Who was Brian Keith?
The late American actor was born Robert Alba Keith in Bayonne, New Jersey USA, on 14 November 1921, meaning that Scorpio was his zodiac sign. He appeared in 167 TV series and movies, but is perhaps still remembered best for playing one of the main characters Mitch Evers in the 1961 romantic family comedy movie “The Parent Trap”, directed by David Swift, and which also starred Maureen O’Hara and Hayley Mills. It follows teenage twin sisters as they’re trying to reunite their divorced parents, and the movie won two of its 10 award nominations, including two Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
Education and early life
Brian was raised in Bayonne as an only child, by his mother Helena Shipman who was a stage actress, and father Robert Keith who was a famous TV actor; his parents were Roman Catholics.
He was thrown into the film industry, as he was only two years old when he appeared in his first two movies: the comedy “Pied Piper Malone” and the drama “The Other Kind of Love”, both in 1924, however, Brian didn’t appear in any movies or TV series in the following 16 years, wanting to focus on his education.
He studied at East Rockaway High School and was into a number of activities during his time there, playing sports with his peers and acting with the school’s drama club. He matriculated in 1940, and two years later joined the US Marine Corps, serving on the dive bomber Douglas SBD Dauntless during World War II; Brian received various medals for his service, including an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Combat Aircrew Insignia.
He left the Marine Corps in 1945, and then focused on acting.
Roles in movies
Brian played Student at Train Station in the 1940 biographical family drama “Knute Rockne All American”, and his three following roles were in the 1947 crime drama “Boomerang!”, the 1948 fantasy mystery “Portrait of Jennie”, and the 1951 thriller “Fourteen Hours”.
The year 1953 saw him play Captain Bill North in the romantic western “Arrowhead”, written and directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and which starred Charlton Heston, Jack Palance and Katy Jurado; it follows the life of Chief of Scouts Ed Bannon. Some of Brian’s other notable performances in the ‘50s were in the 1954 crime adventure “Alaska Seas”, the 1955 crime drama “5 Against the House”, and the 1959 drama “The Young Philadelphians”.
The year 1962 saw him star as Major General John M. Vanneman in the science fiction comedy “Moon Pilot”, directed by James Neilson, and which also starred Tom Tryon and Edmond O’Brien; it follows the disappearance of a NASA astronaut right before he was to go to the moon. The following year saw Brian appear in the family adventure “Savage Sam”, while he was then cast to play lead characters in the 1964 family drama “A Tiger Walks”, the 1967 romantic thriller “Reflections in a Golden Eye”, and the 1969 comedy “Gaily, Gaily”.
Remembering actor BRIAN KEITH (1921 – 1997), who was born on November 14th. During his six decade-long career, Keith…
What marked the ‘70s for Brian was perhaps playing one of the lead characters Theodore Roosevelt in the popular 1975 action adventure “The Wind and the Lion”, written and directed by John Milius, and which also starred Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. It follows a Berber chieftain who’s kidnapped an American widow and her children – the movie was nominated for six awards, including two Oscars for Best Sound and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score.
Some of Brian’s notable performances in the ‘80s were in the 1982 mystery horror thriller “Cry for the Strangers”, the 1987 action “Death Before Dishonor”, and the 1989 drama “Welcome Home”.
In 1993, he played Truman Richards in the family drama “Wind Dancer”, which Craig Clyde wrote and directed, and also starred Mel Harris, Matt McCoy and Raeanin Simpson; it follows a young girl who’s been injured in a horse riding accident.
Brian continued acting until his death, and his final three film roles were in the 1995 comedy “Favorite Deadly Sins”, the 1996 biographical romantic drama “Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story”, and the 1997 comedy “The Second Civil War”.
Roles in TV series
Brian’s debut TV series role was in the 1951 episode “High Iron” of the musical “Hands of Mystery”, while he was then cast to appear in an episode or two of the action mystery “Shadow of the Cloak”, the horror mystery “Tales of Tomorrow”, and the crime drama “Police Story”.
