Obituary: David Brian

David Brian, actor: born New York City 5 August 1914; married; died Los Angeles 16 July 1993.

DAVID BRIAN was one of Joan Crawford's more useful leading men. When Bette Davis turned down Mildred Pierce and Crawford grabbed the role Davis's slow decline at Warner Bros had begun and Crawford was, if unofficially, the studio's most important female star. Crawford's limitations were immense, however, and she could only play these tough women who suffered and suffered. Accordingly she needed not so much co-stars as leading men, as strong as she but not so strong that she could not dominate them.

They were obliged to lounge around her in fedoras and double-breasted suits, smoking and giving her the occasional biff. Many of them were talented actors and David Brian was one of the most individual and weighty. He made his movie debut well down the cast-list of Flamingo Road (1949), but in a plum role, as the political wheeler-dealer whom she, a cabaret dancer at that point, marries. And since Sydney Greenstreet is trying to ruin him, a gun manages to go off in his house while Joan is visiting.

Warners were so pleased with him that they upped him to co-star billing five films later, in The Damned Don't Cry (1950). Crawford was an ambitious girl from the wrong side of the tracks and Brian a dangerous crime boss who can nevertheless be manipulated to serve her ends. In their third and last pairing, This Woman Is Dangerous (1952) she is a ritzy gangster's moll - his - and a criminal mastermind with Brian as the most ruthless member of her gang.

Brian also appeared with Davis in Beyond The Forest (1949), as the Chicago millionaire who promises her, a discontented small-town wife, marriage but finds he cannot go through with it. Around the same time he was loaned to MGM for by far his best film, Intruder In The Dust (1949), scripted from William Faulkner's novel by Ben Maddow and directed by Clarence Brown. He played a lawyer in a small Alabama town, one of the only three white people to believe that Juano Hernandez is not a murderer; the others are a boy, Claude Jarman Jnr, and a spinster, Elizabeth Patterson. The film is moving when they are eventually joined by the victim's father, Porter Hall, and it was the most intelligent and cogent statement on race relations yet made by an American company.

By the time Brian made his third film with Crawford it was clear that the public was not going to make him a star. Except in Intruder In The Dust, he was typecast as an inscrutable, classy tough guy with blond looks unlikely to win him distaff fans. He was a showman whom Esther Williams marries in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) while pining for Victor Mature, after which he was mainly villainous in various undistinguished Westerns.

Brian had started his career as a chorus boy, with further experience as singer and dancer in vaudeville and night-clubs. As Hollywood lost interest he did not care to return to the stage, nor did he embrace television as many falling or fallen Hollywood stars did. But he did star in an early television series, Mr District Attorney. His last movie credit was The Seven Minutes (1971), a rather curious enterprise which concludes with a prosecution for obscenity. The former soft- porn director Russ Meyer made it for 20th Century-Fox, from the novel by Irving Wallace, with several names in cameo roles: David Brian played a cardinal.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible