Reviews and Profiles
Bette Davis answered, “George Brent” whenever asked to name her favorite co-star. Her longtime crush on the actor (they teamed in eleven films) culminated in an off-screen affair while filming Dark Victory (1939) for which she received an Oscar nomination and Brent gave what many consider his “finest performance.” Hollywood's top stars clamored to play opposite Brent, who infused his easy-going warmth into such blockbuster films as 42nd Street (1933). Before long, Garbo demanded that MGM cast him opposite her in The Painted Veil (1934). Brent was perfect foil for cinema's leading ladies: Ruth Chatterton (his second wife), Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Kay Francis, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Hedy Lamarr, Merle Oberon, and Ann Sheridan (his fourth wife). Not to be pigeonholed Brent's perfection as the dissipated Englishman in The Rains Came (1939) and surprise turn as the heavy in The Spiral Staircase (1946) fueled the longevity of his career.
The personal life of George Brent remained undercover. Upon signing with Warner Bros., studio publicity fabricated a back-story for Brent: a graduate of Dublin University (he dropped out of school at 16); a player in the Abbey Theatre (for which no record exists); a dead mother (who was very much alive); and, a dispatcher for Michael Collins during the Irish Revolution (this . . . was true).
Brent's biography offers a fascinating look into the life of Hollywood's elusive lone wolf. Scott O'Brien, whose biography on Ruth Chatterton made The Huffington Post's “Best Film Books of 2013,” abetted by Irish filmmaker Brian Reddin, sheds new light on Ireland's gift to Hollywood and its leading ladies: George Brent.
(Foreword by Wesleyan University's Chair of Film Studies, Jeanine Basinger.) 331 pages with 125 illustrations capture the glamour and private world of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Very well researched, sympathetic but clear-eyed biography of the sometimes underrated George Brent by author Scott O'Brien deserves to be read by anyone who cherishes classic films, especially those from Warner Bros. studios. The author also conducted an interesting Q & A about this subject in great detail at The Silver Screen Oasis in Oct., 2014.
Review from Classic Images (January 2017)
Fair Warning (1931) with George O'Brien
Living On Velvet (1935) with Kay Francis
The Golden Arrow (1936) with Bette Davis
My Reputation (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck
Honeymoon for Three (1941) with Ann Sheridan
The Rich Are Always With Us (1932) with Ruth Chatterton
The Painted Veil (1934) with Garbo and Herbert Marshall
The Rains Came (1939) with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power
Ransome was a perfect match for Brent. His portrayal also pleased Bromfield. “George Brent was a ‘natural,’ ” he said. “As Ransome he is charming, sadly gay, disillusioned, and courageous.
He has achieved what is an immensely difficult thing for an actor to do. He has conveyed brilliantly the despair of the spirit that lies beneath any actor.” Brent’s well-delineated Tom Ransome
sets the tone for the film and what follows.
It had been three years since Brent filmed outside his home studio. On parole at Twentieth Century-Fox for The Rains Came, he was given the perfect opportunity to utilize his subdued style and talent.
He was well-suited to portray Tom Ransome, the dissipated Englishman from the Bromfield novel. Brent had his own ideas about the role and objected when he was told that Ransome was to appear unkempt,
even slovenly. He locked horns with producer Darryl F. Zanuck. Brent felt that Ransome’s disintegration was less obvious, something one would only notice after knowing him awhile. Ransome had money.
He would look well-heeled out of habit. “We will confine my badness to my state of mind only,” Brent insisted.
The Rains Came received extended runs in ninety-seven percent of its bookings throughout the United States. It was among Photoplay’s “Best Pictures of the Month” — along with “Best Performances” for
Loy, Power, and Brent — “the latter,” commented the editor, “giving the very finest performance of his career.” Photoplay’s review elaborated, “It is as though you had never seen [Brent] before, so
freshly touched is he with humor, charm and the tired cynicism of the eternal romantic.”