Brian Keith

Brian Keith


Also Known As
Robert Brian Keith Jr.
Birth Place
Bayonne, New Jersey, USA
November 14, 1921
June 24, 1997
Cause of Death
Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound


A handsome, burly character actor with a distinctive, gruff voice, Brian Keith established a reputation early in his career with tough guy roles. He was so effective at playing various shady types in Westerns and crime thrillers, it was to his credit as a performer that he was also able to portray characters of warmth and humor with equal aplomb. After some stage work, Keith earned secon...

Photos & Videos

Tight Spot - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Lobby Card Set
Tight Spot - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Victoria Lei Aloha Young
Artist. Married 1968; survived him.


Keith's Honolulu-based company, Miguel Productions, is not just involved in TV production, but has extensive real estate, mineral and agricultural holdings as well.


A handsome, burly character actor with a distinctive, gruff voice, Brian Keith established a reputation early in his career with tough guy roles. He was so effective at playing various shady types in Westerns and crime thrillers, it was to his credit as a performer that he was also able to portray characters of warmth and humor with equal aplomb. After some stage work, Keith earned secondary assignments in genre pictures as either he-men or villains, but leading roles would come mostly later in his career when he was hired by the Walt Disney Company. After the huge success of "The Parent Trap" (1961) helped to give him a softer image, Keith was cast on "Family Affair" (CBS, 1966-71) as a bachelor forced by circumstance to take care of a teenager and a pair of young children. While it generally did not offer him many challenges, Keith projected warmth and approachability on the series and "Uncle Bill" was one of his best loved characters. The actor claimed that he did not have any particular goal in mind for his career and accepted what was available to him. Nonetheless, Keith was offered a good variety of parts over his career and made an impression whether he was playing a loving parental figure or essaying colorful characters in fare like "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" (1966) and "The Wind and the Lion" (1975).

Brian Keith was born Robert Alba Keith on Nov. 14, 1921 in Bayonne, NJ to parents well acquainted with the entertainment industry. Father Robert Keith was a veteran character actor recognizable from films like "The Wild One" (1954) and "Written on the Wind" (1956), while his mother, Helena Shipman, was a veteran of the stage who also worked on radio. After his parents divorced, Keith was raised primarily by Shipman and decided to continue the family tradition. However, his plans were put on hold by military service during World War II. Following his stint as an aerial gunner in the Marine Corps, Keith set about establishing himself as an actor. He had already appeared onscreen as a toddler in a handful of silent films during the 1920s and went on to small, unbilled parts in some late 1940s and early 1950s features. Most of his initial postwar credits, however, came via guest appearances on television programs like "Suspense" (CBS, 1949-1954) and "Tales of Tomorrow" (ABC, 1951-53). He made his stage debut in "Heyday" (1946) and gained additional exposure on Broadway as a cast member of the comedy smash "Mister Roberts" (1948-51), which featured his father among the lead players. He also had roles in the much shorter-lived Broadway productions of "Darkness at Noon" (1951) and "Out West of Eighth" (1951).

Keith finally landed a sizeable movie gig in the Charlton Heston Western "Arrowhead" (1953), which began a run for him in various action-adventures as well as film noir thrillers like "5 Against the House" (1955) and the cult favorite "Nightfall" (1957). His rugged demeanor and ability to project menace made Keith an ideal choice for villains, but he also won the opportunity to play a hero on his own TV series. "Crusader" (CBS, 1955-56) cast Keith as a freelance journalist who helped those in need, particularly anyone wishing to flee from Communist countries. Now forgotten, the half-hour series lasted just over a year. In 1960, Keith starred in "Ten Who Dared" (1960), his first role in a Walt Disney production. While the picture was not one of the company's better offerings, Keith's performance was well received and he starred in a handful of subsequent Disney productions, including their big Hayley Mills hit, "The Parent Trap" (1961). The Disney work also provided him with the image change necessary to be cast on the sitcom "Family Affair" (CBS, 1966-1971), which bore more than a passing resemblance to "The Parent Trap." Keith played Bill Davis, a well-off New York City bachelor raising his late brother's three children, aided by a staunch English butler. Both men take some time to get used to their new responsibilities, but aside from weekly conflicts easily resolved within each half-hour episode, everyone gets along. Keith's Uncle Bill entered the pantheon of great TV dads and it ended up being one of his signature parts.

