George Brent

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George Brent
George Brent 1-M-2004.jpg
Brent in 1939
George Brendan Nolan

(1904-03-15)15 March 1904
Died26 May 1979(1979-05-26) (aged 75)
Years active1924–1960, 1978
Helen Louise Campbell
(m. 1925;div. 1927)

(m. 1932;div. 1934)

(m. 1937;div. 1937)

(m. 1942;div. 1943)

Janet Michaels
(m. 1947;death 1974)

George Brent (born George Brendan Nolan, 15 March 1904 – 26 May 1979) was an Irish-American stage, film, and television actor. He is best remembered for the eleven films he made with Bette Davis, which included Jezebel and Dark Victory .


Early life

Brent was born in Main Street, Ballinasloe, County Galway, on March 15, 1904, [1] [2] [3] to John J. and Mary (née McGuinness) Nolan. His father was a shopkeeper and his mother was a native of Clonfad, Moore, County Roscommon. [4] In September 1915, [4] he moved with his younger sister Kathleen to New York City. There, they joined their mother, who was living in the US after her separation from her husband.

Brent returned to Ireland in February 1921, [4] 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. [5] [6]

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), [2] 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. [5] [7] [8]


American stage career

Brent traveled from England [9] to Canada and returned to the United States in August 1921. [10] [11]

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 Mabel'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. [5] [12] [13]

Early films: Fox and Universal

Brent moved to Hollywood and made his first film for 20th Century Fox, Under Suspicion (1930). [5] [6] He continued in support roles for Fox in Once a Sinner (1931), Fair Warning (1931), and Charlie Chan Carries On (1931). [12]

At Universal he was seventh billed for Ex-Bad Boy (1931) and fifth for Homicide Squad (1931), then was in the Rin Tin Tin serial The Lightning Warrior (1931) at Mascot Pictures.

Warner Bros.

Brent was signed by Warner Bros. in 1931, where he played Barbara Stanwyck's leading man in So Big! (1932). This established him as a leading man for female stars. [5] [6] Bette Davis had a small role.

Brent appeared in The Rich Are Always with Us (1932) with Ruth Chatterton; again, Davis had a support role. [14]

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 studio names appearing in 42nd Street (1933), he played the lover of Bebe Daniels.

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

In October 1933, he and Chatterton refused to make a film they had been assigned, Mandalay and were replaced by Lyle Talbot and Kay Francis. Brent's salary was then $1,000 a week. [15]

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. [16]

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 appeared in 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 the comedy Snowed Under (1936), then Walter Wanger borrowed him to play Madeleine Carroll's leading man in The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936). [17]

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. [18]

Brent made 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" film with Humphrey Bogart, Racket Busters (1938) then he was reunited with Francis in Secrets of an Actress (1938). He was in the military drama Wings of the Navy (1939) with de Havilland and John Payne.

He appeared in Dark Victory (1939) with Davis, which was 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). [19]

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), then starred in The Man Who Talked Too Much (1940) and South of Suez (1940). He supported Ann Sheridan in Honeymoon for Three (1941) and Davis in The Great Lie (1941). [20]

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. [21]

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 [22] for the duration of the war. [23]

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. [22] Brent acted on radio during this period. [24]

Freelance actor

While Brent returned to his acting career after the conflict, he never recaptured his former popularity but during the immediate post war period he still 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 [5] 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 . [5] [6] [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. [5] [6] Chatterton and Sheridan were both Warner Bros. players. [5] [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 had affairs with actresses Greta Garbo and Bette Davis, the latter a frequent Warner Bros. co-star.

