James E. Brown (22 March 1920 – 11 April 1992) was an American film and TV actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Ripley “Rip” Masters in all 166 episodes of the 1954-1959 ABC Western television series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. He was also credited variously as J.B. Brown, Jim L. Brown, and James Bowen Brown.
Brown was born to Floyd Estle Brown, a carpenter, and Cordie Mae (née Bowen) Brown in Desdemona, Texas, then a petroleum boomtown. He attended elementary and some of his high school years in Waco, Texas. He attended Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Texas, where he played tennis, sang in the glee club, and played sousaphone in the school band. After high school he enrolled at Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco.
After a brief period as a competitive tennis player, Brown launched a four-decade career as an actor, with roles in more than 40 films, including Wake Island (1942), Air Force (1943), Bing Crosby’s Going My Way (1944), Objective, Burma! (1945), The Fabulous Texan (1947), John Wayne’s Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), The Charge at Feather River (1953), Five Guns to Tombstone (1960), Gun Street (1961), and a film noir, When the Clock Strikes (1961).
Rin Tin Tin and other television credits
In Rin Tin Tin, the story of a boy and his German shepherd, Brown appeared as a young officer at a remote US Cavalry outpost called Fort Apache. Child actor Lee Aaker appeared as Rusty, who had been orphaned in an Indian raid and was adopted by the troops at the fort. In two Rin Tin Tin episodes, “Forward Ho” and “The White Buffalo,” Brown sang in his rich baritone voice. In 1976, he hosted a revival of Rin Tin Tin reruns, which extended until the 1980s.
In addition to The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, he appeared in such children’s programs as Adventures of Superman (as Jim Carson in the 1954 episode “Around the World with Superman”), Sky King, and The Lone Ranger. He made two guest appearances on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee in 1955 and 1957.
In 1959, Brown appeared as Andy Clinton in two episodes of the ABC Walt Disney Presents miniseries titled Moochie of the Little League, starring Kevin Corcoran and Russ Conway. In 1960, Brown appeared in the NBC series, Laramie, as Lon MacRae in the episode “Strange Company”.
From 1962-66, he appeared three times in different roles in another NBC western, The Virginian. He appeared on ABC’s family western series, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. In 1964, he was cast as Sergeant Quincy in the episode “Not in Our Stars” of the NBC western Daniel Boone. In the fall of 1966, he appeared as the recurring character Luke in the ABC western sitcom, The Rounders.
From 1960-64 he guest starred eight times in different roles in the CBS adventure/drama series, Route 66. In 1966, he appeared on ABC’s Honey West, and in 1969, he guest starred on ABC’s The F.B.I.. He also appeared on Lassie (as Forest Ranger Mike McBride), and Gunsmoke (as Mark Feeney in the 1963 episode “Quint’s Indian”). In the 1970s Brown appeared in the pilot movie for the short-lived CBS series Bearcats!, and the ABC crime drama Starsky and Hutch (as R.J. Crow in the 1977 episode “Bloodbath”). From 1980-88 he appeared in 27 episodes as detective Harry McSween, a corrupt police officer working for the vindictive J. R. Ewing on CBS-TV’s Dallas. Brown’s final screen role was as Dr. Gordon Church in the 1988 episode “Mourning Among the Wisterias” of the CBS series, Murder, She Wrote.
Brown died at the age of 72 of lung cancer in Woodland Hills, California. He left his wife, Betty, three daughters, Carol (Thies), Wendy, and Barbara; and a niece, Cynthia Brown, whom he reared as a fourth daughter. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.