The program's shooting arrangement allowed Keith to get all of his scenes for the season done in only two months, making him available for movie roles and extended vacations during the remainder of the year. While not as well remembered as similar programs like "The Brady Bunch" (ABC, 1969-1974), "Family Affair" was a fairly big success in its time and enjoyed a second life in syndication throughout the 1970s. The assignment provided Keith with three Emmy nominations and many chances to display humor and charm, which he did consistently even though the material was formulaic. During his time off from the show, Keith continued to work on the big screen in fare like the Steve McQueen Western "Nevada Smith" (1966), John Huston's offbeat drama "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967), and the comedies "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" (1966), "With Six You Get Eggroll" (1968), and "Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?" (1970). He was a standout in one of his best roles as President Teddy Roosevelt in John Milius' adventure epic "The Wind and the Lion" (1975) and impressed as an aging stuntman in the Burt Reynolds hit "Hooper" (1978). Keith also made a final, latter day return to Broadway in "Da" (1978-1980) when original lead Barnard Hughes exited the production.

After "Family Affair" left the air, there were several attempts to launch him in new programs, beginning with the comedy "The Brian Keith Show" (NBC, 1972-74). He took an extended vacation from the big screen when he and Daniel Hugh Kelly assumed the title roles on "Hardcastle and McCormick" (ABC, 1983-86). While not as successful as some other Stephen J. Cannell productions from that time, the action series managed a trio of seasons. Keith again tried to establish himself in a sitcom, but "Pursuit of Happiness" (ABC, 1987), "Heartland" (CBS, 1989), and "Walter & Emily" (NBC, 1991-92) were all gone before airing even a dozen episodes. Aside from supporting parts in a handful of theatrical features like "Death Before Dishonor" (1987) and "Young Guns" (1988), Keith mostly did television guest spots from that point onward, as well as some voice work on animated programs like "Spider-Man" (Fox, 1994-98). After having previously played Roosevelt, Keith reunited with Milius for the cable feature "Rough Riders" (TNT, 1997), in which he played a second president, William McKinley. Alas, tragedy followed not long after that picture wrapped when Keith's daughter, Daisy, committed suicide at a young age in the spring of 1997. That heartbreak, coupled with his deteriorating health - emphysema and lung cancer, brought about by years of heavy smoking - prompted Keith to fatally shoot himself on June 24, 1997. The actor's final film, the comedy "Follow Your Heart" (1999), went direct-to-video well after his death. In recognition of his television career, Keith was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008.

By John Charles



Cast (Feature Film)

Follow Your Heart (1997)
The Second Civil War (1997)
The Return of Hunter (1995)
National Lampoon's Favorite Deadly Sins (1995)
Wind Dancer (1993)
Truman Richards
Perry Mason: The Case of the Lethal Lesson (1989)
Welcome Home (1989)
Lady in a Corner (1989)
Young Guns (1988)
Buckshot Roberts
After the Rain (1988)
Byron Monroe
The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory (1987)
Death Before Dishonor (1987)
The B.R.A.T. Patrol (1986)
General Newmeyer
Cry For the Strangers (1982)
Chief Whalen
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)
Sharky's Machine (1981)
Moviola: The Silent Lovers (1980)
Mauritz Stiller
The Mountain Men (1980)
Moonraker (1979)
Meteor (1979)
Hooper (1978)
The Court-Martial of General George Armstrong Custer (1977)
In the Matter of Karen Ann Quinlan (1977)
Nickelodeon (1976)
Joe Panther (1976)
Captain Harper
The Loneliest Runner (1976)
The Quest (1976)
Tank Logan
The Yakuza (1974)
Second Chance (1972)
something big (1971)
Colonel [Donald] Morgan
Scandalous John (1971)
John McCanless
The McKenzie Break (1970)
Capt. Jack Connor
Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came (1970)
Krakatoa, East of Java (1969)
Gaily, Gaily (1969)
Francis X. Sullivan
With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
Jake Iverson
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
Lieut. Col. Morris Langdon
Way ... Way Out (1966)
General Hallenby
The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966)
Link Mattocks
Nevada Smith (1966)
Jonas Cord
The Rare Breed (1966)
Alexander Bowen
The Hallelujah Trail (1965)
Frank Wallingham
Those Calloways (1965)
Camera Calloway
The Pleasure Seekers (1964)
Paul Barton
A Tiger Walks (1964)
Sheriff Pete Williams
The Raiders (1964)
John G. McElroy
Savage Sam (1963)
Uncle Beck Coates
Moon Pilot (1962)
Maj. Gen. John Vanneman
The Deadly Companions (1961)
The Parent Trap (1961)
Mitch Evers
Ten Who Dared (1960)
William Dunn
The Young Philadelphians (1959)
Mike Flanagan
Villa!! (1958)
Bill Harmon
Sierra Baron (1958)
Jack McCracken
Appointment with a Shadow (1958)
Lt. "Spence" Spencer
Violent Road (1958)
Mitch Barton
Desert Hell (1958)
Capt. Robert Edwards
Fort Dobbs (1958)
Run of the Arrow (1957)
Capt. Clark
Nightfall (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
Happy [Waters]
Chicago Confidential (1957)
Jim Fremont
Dino (1957)
Larry Sheridan
Storm Center (1956)
Paul Duncan
The Bamboo Prison (1955)
Corp. Brady
5 Against the House (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Cole Wilkison
Tight Spot (1955)
Vince Striker
Jivaro (1954)
Alaska Seas (1954)
Jim Kimmerly
Arrowhead (1953)
Capt. North