George Brent suffered from emphysema and died of natural causes in 1979 in Solana Beach, California. [32] [33] [34]


Feature films

1924 The Iron Horse Worker / Extra (uncredited)
1930 Under Suspicion Inspector Turner
1931 Once a Sinner James Brent
1931 Fair Warning Les Haines
1931 Charlie Chan Carries On Capt. Ronald Keane Warner Oland
1931 Ex-Bad Boy Donald Swift
1931 The Homicide Squad Jimmy
1931 The Lightning Warrior Alan Scott
1932 So Big! Roelf PoolBarbara Stanwyck
1932 The Rich Are Always With Us Julian TierneyRuth Chatterton
1932 Week-End Marriage Peter Acton
1932 The Purchase Price Jim Gilson
1932 Miss Pinkerton Police Inspector Patten
1932 The Crash Geoffrey Gault
1932 They Call It Sin Dr. TraversLoretta Young
1933 Luxury Liner Dr. Thomas Bernard
1933 42nd Street Pat Denning Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell
1933 The Keyhole Neil DavisKay Francis
1933 Lilly Turner Bob Chandler
1933 Baby Face TrenholmBarbara Stanwyck
1933 Female Jim ThorneRuth Chatterton
1933 From Headquarters Lieut. J. Stevens
1934 Stamboul Quest Douglas Beall Myrna Loy
1934 Housewife William Reynolds
1934 Desirable McAllister
1934 The Painted Veil Jack TownsendGreta Garbo
1935 The Right to Live Colin Trent
1935 Living on Velvet Terrence Clarence 'Terry' ParkerKay Francis and Warren William
1935 Stranded Mack Hale
1935 Front Page Woman Curt Devlin
1935 Special Agent Bill Bradford
1935 The Goose and the Gander Bob McNearKay Francis
1935 In Person Emory Muir
1936 Snowed Under Alan Tanner
1936 The Case Against Mrs. Ames Matt Logan
1936 The Golden Arrow Johnny Jones
1936 Give Me Your Heart Jim Baker
1936 More Than a Secretary Fred Gilbert
1937 God's Country and the Woman Steve Russett
1937 Mountain Justice Paul Cameron
1937 The Go Getter Bill Austin
1937 Submarine D-1 Lt. Commander Matthews
1938 Gold Is Where You Find It Jared Whitney
1938 Jezebel Buck CantrellBette Davis
1938 Racket Busters Denny Jordan
1938 Secrets of an Actress Dick Orr
1939 Wings of the Navy Cass Harrington
1939 Dark Victory Dr. Frederick SteeleBette Davis
1939 The Old Maid Clem SpenderBette Davis
1939 The Rains Came Tom RansomeMyrna Loy
1940 The Fighting 69th 'Wild Bill' DonovanJames Cagney
1940 Adventure in Diamonds Capt. Stephen Dennett
1940 'Til We Meet Again Dan HardestyMerle Oberon
1940 The Man Who Talked Too Much Stephen M. Forbes
1940 South of Suez John Gamble
1941 Honeymoon for Three Kenneth BixbyAnn Sheridan
1941 The Great Lie Peter Van AllenBette Davis
1941 They Dare Not Love Prince Kurt von Rotenberg
1941 International Lady Tim Hanley
1942 Twin Beds Mike Abbott
1942 In This Our Life Craig Fleming
1942 The Gay Sisters Charles BarclayBarbara Stanwyck
1942 You Can't Escape Forever Steve Mitchell
1942 Silver Queen James Kincaid
1944 Experiment Perilous Dr. Huntington BaileyHedy Lamarr
1945 The Affairs of Susan Roger Berton
1946 Tomorrow Is Forever Lawrence Hamilton
1946 My Reputation Major Scott LandisBarbara Stanwyck
1946 The Spiral Staircase Professor Warren Dorothy McGuire
1946 Lover Come Back William 'Bill' Williams Jr.
1946 Temptation Nigel Armine
1947 Out of the Blue Arthur Earthleigh
1947 The Corpse Came C.O.D. Joe Medford
1947 Slave Girl Matt Claibourne - aka Pierre
1947 Christmas Eve Michael Brooks
1948 Luxury Liner Captain Jeremy Bradford
1948 Angel on the Amazon Jim Warburton Vera Ralston
1948 Red Canyon Matthew Bostel
1949 Illegal Entry Chief Agent Dan Collins
1949 The Kid from Cleveland Mike Jackson
1949 Bride for Sale Paul Martin
1951 FBI Girl Jeff Donley
1952 The Last Page John Harman
1952 Montana Belle Tom Bradfield
1953 Tangier Incident Steve Gordon
1953 Mexican Manhunt David L. 'Dave' Brady
1956 Death of a Scoundrel O'Connell Party Guest (uncredited) George Sanders
1978 Born Again Judge Gerhard Gesell (final film role)

