Edward James Begley Sr. (March 25, 1901 – April 28, 1970) was an American actor of theatre, radio, film, and television. 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) 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 actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr.
Begley was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Hannah (née Clifford) and Michael Joseph Begley, Irish immigrants. 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”. Later he sold brushes, delivered milk, and served four years in the United States Navy during World War I.
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.
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 “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, 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. 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.
Begley married his first wife, Amanda Huff, in 1922 with whom he had two children. Huff died in 1957. His second marriage ended in divorce and his third wife, Helen, survived him. Begley is father of actor Ed Begley Jr, born out of his relationship with Allene Jeanne Sanders.
Begley died of a heart attack while attending a party at the home of Jay Bernstein in Hollywood, California on April 28, 1970. He is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.
|1947||Body and Soul||Party leader||Uncredited|
|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|
|Stars in My Crown||Lon Backett|
|Convicted||Mackay, Head of Parole Board|
|Saddle Tramp||August Hartnagle|
|Wyoming Mail||Prison Warden Haynes|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Wild in the Streets||Senator Allbright|
|Hang ‘Em High||Captain Wilson, Cooper Hanging Party|
|A Time to Sing||Kermit Dodd|
|Dennis McCarthy||1970||The Dunwich Horror||Henry Armitage|
|Neither Are We Enemies||Annas||Hallmark Hall of Fame Easter special|
|Road to Salina||Warren||(final film role)|
|1944–48||Charlie Chan||all||Charlie Chan|
|1946–1951||The Fat Man||Various episodes||Sgt. O’Hara|
|1947||The Adventures of Philip Marlowe||“The Friend From Detroit”|
|1949||Let George Do It||“The Man Under the Elm Tree”||Darrell|
|1951||Tales of the Texas Rangers||“Blind Justice”||Unknown|
|“No Living Witnesses”|
|“Paid in Full”|
|“The Blow Off”|
|1952||Tales of the Texas Rangers||“Birds of a Feather”|
|“Prelude to Felony”|