Barry Sullivan (American actor)

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Patrick Barry Sullivan (August 29, 1912 – June 6, 1994)[1] was an American movie actor who appeared in over 100 movies from the 1930s to the 1980s, notably The Bad and the Beautiful opposite Kirk Douglas.

Barry Sullivan
Barry Sullivan Harbourmaster 1957 2.jpg
Barry Sullivan in Harbormaster (1957)
Patrick Barry Sullivan

(1912-08-29)August 29, 1912
New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 1994(1994-06-06) (aged 81)
Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1936–1987
Marie Brown
(m. 1937; div. 1957)

Gita Hall
(m. 1958; div. 1961)

Desiree Sumarra
(m. 1962; div. 1965)

The Guardian wrote in 1994: "Second division Hollywood actors like Barry Sullivan ... are usually faintly praised for being reliable or solid. However, when given the chance, Sullivan was a powerful, often baleful presence on screen, providing more pleasure than many more touted stars. "[2]


Early yearsEdit

Born in New York City, Sullivan was a law student at New York University and Temple University.[3] He fell into acting when in college playing semi-pro football. He was later a department store buyer.[4] During the later Depression years, Sullivan was told that because of his 6 ft 3 in (1.9 m) stature and rugged good looks he could "make money" simply standing on a Broadway stage.[citation needed]


Broadway stage, film shorts and radioEdit

Sullivan's first appearance on Broadway was in I Want a Policeman in 1936.[5] That year he was also in R.C. Sheriff's St Helena.[6] Sullivan appeared in shorts such as Strike! You're Out (1936), Broker's Follies (1937), Dime a Dance (1937) (alongside Imogene Coca, June Allyson and Danny Kaye), Dates and Nuts (1937), and Hi-Ho Hollywood (1937).[citation needed] He returned to Broadway with roles in All That Glitters (1938) and Eye on the Sparrow (1938) (with a young Montgomery Clift). He received attention when he joined the cast of the long running The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939) as Bert Jefferson. He was also in Mr Big (1941), Ring Around Elizabeth (1941) and Johnny 2 X 4 (1942). Sullivan appeared with Bette Davis on stage in 1960 in The World of Carl Sandburg as a substitute for her husband Gary Merrill. In 1950, Sullivan replaced Vincent Price in the role of Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar on the NBC Radio show The Saint.[7] Sullivan lasted only two episodes before the show was cancelled.


Sullivan had a small role in the Universal serial The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (1941).

Sullivan had a supporting part in High Explosive (1943) for Pine-Thomas Productions, who released through Paramount, and he was the second male lead in The Woman of the Town (1943) with Claire Trevor.[8]

He was signed to a long term contract by Paramount, who gave him a good support role in an "A" film, the musical Lady in the Dark (1944) with Ginger Rogers. He supported Dorothy Lamour in Rainbow Island (1944) and Alan Ladd and Loretta Young in And Now Tomorrow (1944), and was one of many Paramount names in Duffy's Tavern (1945).[9] He supported Dennis O'Keefe and Marie McDonald in the comedy, Getting Gertie's Garter (1945). [10]

Then he went to Monogram Pictures for Suspense (1946), the most expensive film that studio had made to date, produced by the King Brothers; Sullivan was second billed to Belita. Monogram were delighted with his work; Sullivan obtained a release from his Paramount contract and signed a three picture deal with Monogram.[11] Sullivan supported Brian Aherne and Constance Bennett in Smart Woman (1948) for Bennett's company, releasing through Monogram (as Allied Artists). He received top billing for a Western from the King Brothers and Monogram, Bad Men of Tombstone (1949).

MGM signed Sullivan to a contract, and he played supporting roles in Tension (1950), The Outriders (1950), Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), A Life of Her Own (1950), and Grounds for Marriage (1951). He was upped to leading man for Cause for Alarm! (1951) with Young and Payment on Demand (1951) with Bette Davis at RKO but was back down the cast list for Three Guys Named Mike (1951), Mr. Imperium (1951), and Inside Straight (1951). He was given top billing in No Questions Asked (1951), a role originally meant for Gable.[12]

Sullivan played the lead in a series of lower budgeted films noir: Loophole (1954) for Allied Artists, Playgirl (1954) at Universal, and The Miami Story (1954) for Sam Katzman. He went back to MGM for a support role in Her Twelve Men (1954).

In June 1954 he returned to Broadway to replace Henry Fonda in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.[13] He went to Paramount to support James Stewart in Strategic Air Command (1955) and guested on shows like General Electric Theater, Studio One in Hollywood, Climax! and Ford Star Jubilee (reprising his Caine Mutiny performance).

Sullivan was leading man to Joan Crawford in Queen Bee (1955), Claudette Colbert in Texas Lady (1955), Barbara Stanwyck in The Maverick Queen (1956) and Doris Day in Julie (1956).[14]

In 1956 he was in Too Late the Phalarope on Broadway which had a short run.[15]

He had the lead in a low budget Western Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957), The Way to the Gold (1957), and Sam Fuller's Forty Guns (1957) with Stanwyck. He was Lana Turner's leading man in Another Time, Another Place (1958) and played star roles in some films for Allied Artists, Wolf Larsen (1958), an adaptation of The Sea Wolf where Sullivan played the title role, and The Purple Gang (1959), a gangster film.[16]

His last film was The Last Straw in 1987.


In the 1953-1954 television season, Sullivan appeared with other celebrities as a musical judge on Jukebox Jury.[17] His first starring television role was a syndicated adaptation of the radio series The Man Called X for Ziv Television in 1956-1957 as secret agent Ken Thurston. In the 1957-1958 season, Sullivan starred in the adventure/drama television series Harbormaster. He played a commercial ship's captain, David Scott, and Paul Burke played his partner Jeff Kittridge in five episodes of the series, which aired first on CBS and then ABC under the revised title Adventure at Scott Island. He directed some episodes as well as episodes of Highway Patrol, which was made by Ziv, who did Harbourmaster.[18] He continued to make guest appearances on shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Pursuit, Playhouse 90, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, The United States Steel Hour and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and he was in a TV adaptation of My Three Angels. Barry Sullivan starred in a western TV show, The Tall Man ...(1960-1962) Sullivan starred in the television series The Road West, as family patriarch Ben Pride. He guest starred on Mission: Impossible, Bonanza, Garrison's Gorillas, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., That Girl, and It Takes a Thief. Barry Sullivan also appeared in the first season of Barnaby Jones; episode titled, "A Little Glory, A Little Death" which initially aired April 29, 1973.

He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one at 1500 Vine St. for his work in television, and another at 6160 Hollywood Blvd. for motion pictures.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Sullivan was a Democratic Party activist and an advocate for the mentally disabled.[citation needed] He was married three times and had three children. Marie Brown (married 1937, divorced 1957), a Broadway actress, was mother to both Jenny and John Sullivan.[19][20]

In June 1961, he was divorced by model and actress Gita Hall.[21][22] The couple's daughter, Patsy, became the youngest model ever, at 12 years old, to sign a contract with a cosmetic company. Patsy provided her parents with six grandchildren via her romance and marriage to songwriter Jimmy Webb. Sullivan's third marriage to Desiree Sumara produced no children and ended in divorce in 1965.[23] Sullivan's last public romance was with actress Irene Kelly.

His daughter Jenny Sullivan wrote the play J for J (Journals for John) after she found a packet of unsent letters (in 1995) written by Barry decades earlier to her older brother Johnny, who was mentally disabled. The play premiered on October 20, 2001. John Ritter, who in real life had a handicapped brother, played Johnny, Jenny played herself, and actor Jeff Kober portrayed Sullivan.[citation needed]


Sullivan died at age 81 of respiratory failure on June 6, 1994.[24]

Partial filmographyEdit

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Lux Radio Theatre Coney Island[25]
1952 Hollywood Star Playhouse Death Is a Right Hook[26]
1953 Hollywood Star Playhouse The Soil[27]
1953 Stars over Hollywood Dry Spell[28]

