Character actor Brian Donlevy was born near Cleveland, Ohio, on February 9, 1901, and was raised in Wisconsin. Following a stint in the U.S. Army during World War I, Donlevy considered a career in military service but eventually chose dramatics instead. In the 1920s, he worked on Broadway and in several silent films, but his film career didn't get off the ground until the mid 1930s, when he signed with 20th Century-Fox. The studio cast him in starring roles in such films as the comedy Human Cargo (1936; with Claire Trevor) and the crime drama 36 Hours to Kill (1936). He shined in film noir, portraying heavies and heroes in Behind Prison Gates (1939; with Julie Bishop), The Glass Key (1942; with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake), and Kiss of Death (1947; with Victor Mature and Coleen Gray). Donlevy also appeared in many westerns, including Jesse James (1939; with Tyrone Power), When the Daltons Rode (1940; with Randolph Scott), and The Virginian (1946; with Joel McCrea).

Brian Donlevy

Mid 1940s studio photo of Brian Donlevy

Donlevy left 20th Century-Fox for Paramount in the early 1940s. He acted many films during that decade, but his career began to slow down in the 1950s. In the late 1940s, he began working in television and radio and starred in the 1952 syndicated TV series Dangerous Assignment.

the films of brian donlevy

Crack-Up (1936)

Peter Lorre and Brian Donlevy

With Peter Lorre in the 20th Century Fox spy drama Crack-Up

High Tension (1936)

Glenda Farrell, Brian Donlevy, and Helen Wood

From the 20th Century-Fox comedy High Tension with Glenda Farrell and Helen Wood

Behind Prison Gates (1939)

Julie Bishop and Brian Donlevy

With Julie Bishop in Columbia's noir Behind Prison Gates

The Great McGinty (1940)

Brian Donlevy and Muriel Angelus

From the Paramount comedy The Great McGinty with Muriel Angelus

The Glass Key (1942)

Brian Donlevy, Veronica Lake, and Alan Ladd

With Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd in The Glass Key

A Gentleman After Dark (1942)

Brian Donlevy, Miriam Hopkins, and Preston Foster

With Miriam Hopkins and Preston Foster in the noir thriller A Gentleman After Dark

Wake Island (1942)

Macdonald Carey, Brian Donlevy, and Robert Preston

From the Paramount war drama Wake Island with Macdonald Carey and Robert Preston

Hangmen Also Die (1943)

Brian Donlevy and Anna Lee

With Anna Lee in the war noir United Artists release Hangmen Also Die

Canyon Passage (1946)

Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, and Dana Andrews

With Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, and Dana Andrews in Universal's western release Canyon Passage

Two Years Before the Mast (1946)

William Bendix and Brian DonlevyBarry Fitzgerald, Brian Donlevy, and Alan Ladd

From Paramount's adventure flick Two Years Before the Mast. LEFT: With William Bendix. RIGHT: With Barry Fitzgerald and Alan Ladd

Song of Scheherazade (1947)

Brian Donlevy and Jean-Pierre Aumont

With Jean-Pierre Aumont in the Universal-International adventure Song of Scheherazade

Command Decision (1948)

Cameron Mitchell, Walter Pidgeon, and Brian Donlevy

From the MGM war drama Command Decision with Cameron Mitchell and Walter Pidgeon

The Lucky Stiff (1949)

Brian Donlevy and Dorothy Lamour

From the United Artists noir comedy The Lucky Stiff with Dorothy Lamour

Shakedown (1950)

Brian Donlevy

From Universal-International's film noir thriller Shakedown

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

Brian Donlevy

From the British sci-fi flick The Quatermass Xperiment

A Cry in the Night (1956)

Brian Donlevy

In A Cry in the Night, Donlevy tries to rescue kidnapping victim Natalie Wood from the clutches of Raymond Burr

Quatermass II (1957)

Brian Donlevy

From the British sci-fi sequel Quatermass II

Juke Box Rhythm (1959)

