Actor Brian Kelly was a Valentine’s Day baby. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Anne Veronica (O’Brien) and Harry Francis Kelly, who was Governor of Michigan (1943-1947) and served as a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. He was of Irish descent. Brian joined the Marine Corps. during the Korean War and subsequently attended the University of Michigan Law School with the intent of pursuing a political career like his father, but it only lasted a year. During college he found work as a male model and later broke into the business in Detroit with radio and TV commercials.
A talent agent spotted him and in the late 50s the dark-haired, hairy-chested, extremely handsome actor decided to try his luck in Hollywood. He found some nominal parts coming his way on such series as Adventures in Paradise (1959), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and The Rifleman (1958), among others, but nothing that advanced his career significantly. He appeared regularly on two TV short-lived series — the detective drama 21 Beacon Street (1959) and the high-speed adventure series Straightaway (1961) before nabbing his most recognizable role as game life ranger Porter Ricks on the popular aquatic series Flipper (1964). Although Brian took a back seat to the scene-stealing antics of the titular dolphin and the two actors (Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden) playing his sons, fans admired the actor’s widower character on the series who provided a strong moral fiber to his children. The success of the show, which was filmed in Miami and the Bahamas, led to a brief movie career, including a lead in Around the World Under the Sea (1966), which seemed in keeping with his underwater expertise.
In 1970, Brian was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which left his right arm and leg paralyzed. He subsequently won a legal settlement ($750,000), but the severe impairment cost him his on-camera career. Undaunted, he used his settlement money to produce films, serving as executive producer of the popular Harrison Ford starrer Blade Runner (1982) and associate producer of Cities of the Wild (1996). He first married gorgeous, aspiring blonde actress Laura Devon in 1962. Both met while living in Detroit and married while climbing up the Hollywood ladder. The union ended four years later. He then married Valerie Ann Romero in 1972, with whom he had a daughter Hallie in 1975 and a son Devin in 1980. Brian died of pneumonia in Voorhees, New Jersey, just a few days before his 74th birthday in 2005.
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