Brian Aherne


Actor
Brian Aherne

About

Birth Place
King's Norton, England, GB
Born
May 02, 1902
Died
February 10, 1986
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

British born Brian Aherne possessed the attributes that all but guaranteed him a career in motion pictures, in that he was a polished stage performer, came across as a cultured gentleman and was also quite handsome. He first made his name in America as one of the stars of Broadway's "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1931) and was soon gracing such notable features as "Sylvia Scarlett" (1...

Photos & Videos

The Lady in Question - Movie Posters
The Lady in Question - Lobby Cards
First Comes Courage - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Joan Fontaine
Wife
Actor. Married in 1939; divorced in 1945.
Eleanor de Liagre Labrot
Wife
Married in 1946; New York socialite.

Bibliography

"A Proper Job"
Brian Aherne (1969)

Biography

British born Brian Aherne possessed the attributes that all but guaranteed him a career in motion pictures, in that he was a polished stage performer, came across as a cultured gentleman and was also quite handsome. He first made his name in America as one of the stars of Broadway's "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1931) and was soon gracing such notable features as "Sylvia Scarlett" (1935), "Beloved Enemy" (1936), "The Great Garrick" (1937), and "Juarez" (1939). While he did not generate the same degree of publicity as the major stars of the time, Aherne was a respected actor and reliable box office draw who earned a great deal of money from his film assignments. He continued to appear in gems like "A Night to Remember" (1942), "The Locket" (1946), "I, Confess" (1953), and "The Best of Everything" (1959), but also took breaks to do stage work. These detours usually found him either back on the Great White Way or in touring productions of old standbys like "My Fair Lady," where his interpretation of Professor Henry Higgins proved a hit with audiences. Following his retirement in 1967, he penned sharp and amusing books about his life and that of longtime friend and colleague, George Sanders. While he only starred in a handful of classic movies, Aherne was welcomed by audiences of the era for the touches of charm and sophistication that he could be counted on to display in most any role.

Brian Aherne was born William Brian de Lacy Aherne in King's Norton, Worcestershire, England on May 2, 1902. He began to log stage credits at the princely age of nine and continued to perform over the years that followed. Aherne became a member of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in his late teens and while he had studied architecture at Malvern College, it became clear that acting was his true calling. Engagements in such West End productions as "Paddy the Next Best Thing" (1923) and "White Cargo" (1924) soon followed, and he also toured Australia in several additional plays. Cinematic opportunities were also soon on the horizon. Aherne debuted in the silent crime drama "The Eleventh Commandment" (1924) and graced several other pictures before making his first sound feature, a spy thriller called "The W Plan," in 1930. He was invited to America and his Broadway bow came in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1931), the highly popular and acclaimed comedy that would enjoy many revivals. Aherne was quickly sought out by Hollywood producers and co-starred with Marlene Dietrich, whom he reportedly also dated for a time off the set, in the romantic drama "The Song of Songs" (1933). Additional lead engagements followed in such films as "The Fountain" (1934) and "I Live My Life" (1935), and he returned to the Great White Way to play Mercutio in a revival of "Romeo and Juliet" (1934-35) alongside such talented co-stars as Basil Rathbone and young up-and-comer Orson Welles.

Frederic March took over Aherne's role in MGM's pleasing adaptation of "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934), but the debonair and cultured Aherne had plenty of other cinematic work to choose from. One character he did not want was the titular part of swashbuckler "Captain Blood" (1935) and Aherne's refusal to sign on to the project inadvertently helped launch the career of Errol Flynn. He joined Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in "Sylvia Scarlett" (1935) and co-starred with Merle Oberon in the Irish Rebellion drama "Beloved Enemy" (1936). Aherne also had a fine vehicle for his talents in "The Great Garrick" (1937), where he played a fictionalized version of the talented but decidedly egotistical 18th century stage star David Garrick. During this period, Aherne began to guest star on various radio programs and would play roles on "Lux Radio Theater" (WJZ/CBS/WABC/CBS/NBC, 1934-1955) at various times for the better part of almost two decades.

Aherne's highest-profile credit of the time was the elaborate historical biopic "Juarez" (1939), in which he came off well as Emperor Maximilian opposite notorious firebrand Bette Davis, dominating the screen as unbalanced Empress Carlotta. He was also able to try his hand at the sort of adventure vehicle he had previously shunned as star of "Captain Fury" (1939). While the Australia-set adventure was shot entirely in California, the combination of Western-style plotting supplemented with a dash of Robin Hood-style derring-do made for diverting entertainment. On the personal front, Aherne wed his first wife, 22-year-old actress Joan Fontaine, who found fame that year in "The Women" (1939) and followed up with the superb Alfred Hitchcock efforts "Rebecca" (1940) and "Suspicion" (1941). Fifteen years apart in age, the two made for a highly photogenic couple, but their union proved to be less than smooth sailing.

Aherne was employed by several studios in the 1940s and proved adept at various genres. "Vigil in the Night" (1940) found him playing an empathetic doctor opposite Carole Lombard in a rare drama for the screwball comedienne about the nursing profession, while he and Loretta Young displayed excellent chemistry in the splendid mystery-comedy "A Night to Remember" (1942). He joined a number of fellow ex-patriots in "Forever and a Day" (1943), a drama produced to bolster the British war effort, and the romantic comedy "What a Woman!" (1943), which cast Aherne as a reporter with his eye on publishing executive Rosalind Russell. Movie work proved to be very lucrative for Aherne and a Security and Exchange Commission report revealed that he made $145,000 in 1942, only $5,000 less than Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn. That financial luxury allowed Aherne to occasionally step off the production treadmill and devote his time to other pursuits. In the wake of "What a Woman," Aherne did not make another movie until "The Locket" (1946), in which he gave an excellent performance as a psychiatrist whose past includes a dangerously unbalanced woman (Laraine Day) who is about to marry anew. Aherne and Fontaine had ended their own union by that point, with the latter citing extreme cruelty as the cause. A few months after their separation was finalized, Aherne wed Eleanor de Liagre Labrot, with whom he would remain for the rest of his life.

Despite the steady flow of opportunities available to him in Hollywood, the stage remained Aherne's first love and after the adventure "Angel on the Amazon" (1948), he decided to switch his emphasis for a time and acted in productions of plays like "She Stoops to Conquer" (1949-50) and "The Constant Wife" (1951-52). Their runs proved short, however, and he was soon back in features, including Alfred Hitchcock's "I, Confess" (1953), "Titanic" (1953), and the colorful CinemaScope costumer "Prince Valiant" (1954), in which he portrayed King Arthur. In the wake of other films like Grace Kelly's final film "The Swan" (1956) and "The Best of Everything" (1959), stage work again returned to the actor's schedule. He enjoyed his longest run in sometime via a revival of "My Fair Lady" that found him on the road for more than a year as Professor Henry Higgins, the role countryman Rex Harrison had made famous. Aherne also found time for periodic small screen guest star outings during this period and made his best remembered television appearance on "The Trouble with Templeton," an excellent episode of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964).

Aherne started off the 1960s by receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took his final Broadway bow playing George Bernard Shaw in "Dear Liar" (1960). Now approaching his sixties, he began to slow down, taking supporting assignments in the glossy soap opera "Susan Slade" (1961) and the lower-budget outings "Sword of Lancelot" (1963) and "The Cavern" (1964). Following his work on the Jane Russell comedy "Rosie!" (1967), Aherne announced his retirement and penned the well-received A Proper Job: An Autobiography of an Actor's Actor (1969). He followed up a decade later with A Dreadful Man: The Story of Hollywood's Most Original Cad: George Sanders, a wry and entertaining tribute to Aherne's troubled longtime friend and fellow thespian, who took his own life in 1972. In distinct contrast to Sanders, Aherne's own final years were spent in quiet repose. He succumbed to heart failure at a hospital in Venice, FL on Feb. 10, 1986.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Rosie (1967)
Oliver Stevenson
The Cavern (1965)
General Braithwaite
Sword of Lancelot (1963)
King Arthur
Susan Slade (1961)
Stanton Corbett
The Best of Everything (1959)
Mr. Shalimar
The Swan (1956)
Father [Carl] Hyacinth
Prince Valiant (1954)
King Arthur
A Bullet Is Waiting (1954)
David Canham
Titanic (1953)
Capt. E. J. Smith
I Confess (1953)
Willie Robertson
The Highwayman (1951)
Narrator
Smart Woman (1948)
Robert Larrimore
Angel on the Amazon (1948)
Anthony Ridgeway
The Locket (1946)
Dr. [Harry S.] Blair
Forever and a Day (1943)
Jim [Trimble]
What a Woman! (1943)
Henry Pepper
First Comes Courage (1943)
Capt. Allan Lowell
My Sister Eileen (1942)
Robert Baker
A Night to Remember (1942)
Jeff Troy
Smilin' Through (1941)
Sir John Carteret
The Man Who Lost Himself (1941)
John Evans/Malcolm Scott
Skylark (1941)
Jim Blake
My Son, My Son! (1940)
William Essex
Hired Wife (1940)
Stephen Dexter
Vigil in the Night (1940)
Dr. Prescott
The Lady in Question (1940)
Andre Morestan
Captain Fury (1939)
Captain [Michael] Fury
Juarez (1939)
Maximilian [von Hapsburg]
The Great Garrick (1937)
David Garrick
Beloved Enemy (1936)
Dennis Riordan
Sylvia Scarlett (1936)
Michael Fane
I Live My Life (1935)
Terry [O'Neill]
What Every Woman Knows (1934)
John Shand
The Fountain (1934)
Lewis Allison
The Constant Nymph (1934)
Lewis Dodd
The Song of Songs (1933)
Richard Waldow
Shooting Stars (1927)
Julian Gordon

