Lawrence "Neville" Brand, a familiar face in movies and on television from 1949 through the early 1980s, was born on August 13, 1920 in Griswold, Iowa. He died in Sacramento, California on April 16, 1992.
Neville Brand was one of seven siblings in a family that moved several times before he ended up in high school in Kewanee, Illinois. In 1939, he joined the Illinois Army National Guard as a private then enlisted in the US Army as a corporal (infantryman) on March 5, 1941 and was discharged in 1945.
During his military service, he rose to rank of sergeant and platoon leader. He was wounded in action in 1945. Of his many military awards, he received the Silver Star (gallantry in combat) and a Purple Heart (wounded in combat).
According to his IMDb bio, "It was while he was in the army that he made his acting debut, in Army training films, and this experience apparently changed the direction of his life. Once a civilian again, he used his GI Bill education assistance to study drama with the American Theater Wing and then appeared in several Broadway plays. His film debut was in Port of New York (1949). Among his earliest films was the Oscar-winning Stalag 17 (1953)."
He reportedly once said of himself in an interview, "With this kisser, I knew early in the game I wasn't going to make the world forget Clark Gable."
Neville Brand as Al Capone
Early roles: "His hulking physique, rough-hewn, craggy-faced looks and gravelly voice lead to him largely playing gangsters, western outlaws, and other screen 'heavies', cops, and other tough-guy roles throughout his career."
(Doesn't this also remind you of Charles Bronson?)
"He had the distinction of being the first actor to portray outlaw Butch Cassidy in the film The Three Outlaws opposite Alan Hale, Jr. as the Sundance Kid."
Brand rose quickly as a bankable actor in other movies: Halls of Montezuma (1950), Man Crazy (1953), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Return from the Sea (1954), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).
He played a tough guy in the Elvis Presley movie Love Me Tender (1956). He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Willie Stark in Kraft Theater's All the King's Men (1958). He portrayed Al Capone on television and film. His first film role was as a sadistic hoodlum opposite Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A (1950).
|D.O.A. (attribution below)|
The New York Times wrote in his obituary,
His looks helped him get parts but also tended to stereotype his career. A sympathetic news article in 1963 said that 'in 50 screen roles he has never been without a gun and has consistently been cast as a soldier or a gangster,' a pattern that was being broken then with a new role as a spear-brandishing Viking.
This is a quote from his Bio on the IMDb website. He said of himself about playing villains:
"...I don't go in thinking he's a villain. The audience might, but the villain doesn't think he's a villain. Even a killer condones what he's done. I just create this human being under the circumstances that are given. I don't think he's a villain. Everybody just condones his own actions."
When you look at his list of acting credits on the website IMDb, you can follow his career through his early uncredited performances to his plethora of bit parts to his recurring television roles to his movies.
His television credits are impressive. In the 1960s and 1970s, it seemed he showed up in just about every popular television series: Fantasy Island, Baretta, McCloud, Kojak, Police Woman, Bonanza, Marcus Welby, M.D., Alias Smith and Jones, The Virginian, Daniel Boone, Tarzan, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Death Valley Days... The list goes on and on.
I remember him most for his recurring character Texas Ranger Reese Bennett in the television western Laredo (56 episodes from 1965-1967) and Disney's That Darn Cat! (1965). [What can I say? I was a kid, and I had two Siamese cats.]
Neville Brand as Reese Bennett - Laredo
What memories do you have of Neville Brand?
Until next time,
Writing through history one romance upon a time
Prairie Rose Publications
**D.O.A. image attribution: By Film screenshot - D.O.A. film, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3262102
**Neville_Brand_1966 image attribution: By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19597155
**Neville_Brand_as_Al_Capone_The_Untouchables_1959 image attribution: By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19597155