Henry Brandon (actor)
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'Babes in Toyland' & 'Beau Geste'
|Born||Heinrich von Kleinbach
June 8, 1912
|Died||February 15, 1990
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Other names||Harry Brandon
Heinrich von Kleinbach
Henry Brandon (June 8, 1912 – February 15, 1990) was a German-American character actor with an extensive career over 60 years involving more than one hundred films, with an ability at playing a wide diversity of ethnic roles, from European to American, Oriental to Native American.
Born Heinrich von Kleinbach in Berlin, Germany, his parents emigrated to the United States while he was still an infant. After attending Stanford University he trained as a theatre actor at the Pasadena Community Playhouse and subsequently performed on Broadway, continuing to return to the stage periodically throughout his career.
He made his motion picture debut in 1932 as an uncredited spectator at the Colosseum in The Sign of the Cross. In 1934 he played the role of "Silas Barnaby", the villain in the Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy classic Babes in Toyland. In 1936, having until then been performing under his real name of Henry Kleinbach, he adopted the stage name of "Henry Brandon".
He portrayed the villainous manager of an opera company in Our Gang Follies of 1938. He played the character of "Renouf" a deserter from the French Foreign Legion in the 1939 re-make of Beau Geste. In 1940 he featured in the title role of the successful Republic serial Drums of Fu Manchu. In 1943 he played "Major Ruck", a British Secret Agent in the guise of an SS officer in Edge of Darkness. Kleinbach, standing at 6ft 4" in height, managed the rare feat of making Errol Flynn look short in the scenes in which they appeared together in Edge of Darkness in spite of Flynn's height of 6ft 2". In 1948 he appeared as Giles de Rais in Joan of Arc.
He played a French army captain in Vera Cruz (1954). In 1955 he portrayed Nate Champion, the first casualty of the Johnson County War of Wyoming, in the television series Stories of the Century. He portrayed Jesse James in Hell's Crossroads (1957). In 1958 he portrayed "Acacius Page" in Auntie Mame. In 1959, he played the role of Gator Joe in "Woman in the River" in the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama, Bourbon Street Beat.
As non-European characters
He often played non-European characters, especially native Americans in Westerns. Before US entry into World War II he played Chinese villain Fu Manchu. The successful serial Drums of Fu Manchu (1940) with Kleinbach in the title role was cancelled by Republic at the express request of the State Department in 1941 after the USA's entry into the war, out of concern that it was inciting anti-Chinese sentiment in the American public, which conflicted both with the interests of the Chinese-American population and the international relationship with China as an allied power in the war against Japan.
He appeared as the African tribal chieftain "M'Tara" in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953). In 1956 he played the chief villain, a Comanche chieftain called "Scar", in John Ford's The Searchers. In 1960 he played a Native American character again as "Running Wolf" in the episode "Gold Seeker" in the television series The Rebel. He played Oriental characters in two 1961 episodes, viz. "Angel of Death", and "The Assassins", of the ABC television series Adventures in Paradise. In 1961 he played a Native American chieftain again in John Ford's Two Rode Together.
- Babes in Toyland (1934)
- The Garden of Allah (1936)
- Island Captives (1937)
- I Promise to Pay (1937)
- Beau Geste (1939)
- Dark Streets of Cairo (1940)
- Under Texas Skies (1940)
- Ski Patrol (1940)
- Underground (1941)
- Wagons West (1952)
- Pony Express (1953)
- The Searchers (1956)
- The Big Fisherman (1959)
- Captain Sindbad (1963)
- The Ballad of Hector, The Stowaway Dog (1964, TV)
- Bud and Lou (1978, TV)
- Hard Knocks (1979)
- Evita Peron (1981, TV)
- Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989)
Selected Theatre Performances
- Medea (play) (New York, 1949)
- Twelfth Night (Broadway, 1949)
- The Lady's Not For Burning (New York, 1957)
- Arsenic and Old Lace (Florida, 1985)
Theatre appearances taken from a New York Times obituary, February 22, 1990. Other information compiled from: Classic Move Hub, and IMDb
- Lynn Kear, James King, Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Lady Crook, McFarland, 2009, p.224
- Scapperotti, Dan. "Memories of Fu Manchu". Starlog (Jan 1987), 60-64. Article about Brandon's movie career.
- Henry Brandon at the Internet Movie Database
- Henry Brandon at Find a Grave
- Henry Brandon at AllMovie