Childhood & Early Life
Brian Keith was born Robert Alba Keith, on November 14, 1921, in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father, Robert Keith, was a well-known actor. His mother, Helena Shipman, was a talented stage actress. Keith’s parents divorced when he was very young. His father remarried Broadway actress Peg Entwistle.
Keith was brought up in Long Island, New York, by his grandmother. During his childhood, Keith accompanied his mother to theatres for her performances. He made his acting debut at the age of three, in the film ‘Pied sPiper Malone.’ His grandmother taught him to read books. Keith attended the ‘East Rockaway High School,’ for his early studies. He graduated from the school in 1939.
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In 1942, Brian Keith joined the ‘United States Marine Corps.’ During the World War II, he served as an air gunner. He received an ‘Air Medal’ for his services during the war. In 1945, Keith retired from military service.
After his resignation from the ‘Marine Corps,’ Keith began concentrating on his acting career. He performed in several stage plays. In 1949, he starred in the TV series, ‘Suspense,’ that was aired on the ‘CBS’ network. In 1952, he appeared in three episodes of the science fiction series, ‘Tales of Tomorrow,’ which was broadcast live, on the ‘ABC’ network.
In 1953, Keith starred as ‘Captain Bill North,’ in the American war movie ‘Arrowhead.’ In the initial days of his film career, Keith essayed villainous or tough characters. In 1955, he played a robber, ‘Brick,’ in the film ‘5 Against the House.’
In 1957, Keith played another rogue character in the crime thriller ‘Nightfall.’
In 1955, Keith starred as a freelance journalist ‘Matt Anders’ in the drama series ‘Crusader.’ It was telecast on the ‘CBS’ channel. He appeared in guest roles in several TV series, such as ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents,’ ‘Zane Grey Theatre,’ ‘The Americans,’ and ‘Outlaws.’
In 1960, Keith portrayed the lead role in ‘The Westerner.’ It was aired on the ‘NBC’ channel. In the series, he portrayed ‘Dave Blassingame,’ who was a man with expertise in handling guns. This character was a cowboy and drifter, and had a tendency to indulge in immoral activities. Though the series was short lived, the performance of Keith won critical acclaim.
In 1961, Brain Keith appeared in a character, which was completely different from the ones he had portrayed till then. In the series, ‘The Parent Trap,’ he played the role of ‘Mitchell Evers,’ who was the father of identical twins. ‘Evers’ and his wife were divorced. The series shows the efforts taken by the twins to reunite their estranged parents. Keith portrayed the character effectively, and proved that he could fit into all genres.
In 1966, Brian Keith starred in another major role of his acting career. It was the role of ‘Bill Davis’ in ‘Family Affair.’ It was a comedy series, aired on the ‘CBS’ network. ‘Bill Davis’ was a bachelor who was forced to shoulder the responsibilities of his brother’s orphaned kids. He was initially terrified of the situation, but he gradually got accustomed to his new life. The series showed the transition of the bachelor into a family man. Keith performed the character impressively. He received Emmy nomination for the ‘Best Actor in a Comedy Series.’ After the series, Brian Keith became a household name in the United States.
In 1968, Keith performed in the comedy movie ‘With Six You Get Eggroll’ in which he portrayed a widower ‘Jake Iverson.’ In the movie, Keith co-starred with famous actors, including Doris Day. In the same year, he starred in another comic film ‘The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.’ In this, he played the part of a police chief of an island, where a Russian submarine is grounded.
In 1972, Keith starred in the sitcom ‘The Brian Keith Show,’ which was aired on the ‘NBC’ channel. He played a paediatrician ‘Dr. Sean Jamison,’ who ran a clinic in Hawaii. The series ran successfully for 2 seasons. In 1975, he played ‘President Theodore Roosevelt,’ in the film ‘The Wind and the Lion.’
In 1983, Keith performed the character of a cranky retired judge in ‘Hardcastle and McCormick.’
His last movie performance came in the 1997 film, ‘Rough Riders.’
Family & Personal Life
Brian Keith was married thrice. In 1948, he married Frances Helm. The couple divorced in 1954. They had no children.
His second marriage was to Judy Landon. Together, they had five children.
His third marriage was to actress Victoria Young. The couple had two children.
Keith suffered from lung cancer during his last days. On June 24, 1997, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot injury. He is reported to have suffered from financial problems and depression, during this time. In 2008, Brian Keith was honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’