Short subjects

1935A Dream Comes True (Documentary)Himself
1938 Swingtime in the Movies George Brent (uncredited)

Radio appearances

YearProgramEpisode/sourceCo Star
1938 Lux Radio Theatre The Girl from Tenth Avenue Loretta Young
1938Lux Radio Theatre I Found Stella Parish Herbert Marshall
1938Lux Radio Theatre Another Dawn Madeleine Carroll
1939Lux Radio Theatre Mrs. Moonlight Janet Gaynor
1939Lux Radio Theatre She Married Her Boss Ginger Rogers
1939Lux Radio Theatre Only Yesterday Barbara Stanwyck
1940Lux Radio Theatre The Rains Came Kay Francis
1940Lux Radio Theatre Till We Meet Again Merle Oberon
1940Lux Radio Theatre Wings of the Navy Olivia de Havilland [35]
1941Lux Radio Theatre Wife, Husband and Friend Priscilla Lane
1942Lux Radio Theatre You Belong to Me Merle Oberon
1943Lux Radio Theatre The Lady Is Willing Kay Francis
1943Lux Radio Theatre My Friend Flicka Roddy McDowall
1943Lux Radio Theatre Flight for Freedom Rosalind Russell
1945Lux Radio Theatre The Affairs of Susan Joan Fontaine
1946 Screen Guild Players Experiment Perilous Joan Bennett and Adolph Menjou [36]
1947Lux Radio Theatre My Reputation Barbara Stanwyck
1947Lux Radio Theatre The Other Love Barbara Stanwyck
1953 Stars over Hollywood Meet the Heron/a [37]

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  3. Some sources have cited 1899, but most cite 1904.
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  5. 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. ISBN   978-1851096145
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  12. 1 2 George BRENT: HIS TRAVELS Picture Show; London Vol. 27, Iss. 701, (Oct 8, 1932): 18.
  13. THE LIFE STORY OF George Brent Picture Show; London Vol. 40, Iss. 1,035, (Feb 25, 1939): 18.
  14. George Brent, Suave Movie Veteran, Dies at 75 The Washington Post ]28 May 1979: C6.
  15. GEORGE BRENT JOINS WIFE IN FILM ROLE WALKOUT Los Angeles Times 27 Oct 1933: A10.
  16. 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.
  17. Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p.436 ISBN   978-0816635481
  18. George Brent Now a Citizen New York Times 27 Nov 1937: 21.
  19. George Brent Spent Early Years Amidst Danger and Thrills The Times of India 30 Dec 1939: 16.
  20. George Brent, Stage and Film Star, Dies at 75: Incomplete Source Oliver, Myrna. Los Angeles Times 28 May 1979: 1.
  21. 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.
  22. 1 2 O’Brien, Scott George Brent: Ireland's Gift to Hollywood and Its Leading Ladies BearManor Media
  23. George Brent Seeks Army Job: Film Star Plans to Be Flying Instructor if He Passes Tests Los Angeles Times 26 Aug 1942: 18.
  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 30 November 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 6 October 2019.
  32. "George Brent, Movie Actor, Dies; Was Leading Man to Many Stars". The New York Times. 28 May 1979. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  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. 12 October 1946. p. 17. Retrieved 1 October 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  37. Kirby, Walter (22 February 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved 23 June 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg