Ed Begley

This article is about the mid twentieth century actor. For his son, see Ed Begley Jr.
Ed Begley

Begley in 1958
Born Edward James Begley
(1901-03-25)25 March 1901
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died 28 April 1970(1970-04-28) (aged 69)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Film, television, radio actor
Years active 19171970
Spouse(s) Amanda Huff (1922–1957)
Dorothy Reeves (1961–1963)
Helen Jordan (1963–1970)
Children Ed Begley, Jr.

Edward James "Ed" Begley, Sr. (25 March 1901  28 April 1970) was an American actor of theatre, radio, film, and television.[1]

Early years

Begley was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Hannah (née Clifford) and Michael Joseph Begley, Irish immigrants.[2][3][4] After he dropped out of school as a fifth-grader, Begley ran away from home several times, going to work for "carnivals, fairs, and small circuses."[5] Later he sold brushes, delivered milk and served in the United States Navy.[5]


Begley began his career as a Broadway and radio actor while in his teens. He appeared in the hit musical Going Up on Broadway in 1917 and in London the next year. He later acted in roles as Sgt. O'Hara in the radio show The Fat Man. His radio work included Stroke of Fate and a period as Charlie Chan among other roles. He also starred in the 1950s radio program Richard Diamond, Private Detective, playing Lieutenant Walter Levinson, head of homicide at the 5th Precinct, Manhattan. He was elected a member of The Lambs in 1943. In the late 1940s, he began appearing regularly in supporting film roles.

Begley (right) with Monte Markham in 1969.

In the 1952–1953 television season, Begley co-starred with Eddie Albert in the CBS sitcom Leave It to Larry. Begley, though only five years older than Albert, played the father-in-law and employer of Albert's character, Larry Tucker, a shoe salesman, who with his young family lives with Begley. In 1954 Begley starred in the NBC Television show, Robert Montgomery Presents, in an episode sponsored by Lucky Strike called Big Boy as Joe Grant, an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who worked on the famous Union Pacific Big Boy steam locomotives. The show is about how Begley's character copes with the transition from steam locomotives to diesel locomotives in the 1950s.

He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). Some of his other notable films include 12 Angry Men (1957) as juror #10, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), and Wild in the Streets (1968). One notable role Begley played both on television (twice in 1955) and in the theatrical film (1956) is William (Bill) Briggs, one of the three primary characters in Rod Serling's Patterns.

In 1956, he appeared in the Broadway production of Inherit the Wind, in the role of Matthew Harrison Brady. For this performance, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.[6][7]

His other television work included appearances on Justice, Empire, The Virginian, Bonanza, The Fugitive, Target: The Corruptors, The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, and Going My Way, with Gene Kelly.

Begley married three times. He is the father of the actor and environmental advocate Ed Begley, Jr.

Among his many Broadway credits were All My Sons and Our Town.

Begley died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California.[8] He is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.


Year Film Role Notes
1947 Body and Soul Party leader Uncredited
The Web Man Uncredited
Boomerang Paul Harris
The Roosevelt Story Narrator Documentary
1948 Sitting Pretty Horatio J. Hammond
The Street with No Name Chief Bernard Harmatz
Deep Waters Josh Hovey
Sorry, Wrong Number James Cotterell
1949 Tulsa John J. 'Johnny' Brady as Edward Begley
It Happens Every Spring Edgar Stone
The Great Gatsby Myron Lupus
1950 Backfire Captain Garcia
Stars in My Crown Lon Backett
Convicted Mackay, Head of Parole Board
Saddle Tramp Mr. August Hartnagle
Wyoming Mail Prison Warden Haynes
Dark City Barney
1951 You're in the Navy Now Port Commander
The Lady from Texas Dave Blodgett
On Dangerous Ground Captain Brawley
1952 Boots Malone Howard Whitehead
Lone Star Anthony Demmet
Deadline - U.S.A. Frank Allen
The Turning Point Neil Eichelberger
1954 Big Boy Joe Grant
1956 Patterns William Briggs
1957 12 Angry Men Juror #10
1959 Odds Against Tomorrow Dave Burke
1961 The Green Helmet Bartell
1962 Sweet Bird of Youth Tom 'Boss' Finley Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (3rd place)
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown Shamus Tobin Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (2nd place)
1965 Inherit the Wind Matthew Harrison Brady Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama
1966 The Oscar Grobard
1967 Warning Shot Captain Roy Klodin
The Violent Enemy Colum O'More
Billion Dollar Brain General Midwinter
Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle, or Mutilate
1968 Firecreek Preacher Broyles
Wild in the Streets Senator Allbright
Hang 'Em High Captain Wilson, Cooper Hanging Party
A Time to Sing Kermit Dodd
1969 The Monitors President
1970 The Dunwich Horror Dr. Henry Armitage
Neither Are We Enemies Annas Hallmark Hall of Fame Easter special
Road to Salina Warren (Last appearance)


Date Show Episode Role Notes
1944–45 Charlie Chan all Charlie Chan [9]
1947 The Adventures of Philip Marlowe "The Friend From Detroit"
1949 Let George Do It "The Man Under the Elm Tree" Darrell [10]
1951 Tales of the Texas Rangers "Blind Justice" Unknown [11]
"No Living Witnesses"
"Paid in Full"
"The Blow Off"
1952 Tales of the Texas Rangers "Birds of a Feather"
"Prelude to Felony"


  1. Obituary Variety, 6 May 1970.
  2. http://www.tonic.com/post/ed-begley-jr-hollywoods-go-to-green-guru/
  3. 1 2 "Ed Begley Loves Life". The Bridgeport Post. 24 April 1964. p. 21. Retrieved 25 April 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  4. "Ed Begley". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  5. "Inherit the Wind". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  6. Ed Begley dies in California
  7. Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. p. 149.
  8. Radio Detectives
  9. Old Time Radio Westerns—radio shows Begley appeared in.

External links

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