Brian Donlevy, Karin Booth, and Jack Jones

From the Columbia musical Juke Box Rhythm with Karin Booth and Jack Jones

The Girl in Room 13 (1961)

Brian Donlevy

From the Brazilian-made crime drama The Girl in Room 13

Curse of the Fly (1965)

Brian Donlevy and George Baker

With George Baker in Curse of the Fly, a British-made final entry in The Fly series released by 20th Century-Fox

The Fat Spy (1966)

Brian Donlevy and Jayne Mansfield

From the low-budget comedy The Fat Spy with Jayne Mansfield

later years

In the early 1960s, Brian Donlevy retired from acting and moved to Palm Springs. However, he quickly tired of having nothing to do, so he returned in the mid 1960s, acting in such films as How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965; with Annette Funicello) and Arizona Bushwhackers (1968; with Yvonne De Carlo). He also worked frequently in television as a guest-star on popular programs such as Perry Mason and Family Affair. Married three times, in February 1966 Donlevy married Lillian Lugosi, the ex-wife of actor Bela Lugosi. He began to slow down in the late 1960s, and following his role in Jack Hill's effective racing film Pit Stop (1969; with Sid Haig and Richard Davalos), Donlevy retired from the screen. After a bout with throat cancer, he passed away in Los Angeles on April 5, 1972, at age 71. Donlevy was survived by his wife Lillian, a daughter from his second marriage, Judy, and his stepson, Bela Lugosi Jr.