Cast (Special)

The Wild West (1993)
The Streets of Beverly Hills (1992)
All-Star Party For Joan Collins (1987)
All Star Party for Clint Eastwood (1986)
The ABC All-Star Spectacular (1985)

Cast (Short)

The Lion Roars Again (1975)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Rough Riders (1997)
The Sun Also Rises (1984)
2nd Sergeant
World War III (1982)
The Chisholms (1979)
Andrew Blake
The Seekers (1979)

Life Events


Was aerial gunner in the Marine Corps.


Made stage debut, "Heyday", in New Haven, CT


Made Broadway debut, "Mister Roberts"


Made feature film debut as adult, "Arrowhead"


Played Mike Flanagan in feature "The Young Philadelphians"


Starred on NBC in "The Westerner" series


Made TV-movie debut in "Second Chance" (ABC)


Returned to series TV in "Archer" (NBC)


Played Theodore Roosevelt in the feature "The Wind and the Lion"


Played General Stonecipher in the ABC miniseries "How the West Was Won"


Returned to Broadway in the title role of "Da"


Played Mauritz Stiller in "Moviola: The Silent Lovers" (NBC)


Returned to sitcoms on "Pursuit of Happiness" (ABC)


Played a lovable bigot on "Heartland" (CBS)

Photo Collections

Tight Spot - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Lobby Card Set
Tight Spot - Lobby Card Set
Tight Spot - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Tight Spot - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
The Deadly Companions - Movie Poster
The Deadly Companions - Movie Poster
The Parent Trap - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Disney's The Parent Trap (1961). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.


Movie Clip

Nightfall (1957) -- (Movie Clip) Runway Marie (Anne Bancroft) is modeling at a department store (the old J.W. Robinson, Beverly Hills, torn down in 2014) when she spots her stalkers (including Brian Keith) then friend Jim (Aldo Ray) with whom she makes a hasty getaway, Jacques Tourneur directing from Stirling Silliphant's script and the David Goodis novel, in Nightfall, 1957.
Nickelodeon (1976) -- (Movie Clip) That Crab Is Pure Genius! Lawyer Harrigan (Ryan O'Neal), swept into the entourage of early-movie magnate Cobb (Brian Keith), becoming a screenwriter (supplanting Arnold Soboloff, and Don Calfa as "Waldo") then meeting Kathleen (superodel Jane Hitchcock in her only major movie role), in Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon, 1976.
Nickelodeon (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Did You Say Court? From a prologue about early cinema, befuddled lawyer Harrigan (Ryan O'Neal), Jack Perkins his client, before the judge (Sidney Armus), then fleeing down an alley into the movie business, and a quick bit by Brian Keith, in Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon, 1976.
Young Philadelphians, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) Some Kind Of Social Position Wrapping up the 1920’s prologue and introducing the star, Diana Brewster as widowed Philadelphian and new mom Kate, whose high-society husband died, possibly by suicide, on their wedding night, with the rough-hewn immigrant Mike (Brian Keith), who is the real father of her son Anthony, who grows up to be Paul Newman, in The Young Philadelphians, 1959.
Yakuza, The (1974) -- (Movie Clip) You Think I'm Too Old? First appearance of top-billed Robert Mitchum, in Los Angeles, as low-energy detective and WWII vet Harry, taking a call from war buddy and Tokyo-based businessman Tanner (Brian Keith), who’s just been threatened by Japanese gangsters, who mentions an old love interest (Keiko Kishi), in The Yakuza, 1974.
Yakuza, The (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Get Rid Of Thinking Director and producer Sydney Pollack introduces the celebrated Japanese actor Ken Takakura, in only his second Hollywood picture and his first substantial role, as Kendo martial arts guru and underworld figure Tanaka Ken, visited in Kyoto by American private eye and WWII vet Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), to whom he owes a profound family debt, in The Yakuza, 1974.
Yakuza, The (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Open, A Losing Number Stylish framing and staging in the opening, compromised maybe by dorky 1970's men's fashion which has, evidently, consumed Tokyo, with Kyosuke Machida as Japanese mob messenger Kato performing a rite (with Akiyama Masaru) in service of chieftan Tono (Eiji Okada), in Sydney Pollack's often-overlooked The Yakuza, 1974, starring Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura.
Run Of The Arrow (1957) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Palm Sunday The opening scene at Appomattox, 1865, as Confederate O'Meara (Rod Steiger) fires the last shot, not quite killing Yankee Ralph Meeker, leading to the credits for writer-producer-director Samuel Fuller's searing Run Of The Arrow, 1957.
Violent Road (1958) -- (Movie Clip) You Get Nervous And Jumpy We infer here that Dick Foran as military veteran Frank (a.k.a. Sarge) works at the nearby rocket company that has to move in a hurry due to a series of accidents, and he has problems at home, implied by his troubled wife Edith (Ann Doran), the first scene for both, in Warner Bros.’ Violent Road, 1958, starring Brian Keith.
Violent Road (1958) -- (Movie Clip) You Must Take A Lot Of Vitamins! After an opening with a crash of a military test rocket, Brian Keith pulls up in the town where it happened, ending things with Merry Anders in a nice Fairlane, looking for trucking work, meeting boozy John Dennis, with Arthur Batanides, then impressed secretary Charmienne Harker, in Violent Road, 1958, from prolific producer-director Howard W. Koch.
Violent Road (1958) -- (Movie Clip) Felt Like An Earthquake Feels like Henri-Geoge Clouzot’s Wages Of Fear from a few years earlier, Brian Keith as head trucker Mitch gets help from partner Joe (Perry Lopez) getting their rocket fuel through a tight spot, Dick Foran and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. the second crew, Sean Garrison and Arthur Batanides going last, in Violent Road, 1958.
Hooper (1978) -- (Movie Clip) We May Be In Trouble First an uncredited song (the singer’s sign-off maybe the inspiration for the Toby Keith hit?) then title character Burt Reynolds with his crew at an LA bar, his squeeze Sally Field, Brian Keith and later Jan-Michael Vincent, tangle with a gang led by Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw, the reigning Super Bowl MVP (with stunt stalwart Robert Tessier), in Hooper, 1978.


