Neville Brand joined the US Army in 1939, bent on a career in the military. 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). His heavy features and gravelly voice made Brand a natural tough guy (and he wasn’t just a “movie” tough guy–he was among the most highly decorated American soldiers in World War II, fighting in the European Theater against the Germans). “With this kisser, I knew early in the game I wasn’t going to make the world forget Clark Gable,” he once told a reporter. He played Al Capone in The George Raft Story (1961), The Scarface Mob (1959), and TV’s The Untouchables (1959). Among his other memorable roles are the sympathetic guard in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and the representative of rioting convicts in Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954). Perhaps his best-known role was that of the soft-hearted, loud-mouthed, none-too-bright but very effective Texas Ranger Reese Bennett of Backtrack! (1969), Three Guns for Texas (1968), and TV’s Laredo (1965).
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