Internationally known actor Brett Halsey, one of Hollywood’s busiest and handsomest actors of the mid-to-late 50s and early 60s, was born Charles Oliver Hand to a builder/contractor in Santa Ana, California on June 20, 1933. Interested in performing from childhood (he appeared in local community and church plays), the young man found a modest “in” when he was hired as a teenage page at CBS Television studios. A chance meeting with the legendary Jack Benny and wife Mary Livingstone who taped “The Jack Benny Show” at CBS led to his being accepted to study at Universal-International’s training school that also included at the time future Universal stars Clint Eastwood and David Janssen. These intense studies eventually led to a contract offered by the studio.
Before deciding to pursue acting full time, the young teenager joined the Navy and enjoyed a brief stint as a deejay. Once signed with Universal, the studio decided to take advantage of Brett’s esteemed ancestry (as the nephew of famed WWII Admiral William “Bull” Halsey) and changed the young nascent actor’s stage name to the more marquee-friendly “Brett Halsey.” He gained extensive experience apprenticing in a string of Universal bit parts, glimpsed in such standard filming as Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), The Man from the Alamo (1953), The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954) (as one of the young Kettle brood), Revenge of the Creature (1955) (as a victim) and _The Girl He Left Behind (1956). Eventually Brett’s camera-worthy dark-haired good looks, penetrating blue eyes and earnest ‘matinee idol’ demeanor found their way front-and-center on TV drama (“Brave Eagle,” “Mackenzie’s Raiders,” “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” “Highway Patrol,” Harbor Command” and “Sea Hunt”).
In the late 1950s, Brett increased his cinematic visibility with the growing interest of lowbudget “juvenile delinquent” films. Several of Brett’s features, such as _Hot Rod Rumble (1957) with ‘Leigh Snowden’, Roger Corman’s cult classic The Cry Baby Killer (1958) with Jack Nicholson, High School Hellcats (1958) and _Speed Crazy (1959), the last two co-starring Yvonne Lime, have since attained camp and/or cult status. He ended that series of filming with The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960) with Joyce Meadows.
Keeping in step with the then-popular trend of showcasing cool, hunky “beefcake” talent in TV adventure series with interesting or exotic locales, such as when Edd Byrnes combed his way to teen idol status on “77 Sunset Strip,” Van Williams and Troy Donahue checked into “Surfside Six” and Robert Conrad spruced up “Hawaiian Eye,” Brett fell into a co-starring role with Barry Coe, Gary Lockwood and former child star Gigi Perreau in the one-season adventure series Follow the Sun (1961), as a free-lance magazine writer looking for action in Honolulu. For his work, he earned a Golden Globe Award for “New Star of the Year”.
Following co-star/featured work in the war films To Hell and Back (1955), The Last Blitzkrieg (1958)_ and Jet Over the Atlantic (1959), the sci-fi thrillers Return of the Fly (1959) (with Vincent Price) and The Atomic Submarine (1959), the large-scale ensemble sudsers The Best of Everything (1959) and Return to Peyton Place (1961)_, the crime drama Desire in the Dust (1960) and the horror opus Twice-Told Tales (1963), the 28-year-old Brett decided to follow a number of other young vital and promising American actors who wished to take advantage of career opportunities opening up overseas in Italy. What was originally a one-time acting job in Italy led to a decade-long stay in films. Often billed as “Montgomery Ford,” Brett starred as several sword-and-sandal type heroes in including the spectacles Le sette spade del vendicatore (1962) [The Seventh Sword], Il magnifico avventuriero (1963) [The Magnificent Adventurer] and The Avenger of Venice (1964) [The Avenger of Venice]. He also settled comfortably into the fashionable international spy, “spaghetti” western and giallo genres with a slew of work including Spy in Your Eye (1965) [Spy in Your Eye], Misión Lisboa (1965) [Espionage in Lisbon], L’heure de la vérité (1965) [The Hour of Truth], Uccidete Johnny Ringo (1966) [Johnny Ringo], Der Kongreß amüsiert sich (1966) [Congress of Love], Web of Violence (1966) [Web of Violence], Bang Bang (1967), Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die! (1968) [Today We Kill…Tomorrow We Die], Tutto sul rosso (1968) [All on the Red], Wrath of God (1968) [Wrath of God], Twenty Thousand Dollars for Seven (1969) [Twenty Thousand Dollars for Seven], Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970) and Quante volte… quella notte (1971) [Four Times That Night].
In the early 1970s, Brett returned to the United States and planted himself squarely into TV work again, particularly in daytime drama. He appeared with regularity on General Hospital (1963), Search for Tomorrow (1951), Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (1967), and, his last, a two-year stint (1980-82) on The Young and the Restless (1973). Halsey continued sporadically in films as well, such as the comedy Where Does It Hurt? (1972) starring Peter Sellers, Ratboy (1986), The Godfather: Part III (1990) and Beyond Justice (1991), while also finding steady work on the small screen – “Alias Smith and Jones,” “Toma,” “The Love Boat,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” “Columbo,” “Matt Houston” and “Cagney & Lacey”.
At age 80+, the stalwart character actor continues to be seen from time to time with recent roles in the films Hierarchy (2009), The Scarlet Worm (2011), Club Utopia (2013) (in which he held a leading role), and Risk Factor (2015). Also known at one time as a film acting teacher, Halsey also writes novels (“The Magnificent Strangers”) and screenplays while making occasional guest appearances at film festivals. One biography: “Brett Halsey: Art or Instinct in the Movies,” which chronicles the actor’s prolific career, was published in 2008. At various times, he has lived out of the country in Costa Rica, Canada and Italy.
Brett is the father of five children. In 1954, he married imported Universal starlet Renate Hoy, an actress who won the “Miss Germany” beauty contest that same year. Together they had two children, the late Charles Oliver Hand, Jr. (a.k.a. punk rock performer “Rock Halsey” and/or “Rock Bottom”) and Tracy Leigh. The couple divorced five years later. His second marriage (1960-1962) to exotic James Bond (“Thunderball”) vixen Luciana Paluzzi, an Italian beauty, produced son Christian, who is a producer (“American Psycho”). Halsey and Paluzzi co-starred in Return to Peyton Place (1961) during their brief union. A third union (1964-1976) to German actress Heidi Brühl, best known here for her US role in the 1975 Clint Eastwood film “The Eiger Sanction,” produced two more children: Clayton, a TV video editor (“Big Brother”), and Nicole. Halsey is presently wed to Victoria Korda, granddaughter of British filmmaker Alexander Korda.
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