Babes in Toyland and Beau Geste
Heinrich von Kleinbach
June 8, 1912
|Died||February 15, 1990 (aged 77)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Harry Brandon|
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
|Mark Herron (1969-1990; Brandon's death)|
Henry Brandon (born Heinrich von Kleinbach; June 8, 1912 – February 15, 1990) was a German-born American film and stage character actor with a career spanning almost 60 years, involving more than 100 films; he specialized in playing a wide diversity of ethnic roles.
Brandon was born in 1912 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Hildegard and Hugo R. von Kleinbach, a merchant. His parents emigrated to the United States while he was still an infant. After attending Stanford University, where he was a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, 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. At age 22 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 remake 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. Brandon, standing at 6 ft 4" in height, managed to make Errol Flynn look short in the scenes in which they appeared together in Edge of Darkness in spite of Flynn's height of 6 ft 2". In 1948 he appeared as Giles de Rais in Joan of Arc.
He played a French army captain in Vera Cruz (1954). 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 crime drama Bourbon Street Beat.
Brandon often played non-European characters, especially Native Americans in Westerns. He also played the Chinese villain Fu Manchu. The successful serial Drums of Fu Manchu (1940) with Brandon in the title role was cancelled by its producer Republic Pictures at the express request of the State Department in 1941 after the U.S. entry into World War II 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 Asian characters in two 1961 episodes, viz. "Angel of Death" and "The Assassins", of the television series Adventures in Paradise. In 1961, he played an American Indian chieftain again in John Ford's Two Rode Together. In 1965, he played the Shug chief in the pilot episode of F Troop.
Brandon married in 1941, the marriage produced one son before ending in 1946. He subsequently had a long relationship with the actor Mark Herron. Herron left Brandon in the mid-1960s, and was briefly the fourth husband of Judy Garland. Herron and Garland separated after five months of marriage, after which Herron returned to Brandon and remained with him until Brandon's death.
Brandon lived in West Hollywood in his final years. He died on 15 February 1990 at the age of 77 of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. His body was cremated, and the ashes reportedly were scattered at an undisclosed theatre location.