goulding.

20th Century Fox borrowed Brent for a key support role in The Rains Came (1939). At Warners he supported James Cagney and O'Brien in The Fighting 69th (1940). [18]

Paramount borrowed him for Adventure in Diamonds (1940), where he had top billing over Isa Miranda. He was Merle Oberon's leading man in 'Til We Meet Again (1940) and starred in The Man Who Talked Too Much (1940) and South of Suez (1940). He supported Ann Sheridan Honeymoon for Three (1941) and Davis in The Great Lie (1941). [19]

Columbia borrowed him for the lead role in They Dare Not Love (1941) with Martha Scott and Edward Small used him in two films, International Lady (1941) with Ilona Massey and Twin Beds (1942) with Joan Bennett. [20]

Brent made one final film with Davis, In This Our Life (1942), alongside de Havilland. He supported Stanwyck in The Gay Sisters (1942) and was top billed in You Can't Escape Forever (1942) with Brenda Marshall and Silver Queen (1942) with Priscilla Lane.

Military service

In 1942, Brent, an accomplished pilot who had tried and, because of age, failed to enlist in the armed services, temporarily retired from films to teach flying as a civilian flight instructor with the Civilian Pilot Training Program and later became a pilot in the US Coast Guard [21] for the duration of the war. [22]

His final film for Warner Bros was My Reputation with Barbara Stanwyck as a widow that was filmed from November 1943 to January 1944, and with the exception of military audiences, was not released until 1946 [23] . Brent acted on radio during this period. [24]

Freelance actor

He returned his career after the conflict; he never recaptured his former popularity but during the immediate post war period he remained a star of big budget films. RKO used him as Hedy Lamarr's leading man in Experiment Perilous (1944). For Hal Wallis he did The Affairs of Susan (1945) with Joan Fontaine then Tomorrow Is Forever (1946) at International with Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles.

He returned to RKO for The Spiral Staircase (1946), a huge success. At Universal he was teamed with Lucille Ball in Lover Come Back (1946), then he made Temptation (1946) with Oberon and Edward Small at International.

Brent went to Eagle Lion to make a comedy Out of the Blue (1947) and Columbia for The Corpse Came C.O.D. (1947) with Blondell. Universal teamed him with Yvonne De Carlo in Slave Girl (1947).

Brent was one of several names in Christmas Eve (1947) for Benedict Bogeaus and Luxury Liner (1948) at MGM, a remake of the 1933 film in which Brent had appeared.

He went to Republic to star in Angel on the Amazon (1948) and in Universal's Red Canyon (1949) played the father of the star, Ann Blyth. At the same studio he was third lead in Illegal Entry (1949) then had the lead in a "B" The Kid from Cleveland (1949). He supported Colbert in Bride for Sale (1950) at RKO. [25]

The budgets of Brent's films continued to shrink. He did two for Lippert Pictures: F.B.I. Girl (1951) and The Last Page (1952), the latter shot in England with Diana Dors. [26] There was Montana Belle (1952) with Jane Russell then two for Monogram: Tangier Incident (1953) and Mexican Manhunt (1953).


Brent moved into television in the early 1950s [4] guest starring in The Revlon Mirror Theater , Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson , The Ford Television Theatre , Climax! , Fireside Theatre , Stage 7 , Studio 57 , Science Fiction Theatre , Celebrity Playhouse , Schlitz Playhouse and the religion anthology series, Crossroads .

He was cast in the lead in the 1956 television series, Wire Service which ran for 39 performances.

After appearing on Rawhide and The Chevy Mystery Show , Brent retired.

In 1978, he made one last film, the made-for-television production Born Again . [4] [5] [27]

In 1960, Brent was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with two stars. He received a motion-pictures star located at 1709 Vine Street, and a second star located at 1612 Vine Street for his work in television. [28]

Personal life

Brent was married five times: to Helen Louise Campbell (1925–1927), Ruth Chatterton (1932–1934), Constance Worth (1937) [29] , Ann Sheridan (1942–1943), and Janet Michaels (1947–1974). Chatterton, Worth, and Sheridan were also actresses. [4] [5] Chatterton and Sheridan were both Warner Bros. players. [4] [30]

His final marriage to Janet Michaels, a former model and dress designer, lasted 27 years until her death in 1974. They had two children together: a daughter, Suzanne (born August 3, 1950), and a son, Barry (born November 26, 1954). [31]

Brent also carried on a lengthy relationship with actress Bette Davis, his frequent Warner Bros. co-star, who described her last meeting with Brent after many years of estrangement. He was suffering from advanced emphysema, and she expressed great sadness at his ill health and deterioration.