Cast (Special)

Reunion in Vienna (1955)
Rudolf Maximillan

Sound (Special)

THE NOBEL PEACE CONCERT (1998)
Sound Engineer

Misc. Crew (Special)

World War II in Color (2000)
Sound

Life Events

1910

British stage acting debut at age eight in a pantomime show with Noel Coward

1924

First British film, "The Eleventh Commandment"

1931

Broadway acting debut in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" opposite Katharine Cornell

1933

Hollywood film acting debut, "Song of Songs"

1958

Returned to stage in touring production of "My Fair Lady" as Henry Higgins

Photo Collections

The Lady in Question - Movie Posters
The Lady in Question - Movie Posters
The Lady in Question - Lobby Cards
The Lady in Question - Lobby Cards
First Comes Courage - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Columbia's First Comes Courage (1943), starring Merle Oberon and Brian Aherne. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Song of Songs - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Paramount's The Song of Songs (1933), starring Marlene Dietrich and Brian Aherne. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Song of Songs - Scene Stills
Here are a number of scene stills from Paramount's The Song of Songs (1933), starring Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, and Lionel Atwill.
The Song of Songs - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Here are a few Jumbo Lobby Cards from Paramount's The Song of Songs (1933), starring Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, and Lionel Atwill. Jumbo Lobby Cards were 14" x 17" borderless posters; they were much less common than standard lobby cards.
The Song of Songs - Program Book
Here is the souvenir Program Book sold at roadshow engagements for Paramount's The Song of Songs (1933), starring Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, and Lionel Atwill.
The Song of Songs - Movie Posters
Here are a few movie posters from Paramount Pictures' The Song of Songs (1933), starring Marlene Dietrich, Brian Aherne, and Lionel Atwill.
My Sister Eileen - Title Lobby Card
Here is the Title Lobby Card from My Sister Eileen (1942), starring Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