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Pit Stop (1969) with Richard Davalos, Sid Haig, and Ellen Burstyn
Rogues' Gallery (1968) with Farley Granger, Roger Smith, Mala Powers, Edgar Bergen, and Richard Arlen
Arizona Bushwhackers (1968) with Yvonne De Carlo, John Ireland, Howard Keel, Scott Brady, and James Craig
Hostile Guns (1967) with George Montgomery, Yvonne De Carlo, Tab Hunter, John Russell, James Craig, and Richard Arlen
Five Golden Dragons (1967) with Robert Cummings, Margaret Lee, Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee, and Dan Duryea
Waco (1966) with Jane Russell, Howard Keel, Wendell Corey, John Agar, John Smith, Terry Moore, Jeff Richards, and Richard Arlen
Curse of the Fly (1965) with George Baker
The Fat Spy (1965) with Jayne Mansfield, Phyllis Diller, and Jack E. Leonard
Gamera the Invincible (1965) with Albert Dekker
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) with Annette Funicello, Dwayne Hickman, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Harvey Lembeck, and Beverly Adams
The Pigeon That Took Rome (1962) with Charlton Heston, Elsa Martinelli, Harry Guardino, and Gary Collins
The Girl in Room 13 (1961)
The Errand Boy (1961) with Jerry Lewis and Quinn O'Hara
Never So Few (1959) with Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, John Hoyt, and Whit Bissell
Juke Box Rhythm (1959) with Karin Booth and Jack Jones
Cowboy (1958) with Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, and Dick York
Escape From Red Rock (1958) with Jay C. Flippen and Myron Healey
Quatermass 2 (1957)
A Cry in the Night (1956) with Raymond Burr, Natalie Wood, Edmond O'Brien, and Irene Hervey
The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
The Big Combo (1955) with Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Lee Van Cleef, Helen Walker, Jean Wallace, Earl Holliman, John Hoyt, and Whit Bissell
The Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) with John Lund, Audrey Totter, Ann Savage, Virginia Christine, and Reed Hadley
Ride the Man Down (1952) with Rod Cameron, Ella Raines, Forrest Tucker, Barbara Britton, Chill Wills, and J. Carrol Naish
Hoodlum Empire (1952) with Claire Trevor, Forrest Tucker, Vera Ralston, and John Russell
Slaughter Trail (1951) with Gig Young, Virginia Grey, and Andy Devine
Fighting Coast Guard (1951) with Forrest Tucker, Ella Raines, John Russell, Martin Milner, Steve Brodie, Hugh O'Brian, and Morris Ankrum
Kansas Raiders (1950) with Audie Murphy, Marguerite Chapman, Scott Brady, Richard Long, James Best, Dewey Martin, Richard Egan, and Richard Arlen
Shakedow (1950) with Howard Duff, Peggy Dow, Lawrence Tierney, Bruce Bennett, Rock Hudson, and Peggie Castle
Impact (1949) with Helen Walker, Ella Raines, and Anna May Wong
The Lucky Stiff (1949) with Dorothy Lamour, Claire Trevor, Irene Hervey, and Robert Armstrong
Command Decision (1948) with Clark Gable, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Marshall Thompson, Cameron Mitchell, and Ray Collins
A Southern Yankee (1948) with Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, and John Ireland
Killer McCoy (1947) with Mickey Rooney and Ann Blyth
Heaven Only Knows (1947) with Robert Cummings, Gerald Mohr, and Marjorie Reynolds
Kiss of Death (1947) with Victor Mature, Coleen Gray, and Richard Widmark
The Trouble with Women (1947) with Ray Milland, Teresa Wright, Frank Faylen, and Lloyd Bridges
The Beginning or the End (1947) with Robert Walker
Song of Scheherazade (1947) with Yvonne De Carlo, Jean-Pierre Aumont, and Eve Arden
Two Years Before the Mast (1946) with Alan Ladd, William Bendix, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank Faylen, Albert Dekker, and Ray Collins
Canyon Passage (1946) with Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Patricia Roc, and Lloyd Bridges
Our Hearts Were Growing Up (1946) with Gail Russell, Billy De Wolfe, and William Demarest
The Virginian (1946) with Joel McCrea, Barbara Britton, Sonny Tufts, Fay Bainter, and William Frawley
An American Romance (1944) with Stephen McNally
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) with Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, and William Demarest
Stand by for Action (1943) with Robert Taylor, Charles Laughton, Walter Brennan, Marilyn Maxwell, and Chill Wills
Hangmen Also Die (1943) with Anna Lee and Walter Brennan
Nightmare (1942) with Diana Barrymore
The Glass Key (1942) with Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Richard Denning, Bonita Granville, William Bendix, and Frances Gifford
Wake Island (1942) with Robert Preston, Macdonald Carey, Albert Dekker, Barbara Britton, William Bendix, and Phillip Terry
The Great Man's Lady (1942) with Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea
A Gentleman After Dark (1942) with Miriam Hopkins, Preston Foster, and Gloria Holden
Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942) with Pat O'Brien and Janet Blair
The Remarkable Andrew (1942) with William Holden, Ellen Drew, and Rod Cameron
Birth of the Blues (1941) with Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, and J. Carrol Naish
South of Tahiti (1941) Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, Maria Montez, and Armida
Billy the Kid (1941) with Robert Taylor and Lon Chaney Jr.
I Wanted Wings (1941) with Ray Milland, William Holden, Veronica Lake, and Constance Moore
Brigham Young - Frontiersman (1940) with Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Jean Rogers, John Carradine, Mary Astor, and Vincent Price
When the Daltons Rode (1940) with Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Broderick Crawford, Stuart Erwin, and Andy Devine
The Great McGinty (1940) with William Demarest
Destry Rides Again (1939) with Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Mischa Auer, Irene Hervey, Una Merkel, and Billy Gilbert
Allegheny Uprising (1939) with John Wayne, Claire Trevor, George Sanders, and Chill Wills
Beau Geste (1939) with Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston, Susan Hayward, J. Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker, and Broderick Crawford
Behind Prison Gates (1939) with Julie Bishop
Union Pacific (1939) with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff, Robert Preston, Anthony Quinn, and Evelyn Keyes
Jesse James (1939) with Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott, Henry Hull, and Slim Summerville
Sharpshooters (1938) with Lynn Bari
We're Going to Be Rich (1938) with Gracie Fields, Victor McLaglen, and Coral Browne
Battle of Broadway (1938) with Victor McLaglen, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lynn Bari, and Jane Darwell
In Old Chicago (1937) with Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Alice Brady, and Andy Devine
Born Reckless (1937) with Rochelle Hudson and Chick Chandler
This Is My Affair (1937) with Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Victor McLaglen, and John Carradine
Midnight Taxi (1937) with Frances Drake, Gilbert Roland, and Lon Chaney Jr.
36 Hours to Kill (1936) with Gloria Stuart, Douglas Fowley, Isabel Jewell, and Stepin Fetchit
Crack-Up (1936) with Peter Lorre and J. Carrol Naish
High Tension (1936) with Glenda Farrell
Human Cargo (1936) with Claire Trevor
Half Angel (1936) with Frances Dee
Thirteen Hours by Air (1936) with Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett, Zasu Pitts, and John Howard
Strike Me Pink (1936) with Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, Sally Eilers, and William Frawley
Another Face (1935) with Wallace Ford
Mary Burns, Fugitive (1935) with Silvia Sidney, Melvyn Douglas, and Wallace Ford
Barbary Coast (1935) with Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson, Joel McCrea, and Walter Brennan
Mother's Boy (1929) with Barbara Bennett, Helen Chandler, and Morton Downey
A Man of Quality (1926)
School for Wives (1925)
The Eve of the Revolution (1924)
Damaged Hearts (1924)