Brent drank heavily, and often showed up to work drunk.

George Brent died in 1979 in Solana Beach, California. [32] [33] [34]


Feature films

Short subjects

Radio appearances

1940 Lux Radio Theatre Wings of the Navy [35]
1946 Screen Guild Players Experiment Perilous [36]
1953 Stars over Hollywood Meet the Hero [37]

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  1. 1 2 Ballinasloe Life (Volume 2, Issue 4, Oct/Nov 2012 cache) Archived March 26, 2016, at the Wayback Machine ; accessed 22 September 2015.
  2. Some sources have cited 1899, but most cite 1904.
  3. 1 2 3 Scott O'Brien, George Brent - Ireland's Gift to Hollywood and its Leading Ladies (2014) BearManor; ISBN   978-1-59393-599-3 (paper back)/978-1-59393-764-5 (hard copy).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Byrne, James Patrick; Coleman, Philip and King, Jason Francis. (2008). Ireland and the Americas, Vol 2., New York: ABC-CLIO. pp. 119-120.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Cozad, W. Lee. (2002). Those magnificent mountain movies: (The Golden Years) 1911-1939, p. 160. Lake Arrowhead, CA: Rim of the World Historic Society.
  6. Karney, Robyn. (1986). The Movie Stars Story, p. 48. New York: Crescent Books.
  7. "George Brent" The Irish Times. The Irish Times 16 Mar 2000: 32.
  8. George Brent - Ireland's Gift to Hollywood and its Leading Ladies (2014) by Scott O'Brien
  10. George BRENT: HIS TRAVELS Picture Show; London Vol. 27, Iss. 701, (Oct 8, 1932): 18.
  11. THE LIFE STORY OF George Brent Picture Show; London Vol. 40, Iss. 1,035, (Feb 25, 1939): 18.
  12. George BRENT: HIS TRAVELS Picture Show; London Vol. 27, Iss. 701, (Oct 8, 1932): 18.
  13. George Brent, Suave Movie Veteran, Dies at 75 The Washington Post ]28 May 1979: C6.
  14. GEORGE BRENT JOINS WIFE IN FILM ROLE WALKOUT Los Angeles Times 27 Oct 1933: A10.
  15. Ruth Chatterton Files Suit to Divorce George Brent: R. CHATTERTON OF STAGE FAME SEEKS DIVORCE Sues George Brent in Los Angeles. Chicago Daily Tribune 18 Sep 1934: 3.
  16. Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p436
  17. George Brent Now a Citizen New York Times 27 Nov 1937: 21.
  18. George Brent Spent Early Years Amidst Danger and Thrills The Times of India 30 Dec 1939: 16.
  19. George Brent, Stage and Film Star, Dies at 75: Incomplete Source Oliver, Myrna. Los Angeles Times 28 May 1979: 1.
  20. Earle Brings New Idea; Ford to Do Big-Seller: 'Twin Beds' Plans Made Society Name Wins Lead Marie Wilson Role Set Paramount Casts Denning Bates Replaces Bainter Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times Feb 1941: 7.
  21. O’Brien, Scott George Brent: Ireland's Gift to Hollywood and Its Leading Ladies BearManor Media
  22. George Brent Seeks Army Job: Film Star Plans to Be Flying Instructor if He Passes Tests Los Angeles Times 26 Aug 1942: 18.
  23. O’Brien, Scott George Brent: Ireland's Gift to Hollywood and Its Leading Ladies BearManor Media
  24. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 26 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  25. 'Bride for Sale' Has Claudette Colbert, Robert Young and George Brent in Leads A. W. New York Times 21 Nov 1949: 29.
  26. Drama: George Brent to Star in England; Don De Fore Chooses Deal on Stage Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 29 June 1951: B9
  27. briefly George Brent dies at 75 The Globe and Mail 28 May 1979: P.13.
  28. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - George Brent". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  29. Constance Worth, George Brent Wed The Washington Post 20 May 1937: 1.
  30. ANN SHERIDAN, GEORGE BRENT WED IN FLORIDA Chicago Daily Tribune 6 Jan 1942: 13.
  31. "About | Suzanne Brent". suzannebrent. Retrieved 2019-10-06.
  32. Obituary,; accessed 22 September 2015.
  33. George Brent dies in Hollywood,; accessed 22 September 2015.
  34. George Brent dies aged 75 The Irish Times 28 May 1979: 8.
  35. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (2): 38. Spring 2016.
  36. "Bennett, Brent, Menjou Star on "Screen Guild"". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 12, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved October 1, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  37. Kirby, Walter (February 22, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 23, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg