Ed Begley
Begley in 1958
Edward James Begley Sr.

(1901-03-25)March 25, 1901
DiedApril 28, 1970(1970-04-28) (aged 69)
Resting placeSan Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles, California
Years active1917–1970
Amanda Huff
(m. 1922; died 1957)
Dorothy Reeves
(m. 1961; div. 1963)
Helen Jordan
(m. 1963)
Children3, including Ed Jr.

Edward James Begley Sr. (March 25, 1901 – April 28, 1970) was an American actor of theatre, radio, film, and television.[1] He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and appeared in such classics as 12 Angry Men (1957), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Matthew Harrison Brady in a television adaptation of Inherit the Wind. He is the father of the actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr.

Early life

Begley was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to two Irish immigrants, Hannah (née Clifford) and Michael Joseph Begley.[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 four years in the United States Navy during World War I.[5][6]


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. In 1954 Begley starred in the NBC Television show Robert Montgomery Presents in "Big Boy", an episode sponsored by Lucky Strike, 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 Deadline – U.S.A. (1952), 12 Angry Men (1957) as juror #10, Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 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.[7][8] In 1968 he appeared with Clint Eastwood in the classic Western Hang 'Em High.

His other television work included appearances on the 1954 TV series Justice, Empire, The Virginian, Bonanza, The Fugitive, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Target: The Corruptors, The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, My Three Sons, Wagon Train and Going My Way, with Gene Kelly. Among his many Broadway credits were All My Sons and Our Town.

Personal life

Begley married his first wife, Amanda Huff, in 1922; they had two children. Huff died in 1957. His second marriage ended in divorce and his third wife, Helen, survived him.[1] Begley is father of actor Ed Begley Jr, from his extramarital relationship with Allene Jeanne Sanders.[9]

Begley died of a heart attack while attending a party at the home of Jay Bernstein in Hollywood, California, on April 28, 1970.[10] He is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.[11]


Year Title 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 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 Senator 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
Naked City Jimmy Fenton Season 4, Episode 9
My Three Sons (TV) Ed Wallace, Carl Storffmann Season 2, Episode 15 & Season 9, Episode 13
1963 Route 66 (TV) Kyle Hawkes Season 3, Episode 21
1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown Seamus Tobin Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Rawhide (TV) Piney Kinney Season 7, Episode 3
The Virginian (TV) Micah Ellis, Mike Tyrone (2 episodes) Season 2, Episode 15 & Season 4, Episode 19
1965 The Dick Van Dyke Show (TV) Judge Season 4, Episode 21
The Fugitive (TV-1963) Dan Brady Season 2, Episode 27
Inherit the Wind (TV) Matthew Harrison Brady Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama
Gunsmoke (TV) Jeb Crater
Bonanza Dan Tolliver/Clint Watson 2 episodes
1966 The Oscar Grobard
The Lucy Show (TV Series) Andrew Bailey Season 5, Episode 3
1967 Warning Shot Captain Roy Klodin
The Violent Enemy Colum O'More
Billion Dollar Brain General Midwinter
Do Not Fold, Staple, Spindle or Mutilate Scotty Duncan
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
Secrets of Pirates' Inn Dennis McCarthy TV film
1970 The Dunwich Horror Henry Armitage
Neither Are We Enemies Annas Hallmark Hall of Fame Easter special
Road to Salina Warren (final film role)
Corwin (TV series) Stan Holindrake Season 2, Episode 1


Date Show Episode Role Notes
1944–48 Charlie Chan All Charlie Chan [12]
1946–1951 The Fat Man Various episodes Sgt. O'Hara
1947 Mollé Mystery Theatre "Goodbye, Darling" George Lucas
1947 The Adventures of Philip Marlowe "The Friend From Detroit"
1948 The Whistler "Hired Alibi" with Jack Webb
1949–53 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Various episodes Lt. Levinson
1949 Let George Do It "The Man Under the Elm Tree" Darrell [13]
1951 Tales of the Texas Rangers "Blind Justice" Unknown [14]
"No Living Witnesses"
"Paid in Full"
"The Blow Off"
1952 Tales of the Texas Rangers "Birds of a Feather"
"Prelude to Felony"


  1. ^ a b "Ed Begley, Actor, Dead at 69; Noted for Character Portrayals". The New York Times. April 30, 1970. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  2. ^ Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Company. 1957. Retrieved December 4, 2019 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Keylin, Arleen; Boiangiu, Suri (June 1, 1977). Hollywood album: lives and deaths of Hollywood stars from the pages of the New York Times. Arno Press. ISBN 978-0405103117. Retrieved December 29, 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "The Passion of Ed Begley Jr. — Hollywood's Go-To Green Guru". Tonic. February 3, 2010. Archived from the original on June 27, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Ed Begley Loves Life". The Bridgeport Post. April 24, 1964. p. 21. Retrieved April 25, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  6. ^ Ed Begley, Actor, Dead at 69; Noted for Character Portrayals. The New York Times via Internet Archive. Published April 30, 1970. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  7. ^ "Ed Begley". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "Inherit the Wind". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Koenenn, Connie (April 14, 1996). "Rooted to the Cause; Ed Begley Jr. shines in a world in which some stars are environmentalists only when the cameras are on. He lives what he preaches".
  10. ^ "Ed Begley Dies in California". St. Petersburg Times. April 30, 1970. p. 6A. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 1, 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-0-7864-0983-9.
  12. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  13. ^ "EP0358: Let George Do It: The Man Under the Elm Tree". Greatdetectives.net. March 9, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "Old Time Radio Westerns » Ed_Begley". Old Time Radio Westerns. Retrieved December 29, 2018.