Henry Brandon
Henry Brandon in Half a Sinner (1940).jpg
Brandon in Half a Sinner (1940)
Heinrich von Kleinbach

(1912-06-08)8 June 1912
Berlin, Germany
Died15 February 1990(1990-02-15) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesHarry Brandon
Harry Kleinbach
Henry Kleinbach
Alma materStanford University
Years active1932–1989
Partner(s)Mark Herron (1969-1990; Brandon's death)

Henry Brandon (born Heinrich von Kleinbach; 8 June 1912 – 15 February 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.

Early life

Brandon was born in 1912 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Hildegard and Hugo R. von Kleinbach, a merchant.[1] 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,[2] 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.

Film career

He made his motion picture debut in 1932 as an uncredited spectator at the Colosseum in The Sign of the Cross. In the Victorian-era stage melodrama "The Drunkard" -- played for laughs in a popular local revival -- Henry Kleinbach appeared as the wizened old villain "Squire Cribbs." The 22-year-old Kleinbach was so convincing in elderly makeup that he fooled movie producer Hal Roach, who hired Kleinbach to play Silas Barnaby, the villain in the Laurel and Hardy feature 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 reprised the Barnaby character in Roach's short-subject production Our Gang Follies of 1938.

In the late 1930s Brandon became a familiar face in adventure serials, almost always in villainous roles. In 1940, he had his only starring film role, as the imperious Fu Manchu in the Republic Pictures serial Drums of Fu Manchu. The serial was withdrawn at the express request of the State Department in 1941 after the U.S. entry into World War II out of concern that it was inciting anti-Chinese sentiment in the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.

Character actor

Henry Brandon was a versatile character player, often called upon to portray various ethnic types. He played the character of Renouf, a deserter from the French Foreign Legion, in the 1939 remake of Beau Geste. 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 appeared as the African tribal chieftain M'Tara in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953), and a French army captain in Vera Cruz (1954).

In 1956, in one of his most famous credits, he played the chief villain, a Comanche chieftain called Scar, in John Ford's The Searchers. 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. On October 12, 1959 he played the role of Jason in Euripides' Medea as a part of the Play of the Week television series.

Hengry Brandon with Una Merkel at the National Film Society convention, May 1979
Hengry Brandon with Una Merkel at the National Film Society convention, May 1979

In 1959, he played the role of Gator Joe in "Woman in the River" in the crime drama Bourbon Street Beat. On October 12, 1959 he played the role of Jason in Euripides' Medea as a part of the Play of the Week television series. 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 and 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 and made a guest appearance on the TV programme Honey West "A Matter of Wife and Death" (episode 4).

Personal life

Brandon married in 1941; the marriage produced one son before ending in 1946.[1] He subsequently had a long relationship with the actor Mark Herron.[3] 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 suffered a heart attack and died on 15 February 1990 at the age of 77 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. His body was cremated, and the ashes reportedly were scattered at an undisclosed theatre location.[4][5]

Selected filmography

Selected theatre performances



  1. ^ a b Cassara, Bill; Greene, Richard S. (2 September 2018). Henry Brandon: King of the Bogeymen — the Vicious Villain of Vintage Cinema. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-6293-3335-9.
  2. ^ "Photograph of Kleinbach 1929/30 Photo ID:15352". Stanford University Library.
  3. ^ Kear, Lynn; King, James (21 October 2009). Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Lady Crook. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7864-5468-6. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Henry Brandon, 77, Stage and Film Actor". The New York Times. 22 February 1990.
  5. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Henry Brandon. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved 24 December 2021.


Further reading