In 1954 and 1955, he played various characters in the family drama “Studio 57”, created by Jay Dratler, and which starred Joel Aldrich, Tim Graham and Jean Byron; each episode of the series is a short film, but it failed to attract a lot of attention. What also marked the ‘50s for Brian was playing the lead character Matt Anders in the drama “Crusader”, which also starred Edwin Reimers and Arthur Space, and follows Matt Anders whose mother died in a concentration camp in Poland, and who’s now dedicated his life to freeing other people from totalitarian countries.
Brian appeared in an episode of many series in the ‘60s, including the drama “Alcoa Premiere”, the adventure “Follow the Sun” and the crime adventure “The Fugitive”.
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) November 14, 2014
From 1966 through 1971, he starred as Uncle Bill Davis in all the 138 episodes of the hit comedy “Family Affair”, created by Don Fedderson and Edmund L. Hartmann, and which also starred Kathy Garver and Anissa Jones. It follows Bill who’s welcomed a family of four into his home, and the series won one of its 11 award nominations. From 1972 through 1974, Brian starred in all the 47 episodes of the comedy “The Little People”, and the remainder of the decade saw him appear in several episodes of the drama “Archer”, the romantic western “The Chisholms”, and the action adventure “Centennial”.
From 1983 through 1986, Brian played the lead character Judge Milton C. Hardcastle in the crime action “Hardcastle and McCormick”, created by Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh, and which also starred Daniel Hugh Kelly and Joe Santos. It follows a retired judge as he’s reflecting back on his cases, and the series won two awards.
Brian’s three final TV series roles were in the 1997 episode “Kidney, Popsicle, and Nuts” of the animated adventure comedy “Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man” (voice role), two episodes of the 1997 historical action mini-series “Rough Riders”, and three episodes of the 1997 animated action adventure “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” (voice role).
Brian directed two episodes of the 1956 series “Crusader”, and the 1973 episode “Sean, the Movie Star” of the series “The Little People”.
He received special thanks for both episodes of the 1997 mini-series “Rough Riders”.
Some of Brian’s final TV show appearances were in the 1988 “Win, Lose or Draw”, the 1989 “The Pat Sajak Show” and the 1992 “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”.
Awards and accolades
Brian won one of his nine award nominations: a 1991 Golden Boot Award.
He was nominated for three Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series in 1967, ‘68 and ‘69, all for “Family Affair”.
Brian received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 26 June 2008 (posthumously).
Love life and marriages
Brian was married thrice and had seven children. His first wife was the late American actress Frances Helm; the two married in 1948 and divorced six years later.
In 1954, Brian exchanged vows with the late American actress and dancer Judith Brenna ‘Judy’ Landon, and their divorce was finalized in 1969; Judy gave birth to their two children, while they also adopted three.
From 1970 until his death, Brian was married to Hawaiian actress Victoria Young, and they had two children together.
Interesting facts and hobbies
The late Irish-born American actress Maureen O’Hara stated in an interview not long after Brian’s death that he didn’t commit suicide, as she knew him as a man who was always in good spirits; she stated that Brian had a collection of guns and enjoyed cleaning them, and that one of his guns perhaps accidentally fired while he was cleaning it. Maureen also explained that Brian was a devout Catholic, and that his beliefs were against suicide.
Two of Brian’s best friends were American actress and producer Kathy Garver, and American actor, screenwriter and director Johnny Whitaker.
He was passionate about a number of activities, as he enjoyed horseback riding, swimming and playing golf; Brian also liked to spend his spare time in the kitchen, preparing delicious food for his family.
His favorite actor was Marlon Brando, while some of Brian’s favorite films included “Last Tango in Paris”, “On the Waterfront”, and “Apocalypse Now”.
Death and wealth
Brian was 75 when he allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself on 24 June 1997; he had previously suffered from lung cancer and emphysema, and had financial problems. Two months prior to Brian’s death, his daughter Daisy committed suicide.
His net worth, at the time of his death was estimated at over $9 million.