Dangerous Assignment, 1952-1953 syndicated TV series. Donlevy portrayed Steve Mitchell

Family Affair, episode Hard Hat Jody, originally aired January 2, 1967
Perry Mason, episode The Case of the Positive Negative, originally aired May 1, 1966
The DuPont Show of the Week, episode Jeremy Rabbitt - The Secret Avenger, originally aired April 5, 1964
Saints and Sinners, episode Dear George, the Siamese Cat Is Missing, originally aired September 17, 1962
Target: The Corruptors, episode A Man Is Waiting to Be Murdered, originally aired January 5, 1962
The Red Skelton Hour, episode Deadeye the Blacksmith, originally aired March 9, 1960
Zane Grey Theater, episode The Sunday Man, originally aired February 25, 1960
The DuPont Show with June Allyson, episode Escape, originally aired February 22, 1960
The Texan, episode Traildust, originally aired October 19, 1959
Hotel de Paree, episode Juggernaut, originally aired October 9, 1959
The Texan, episode The Man Behind the Star, originally aired February 9, 1959
Wagon Train, episode The Jasper Cato Story, originally aired March 4, 1959
Rawhide, episode Incident of the Power and the Plow, originally aired February 13, 1959
The DuPont Show of the Month, episode Beyond This Place, originally aired November 25, 1957
Crossroads, episode God of Kandikur, originally aired January 25, 1957
Crossroads, episode The Judge, originally aired 1956
Studio One in Hollywood, episode The Laughter of Giants, originally aired March 19, 1956
Kraft Theatre, episode Home Is the Hero, originally aired January 25, 1956
Crossroads, episode Mr. Liberty Bell, originally aired November 18, 1955
Lux Video Theatre, episode Impact, originally aired April 26, 1956
The Ford Television Theatre, episode Double Trouble, originally aired March 22, 1956
Damon Runyon Theater, episode Barbeque, originally aired December 3, 1955
Climax!, episode Pink Cloud, originally aired October 27, 1955
Star Stage, episode Honest John and the 13 Uncle Sams, originally aired October 7, 1955
The Ford Television Theatre, episode The Policy of Joe Aladdin, originally aired May 12, 1955
Lux Video Theatre, episode The Great McGinty, originally aired April 28, 1955
Climax!, episode The Valiant Men, originally aired February 10, 1955
Medallion Theatre, episode Safari, originally aired April 3, 1954
The Motorola Television Hour, episode At Ease, originally aired December 15, 1953
Lux Video Theatre, episode Tunnel Job, originally aired May 21, 1953
Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, episode The Pharmacist's Mate, originally aired December 22, 1950
The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, episode Weather Ahead, originally aired June 13, 1949

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Watch Brian Donlevy's 1949 film noir thriller Impact

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This page premiered October 27, 2003.