Brian Aherne

For other people with the same name, see Brian Ahern.
Brian Aherne
Born William Brian de Lacy Aherne
(1902-05-02)2 May 1902
King's Norton, Worcestershire, England, UK
Died 10 February 1986(1986-02-10) (aged 83)
Venice, Florida, U.S.
Years active 1924–1967
Spouse(s) Joan Fontaine (1939–1945)
Eleanor de Liagre Labrot (1946–1986) (his death)

Brian Aherne (2 May 1902  10 February 1986) was an English actor of both stage and screen, who found success in Hollywood.[1][2]

Early life and stage career

He was born William Brian de Lacy Aherne in King's Norton, Worcestershire, the son of the Birmingham architect William de Lacy Aherne and his wife Louise née Thomas. Educated at Edgbaston, Birmingham, he also carried out some early stage training at Italia Conti Academy in London and had some child roles before completing his education at Malvern College.[3] He first appeared on the stage in Birmingham with the Pilgrim Players (which subsequently developed into the Birmingham Repertory Theatre), on 5 April 1910, in Fifinella; and made his first appearance on the London stage at the Garrick Theatre, 26 December 1913, in Where the Rainbow Ends, a fairy play by Clifford Mills and John Ramsey, with music by Roger Quilter, which ran at various theatres for over 25 years.

He then studied with a view to becoming an architect, but, having had considerable amateur experience in Birmingham, and with Liverpool's Green Room Club, he obtained an engagement under Robert Courtneidge, and appeared at London's Savoy Theatre, opening on 26 December 1923, as Jack O'Hara in a revival of Paddy the Next Best Thing, the play by W. Gayer-Mackay and Robert Ord (from the novel). He then toured with Violet Vanbrugh as Hugo in The Flame, and appeared at the London Playhouse in May 1924 as Langford in Leon Gordon's White Cargo, in which he played all through 1924–25. In 1926 he accompanied Dion Boucicault, Jr. to Australia, where he appeared in several plays by J.M. Barrie: as Valentine Brown in the comedy Quality Street, John Shand in the comedy What Every Woman Knows, Crichton in The Admirable Crichton, Simon and Harry in Mary Rose; and Willocks in Aren't We All? another comedy by Frederick Lonsdale.

Aherne reappeared in London at the Strand in March 1927, again as Langford in White Cargo, and continued on the London stage in a succession of plays until late 1930 when he went to America. He made his first appearance on the New York stage at the Empire Theatre on 9 February 1931, playing Robert Browning in Rudolph Besier's play The Barretts of Wimpole Street opposite Katharine Cornell. Miss Cornell and Aherne remained lifelong friends and he played in many of her subsequent productions. He was back in London in 1934 but returned that year to New York, where he appeared in December at the Martin Beck Theatre as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, with Katharine Cornell. He continued his stage appearances during his film career, which he commenced in 1924 in silent film.

Film and television career

Aherne's first screen appearance was in the crime film The Eleventh Commandment in 1924. He made several appearances in productions at Cricklewood Studios by Stoll Pictures, then the largest British film company, including two directed by Sinclair Hill. His final silents were two films Shooting Stars and Underground by the rising director Anthony Asquith.

Aherne made his talkie debut in The W Plan (1930). After a few more British talkies he moved on to lead roles in Hollywood, where he made over thirty films, including I Live My Life (1935), the multi-Oscar nominated brilliant ditzy comedy Merrily We Live (1938), Oscar-nominated for his role as Emperor Maxmilian in Juarez (1939), Vigil in the Night (1940), his best film, the 1948 psychological film noir, The Locket, Titanic (1953) and The Best of Everything (1959).

Aherne also appeared in many TV theatrical series, including General Electric Theater, The Twilight Zone, in the episode "The Trouble with Templeton" and Rawhide. He also appeared as guest host on the TV panel show The Name's the Same.

Radio career

Aherne co-starred in the Florence Nightingale episode of Theatre Guild on the Air 13 April 1952.[4] In 1945, he played sleuth Simon Templar in the mystery series, The Saint.

Aherne published his autobiography A Proper Job in 1969, as well as A Dreadful Man (1979), a biography of his friend George Sanders.