Mountain Men, The (1980) -- (Movie Clip) I Thought You Lost Your Hair Charlton Heston as trapper Tyler has been quite alone through the credits, until in the opening shots, with stunt men taking over briefly, he’s joined by Brian Keith as fellow old-timer Frapp, in 1830’s Wyoming, with plenty of spice in the screenplay by Heston’s son Fraser, in The Mountain Men, 1980.
Gaily, Gaily - (Original Trailer) Beau Bridges plays a young man coming of age in corrupt 1910's Chicago in Gaily, Gaily (1969) based on a novel by Ben Hecht (The Front Page).
Bamboo Prison, The - (Original Trailer) An undercover agent investigates atrocities at a Korean P.O.W. camp in The Bamboo Prison (1955).
Rare Breed, The - (Original Trailer) In this Western with breeding, James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara fight to take a rare English bull to Texas in The Rare Breed (1966).
Young Philadelphians, The - (Original Trailer) A young lawyer (Paul Newman) from the wrong side of town tries to break into society in The Young Philadelphians (1964).
5 Against the House - (Original Trailer) Four college buddies plot to rob a Reno casino in 5 Against the House (1955).
Run of the Arrow - (Original Trailer) A bitter Confederate veteran (Rod Steiger) joins a Sioux tribe to keep his war against the Union going in Run of the Arrow (1957), directed by Sam Fuller.
Hallelujah Trail, The - (Original Trailer) Indians, soldiers and temperance women fight to control a wagon train hauling whiskey along The Hallelujah Trail (1965).
Wind and the Lion, The -- (Original Trailer) An Arab chieftain triggers an international incident when he kidnaps an American widow in The Wind and the Lion (1975) starring Sean Connery & Candice Bergen.
Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, The - (Wide release trailer) When a Russian sub runs aground in New England, it creates a local panic in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, 1966, starring Alan Arkin, directed by Norman Jewison.
Reflections in a Golden Eye - (Original Trailer) Strange, obsessive passions ride through a Southern Army base in John Huston's adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).


Robert Keith
Actor, playwright.
Helena Keith
Michael Keith
Mimi Keith
Robert Keith
Daisy Keith
Born c. 1969; shot herself on April 16, 1997 and died April 17, 1997.


Victoria Lei Aloha Young
Artist. Married 1968; survived him.



Keith's Honolulu-based company, Miguel Productions, is not just involved in TV production, but has extensive real estate, mineral and agricultural holdings as well.