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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own