Lawrence Neville Brand (August 13, 1920 – April 16, 1992) was an American actor. His most memorable film roles were in Stalag 17 (1953), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). Brand was a highly decorated World War II combat soldier.
Neville Brand was born in Griswold, Iowa, one of seven children of Leo Thomas Brand (June 24, 1892 – April 18, 1985) and the former Helen Louise Davis (August 4, 1900 – October 23, 1991). His father had worked as an electrician and bridge-building ironworker in Detroit. Neville was raised in Kewanee, Illinois, where he attended high school. After his schooling he helped support the family, employed as a soda jerk, waiter, and shoe salesman in Kewanee.
He entered the Illinois Army National Guard on October 23, 1939, as a private in Company F, 129th Infantry Regiment. He was enlisted in the United States Army as Corporal Neville L. Brand, infantryman on March 5, 1941.
World War II
Brand trained at Fort Carson and served in World War II, seeing action with B company, 331st Infantry Regiment of the 83rd Infantry Division (Thunderbolt Division) in the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central European campaigns. Brand, a sergeant and platoon leader, was wounded in action along the Weser River on April 7, 1945. His upper right arm was hit by a bullet, and he nearly bled to death.
Brand was awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration for valor in the U.S. military, for gallantry in combat. His other awards and decorations were the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, one Service Stripe and the Combat Infantryman Badge. In a 1966 interview Brand explained the Silver Star, stating that withering fire from German machine guns in a hunting lodge kept him and his unit pinned down. “I must have flipped my lid,” he said. “I decided to go into that lodge.” He was discharged from service in October 1945.
Brand worked on a 1946 U.S. Army Signal Corps film with Charlton Heston and next settled in Greenwich Village and enrolled at the American Theatre Wing, working off-Broadway, including Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Victors. He also attended the Geller Drama School in Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill.
Brand had an uncredited bit in Battleground (1949) and Port of New York (1949). His first credited part was in D.O.A. (1950) as a henchman named Chester. His hulking physique, rough-hewn, craggy-faced looks and gravelly voice led to him largely playing gangsters, Western outlaws and various screen “heavies”, cops and other tough-guy roles throughout his career.
Brand was uncredited in My Foolish Heart (1949), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), and curiously Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye where he plays a significant early role, (1950) but had a good role on TV in The Bigelow Theatre.
Brand’s parts slowly grew bigger: Halls of Montezuma (1951), Only the Valiant (1951), The Mob (1951), and Red Mountain (1951).
On TV he did a short, Benjy (1951), and episodes of The Unexpected and Your Favorite Story. He was in Kansas City Confidential (1952), The Turning Point (1952), and, notably, Stalag 17 (1953).
Brand was now much in demand as a support actor, appearing in The Charge at Feather River (1953), The Man from the Alamo (1953), and Gun Fury (1953).
Brand moved up to leading roles with Man Crazy (1953) and then Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954). He was down the cast list for The Lone Gun (1954) but had the lead in Return from the Sea (1954).
Brand had a supporting role in The Prodigal (1955) and The Return of Jack Slade and guest roles in Appointment with Adventure, Screen Directors Playhouse, Studio One in Hollywood, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, Chevron Hall of Stars, Schlitz Playhouse, General Electric Theater, The United States Steel Hour, and Stage 7.
He had lead roles in Bobby Ware Is Missing (1955) and Fury at Gunsight Pass (1956) and supported in Raw Edge (1956), and Mohawk (1956).
He had the distinction of being the first actor to portray outlaw Butch Cassidy, in the film The Three Outlaws opposite Alan Hale Jr. as the Sundance Kid. Though not the big-budget romp that the later Paul Newman–Robert Redford film was, both Brand’s Cassidy and Hale’s Kid were played as likable outlaws, a rare change from Brand’s typecasting as a murderous psycho. He followed it with Gun Brothers (1956).
Brand became well known as a villain when he killed the character played by Elvis Presley in his debut film Love Me Tender (1956). He was in The Way to the Gold (1957), The Lonely Man (1957), The Tin Star (1957), Cry Terror! (1958), and Badman’s Country (1958).