What Every Woman Knows (1934) - I'm An Individual Collectivist! First scene for Helen Hayes, as chronically un-married Maggie, returning to her Scottish home town with brother David (Donald Crisp), met by other brother James (Dudley Digges) with news of another failed romance, all meeting young porter Shand (Brian Aherne), in What Every Woman Knows, 1934, from a J.M. Barrie play.
Lady In Question, The (1940) - I'm One Of The Family Acquitted murder suspect Natalie (Rita Hayworth) has belatedly accepted an offer of help from Parisian bike shop owner Morestan (Brian Aherne), who was on her jury, leading to her first day at work, where his wife (Irene Rich) and bedazzled son (Glenn Ford) don’t know the back-story, in The Lady In Question, 1940.
Lady In Question, The (1940) - This Is An Unusual Case Bouncy opening from director Charles Vidor, in the Columbia remake of the French director Marc Allegret’s comedy Griboulle (1937), introducing Glenn Ford as handsome amateur Paris astronomer Pierre, Evelyn Keyes his sister, Irene Rich his mother, George Davis a customer and top-billed Brian Aherne his father, in The Lady In Question, 1940, also starring Rita Hayworth.
Lady In Question, The (1940) - He Threatened To Kill Me We know little about this case except that Brian Aherne, as Paris shop owner Morestan, is a very enthusiastic alternate juror, as Rita Hayworth appears as accused murderess Natalie, and Frank Reicher as the inquiring president of the court, in Columbia’s The Lady In Question, 1940, directed by Charles Vidor, also starring Glenn Ford.
I Live My Life (1935) - Brigands Are Men, Aren't They? Early business on a cruise liner off Greece, Frank Morgan is Bentley, playing cards badly, Eric Blore the servant Grove, Fred Keating the fiancè to leading lady Joan Crawford, making her first appearance as Kay, various bits of exposition, in MGM’s I LIve My Life, 1935, also starring Brian Aherne.
I Live My Life (1935) - People Off Yachts The cute meeting of vacationing heiress Kay (Joan Crawford) and archaeologist Terry (Brian Aherne), Sterling Holloway as aide Max, on a Greek island, W.S. Van Dyke directing, from a screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, in MGM’s I LIve My Life, 1935.
Skylark (1941) - Show Me The Moon Sulking hostess Lydia (Claudette Colbert) who, following an insult, has just sent a plate of adulterated food to Myrtle (Binnie Barnes), the snooty wife of her ad-man husband's top client, is approached by suave Jim (Brian Aherne), himself that client's lawyer, in Skylark, 1941.
Titanic (1953) - Iceberg Dead Ahead! Director Jean Negulesco recreates 11:40 P.M., April 15, 1912 in the North Atlantic, Barry Bernard as the officer on duty, Brian Aherne the captain, Clifton Webb, Thelma Ritter, Richard Basehart among passengers taking note, in 20th Century Fox's Titanic, 1953.
What Every Woman Knows (1934) - I Never Laughed In Me Life! The Scottish Wylies (Helen Hayes as notably un-married Maggie, Donald Crisp and Dudley Digges her brothers, David Torrence her father) discover that the person sneaking into their library has been local train porter Shand (Brian Aherne), who acquits himself ably, early in MGM’s What Every Woman Knows, 1934.
Song Of Songs, The (1933) - You Think I'm Interested In Your Legs On her first day at work in her aunt’s bookstore in Berlin, country girl Lily (Marlene Dietrich) meets Richard (Brian Aherne), the handsome struggling sculptor from across the street, in The Song Of Songs, 1933, from Paramount, based on a Hermann Sudermann novel.
Song Of Songs, The (1933) - I'm Freezing Arriving for her first modeling session with sculptor Richard (Brian Aherne), new-in-Berlin shopgirl Lily (Marlene Dietrich) discovers she has cold feet, director Rouben Mamoulian stretching boundaries with other statues, in Paramount’s pre-Code The Song Of Songs, 1933.
Juarez (1939) - Your Imperial Majesty Emperor Maximillian (Brian Aherne), with aides Bazaine (Donald Crisp), Miramon (Henry O'Neill) and Mejia (Bill Wilkerson) shows some populist tendencies, angering Montares (Montagu Love), in Warner Bros' Juarez, 1939.

Trailer

What Every Woman Knows - (Original Trailer) An ambitious wife (Helen Hayes) backs her husband's political career in this adaptation of the James M. Barrie play. with Brian Aherne, directed by Gregory La Cava.
Swan, The - (Original Trailer) On the eve of her marriage to a prince, a noblewoman falls for her brother's tutor in The Swan (1956) starring Grace Kelly.
What a Woman! - (Original Trailer) Rosalind Russell, What a Woman! (1943) as a literary agent who tries to make her star client as adventurous as his most famous character.
Prince Valiant - (Original Trailer) A young Viking prince strives to become a knight in King Arthur''s Court and restore his exiled father to his rightful throne in Prince Valiant (1954).
I Confess - (Original Trailer) Montgomery Clift plays a priest accused of murder who hears but cannot tell the confession of the actual murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's I Confess (1953).
Great Garrick, The - (Original Trailer) Director James Whale (The Bride Of Frankenstein) brings his quirky view to this portrait of 18th Century Britain's most famous actor.
Bullet Is Waiting, A - (Original Trailer) A plane crash strands a policeman and his prisoner in the wilderness in A Bullet Is Waiting (1954) starring Jean Simmons and Rory Calhoun.
Susan Slade - (Original Trailer) A pregnant teen (Connie Stevens) allows her mother to pass the baby off as her own in Susan Slade (1961).
Juarez - (Original Trailer) Paul Muni and Bette Davis star in Juarez (1939), the true story of Mexico's great leader and his fight against Napoleon's empire
Vigil In The Night - (Original Trailer) A good nurse (Carole Lombard) ruins her career by covering up for her sister's careless mistake in director George Stevens' Vigil In The Night (1940).
Smilin' Through (1941) - (Original Trailer) Future husband-and-wife Gene Raymond and Jeanette McDonald in Smilin' Through (1941), their one film together.
Best of Everything, The - (Original Trailer) Three secretaries look for love while working in the publishing business in The Best of Everything (1959).

Companions

Joan Fontaine
Wife
Actor. Married in 1939; divorced in 1945.
Eleanor de Liagre Labrot
Wife
Married in 1946; New York socialite.

Bibliography

"A Proper Job"
Brian Aherne (1969)