Personal life and death

Between 1939 and 1945, Aherne was married to actress Joan Fontaine, which ended in divorce. He then married Eleanor de Liagre Labrot. He was the younger brother of actor Pat Aherne.

Aherne was a pilot and charter member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.[5]

Aherne died of heart failure in Venice, Florida, USA at the age of 83. He was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1772 Vine Street.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1924 The Eleventh Commandment Norman Barchester
1925 King of the Castle Colin O'Farrell
1925 The Squire of Long Hadley Jim Luttrell
1926 Safety First Hippocrates Rayne
1927 A Woman Redeemed Geoffrey Maynefleet
1928 Shooting Stars Julian Gordon
1928 Underground Bill
1930 The W Plan Colonel Duncan Grant
1931 Madame Guillotine Louis Dubois
1933 The Constant Nymph Lewis Dodd
1933 The Song of Songs Richard Waldow
1934 What Every Woman Knows John Shand
1934 The Fountain Lewis Allison
1935 Sylvia Scarlett Michael Fane
1935 I Live My Life Terence "Terry" O'Neill
1936 Beloved Enemy Dennis Riordan
1937 The Great Garrick David Garrick
1938 Merrily We Live E. Wade Rawlins
1939 Juarez Maximilian I of Mexico {nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role}
1939 Captain Fury Captain Michael Fury
1940 Vigil in the Night Dr. Robert S. Prescott
1940 My Son, My Son! William Essex
1940 The Lady in Question Andre Morestan
1940 Hired Wife Stephen Dexter
1941 The Man Who Lost Himself John Evans / Malcolm Scott
1941 Smilin' Through Sir John Carteret
1941 Skylark Jim Blake
1942 My Sister Eileen Robert Baker
1942 A Night To Remember Jeff Troy
1943 Forever and a Day Jim Trimble
1943 What a Woman! Henry Pepper
1943 First Comes Courage Captain Allan Lowell
1946 The Locket Dr. Harry Blair
1948 Smart Woman Robert Larrimore
1948 Angel on the Amazon Anthony Ridgeway Alternative titles: Drums Along the Amazon
The Jungle Wilderness
1953 Titanic Captain Edward John Smith
1953 I Confess Chief Prosecutor Willy Robertson
1954 Prince Valiant King Arthur
1954 A Bullet Is Waiting Cally Canham
1956 The Swan Father Carl Hyacinth
1959 The Best of Everything Fred Shalimar
1961 Susan Slade Stanton Corbett
1963 Lancelot and Guinevere King Arthur Alternative title: Sword of Lancelot
1964 The Cavern (1964) Gen. Braithwaite
1967 Rosie! Oliver Stevenson
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Armstrong Circle Theatre
1950–1953 Robert Montgomery Presents Phillip Armstrong 3 episodes
1951 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse 1 episode
1951–1953 Lux Video Theatre Mr. Don/Reggie 2 episodes
1955 General Electric Theater Colonel Tafferty 1 episode
Producers' Showcase Rudolf Maximilian 1 episode
1955–1956 Crossroads Father Cataldo 3 episodes
1956 Climax! David 1 episode
Cavalcade of America John Kirk 1 episode
1959 Goodyear Theatre James Rupert/James Spencer 1 episode
1960 The Twilight Zone Booth Templeton 1 episode
1961 Rawhide Woolsey 1 episode
1961 Wagon Train Lord Bruce Saybrook 1 episode
1963 The Wonderful World of Disney Johann Strauss Sr. 2 episodes

Award nominations

Year Award Result Category Film
1940 Academy Award Nominated Best Actor in a Supporting Role Juarez


  1. "Brian Aherne, 83, An Actor For 75 Years". Sun-Sentinel. 11 February 1986. Retrieved 15 October 2011{{inconsistent citations}}
  2. Obituary Variety, 12 February 1986.
  3. The Hollywood Walk of Fame : Brian Aherne biography
  4. Kirby, Walter (13 April 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved 11 May 2015 via
  5. "A Plane-Crazy America". AOPA Pilot: 79. May 2014.
  6. "Hollywood Walk of Fame database".


External links

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