He often had better roles on such TV shows as Climax!, Playhouse 90, Target and notably an adaptation of All the King’s Men for Kraft Theatre, directed by Sidney Lumet, playing Willie Stark.
Brand was also a guest star on The Texan, Pursuit, Zane Grey Theater, and The Dupont Show of the Month (doing Body and Soul with Ben Gazzara).
Brand twice portrayed Al Capone on the television series The Untouchables, in the pilot and in the double episode “The Big Train”, as well as often glimpses in flashback throughout the series.
Brand was in Five Gates to Hell (1959), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), The Last Sunset (1961), and The George Raft Story (1961), reprising his role as Al Capone in the latter.
He guest-starred on Straightaway, Cain’s Hundred, Death Valley Days, The Joey Bishop Show, Naked City, The DuPont Show of the Week, Ben Casey, Rawhide, The Lieutenant, Theatre of Stars, Arrest and Trial, Destry, Wagon Train, Suspense, Combat!, and Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and the Virginian
He also portrayed a prison guard of Birdman of Alcatraz, was second billed in Hero’s Island (1962) and had a key role in That Darn Cat! (1965).
Brand co-starred with George Takei in “The Encounter,” a 1964 episode of the Twilight Zone, as a World War II veteran. CBS considered the episode’s theme of US-Japanese hatred “too disturbing” to include when the series was syndicated. “The Encounter” was not seen after its initial airing until it was released on video in 1992 as part of the Treasures of the Twilight Zone collection.
Brand was given the star role in a TV series, Laredo (1965–67) which ran for 56 episodes.
Brand played a heartwarming character who was brain damaged and misunderstood in an episode of the television series Daniel Boone. He guest-starred on Tarzan.
He was in The Desperados (1969) and played U.S. Navy Lieutenant Kaminsky, ignored as he tried to warn his commander of the opening skirmish in Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).
In the 1970s Brand could be seen in Westward the Wagon (1971), Lock, Stock and Barrel (1971), The Chicago Teddy Bears, Marriage: Year One, and The Smith Family. He played Hoss Cartwright’s (Dan Blocker) Swedish uncle Gunnar Borgstrom on Bonanza in the episode “The Last Viking”.
He was in Longstreet, Alias Smith and Jones, Adventures of Nick Carter, Marcus Welby, M.D., Two for the Money (1972), No Place to Run (1972), The Police Connection (1972), This Is a Hijack (1973), Cahill, U.S. Marshal (1973) with John Wayne, Scalawag (1973), The Magician, The Deadly Trackers (1973) with Richard Harris, Killdozer (1974), Death Stalk (1975), Police Story, Police Woman, Barbary Coast, Kojak, Mobile One, McCloud, Psychic Killer (1975), Island of Adventure, The Quest, and Captains and the Kings.
Brand was top billed in Eaten Alive (1976) directed by Tobe Hooper. He was in Fire! (1977), The Mouse and His Child (1977), Baretta, Captains Courageous, Man from Atlantis, Quincy M.E., The Seekers and Hi-Riders (1978). He had a key part in Five Days from Home (1978) directed by George Peppard, and in Angels’ Brigade (1979).
In 1980, Brand appeared as Major Marvin Groper in The Ninth Configuration, written and directed by The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty.
His final roles included Fantasy Island, Without Warning (1980), Harper Valley P.T.A., and The Return (1982). He was top billed in his last film, Evils of the Night (1985).
Brand was an insatiable reader who amassed a collection of 30,000 books over the years, many of which were destroyed in a 1978 fire at his Malibu home. He and his wife, Rae, had three daughters.
A Republican, he supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.
In 1975 Brand admitted in an interview that he was an alcoholic, and had spent most of his fortune.
Brand died from emphysema at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, California, on April 16, 1992, at age 71. After a private funeral service he was cremated, and his remains were interred in a niche of the Morning Glory Room at East Lawn Memorial Park in Sacramento.