In 1950 Barry Sullivan filled in for Vincent Price (delayed in Paris) as The Saint (The Ghost that Giggled, Sept 17, 1950)


  1. ^ "Obituary: Barry Sullivan". The Independent. London. June 11, 1994. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  2. ^ Bergan, Ronald (June 10, 1994). "Personal: Highlighting the dark side Obituary: Barry Sullivan". The Guardian: London.
  3. ^ "Barry Sullivan: Outspoken Star". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. October 30, 1960. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  4. ^ "Actor Barry Sullivan dies". The Pantagraph. Bloomington, Ill. June 8, 1994. p. B5.
  5. ^ "I Want a Policeman – Broadway Play – Original". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  6. ^ "St. Helena – Broadway Play – Original". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  7. ^ Buxton, Frank; Bill Owen (1973). The Big Broadcast: 1920–1950. New York: Avon Books. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-670-16240-6. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "Screen News Here and in Hollywood". The New York Times. December 7, 1942. p. 23.
  9. ^ Schallert, Edwin (September 18, 1943). "DRAMA AND FILM: Sandburg Will Write Epic Story for Metro Paramount Building Up Barry Sullivan With Lead Opposite Dorothy Lamour". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  10. ^ "SCREEN NEWS: Barry Sullivan Chosen for 'Gertie's Garter' Of Local Origin". The New York Times. March 15, 1945. p. A26.
  11. ^ "MONOGRAM SIGNS BARRY SULLIVAN: Former Paramount Actor to Be Starred in Three Pictures-- 4 Films Due This Week". The New York Times. March 25, 1946. p. A29.
  12. ^ Hopper, Hedda (September 21, 1950). "Barry Sullivan Wins Metro Starring Role". Los Angeles Times. p. B12.
  13. ^ Schallert, Edwin (April 28, 1954). "Drama: Barry Sullivan Fortune Hunter' Luminary; Lita Milan Heralded as Find". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  14. ^ Schallert, Edwin (September 8, 1955). "Barry Sullivan Joining Independents; 'Madame Butterfly' Programmed". Los Angeles Times. p. A9.
  15. ^ Kerr, Walter F. (October 28, 1956). "HAPPY SURPRISE ON N.Y. STAGE: Barry Sullivan Lends Rare Distinction to 'Phalarope'". Los Angeles Times. p. E2.
  16. ^ "Barry Sullivan In 'Wolf Larsen' AT Twin Houses N.E.T." The Christian Science Monitor November 6, 1958: pg. 7.
  17. ^ Ingram, Billy. "Oddball Game Shows of the '50s". TV Party!. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  18. ^ Schallert, Edwin (October 1, 1957). "Barry Sullivan to Do 'Harbourmaster' Film; 'Buccaneer' Launched". Los Angeles Times. p. C9.
  19. ^ "Barry Sullivan's Wife Gets Divorce After Desertion". Toledo Blade. June 26, 1957. p. 10. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  20. ^ "Actor Barry Sullivan Sued for Divorce". Los Angeles Times. May 24, 1957. p. A2.
  21. ^ "Wife Divorces Barry Sullivan". Daily Mail. Hagerstown, MD. Associated Press. June 26, 1959. p. 3. Retrieved May 21, 2015 – via
  22. ^ "Gita Hall Wins Divorce From Husband Sullivan". The Arizona Republic. United Press International. April 11, 1961. p. 49. Retrieved September 16, 2020 – via
  23. ^ "Actress Divorces Barry Sullivan". Los Angeles Times. January 19, 1965. p. B14.
  24. ^ "Barry Sullivan". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  25. ^ "Lux Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. September 28, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved October 5, 2015 – via
  26. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 23, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Sunday Herald and Review. p. 44. Retrieved May 21, 2015 – via
  27. ^ Kirby, Walter (January 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Sunday Herald and Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via
  28. ^ Kirby, Walter (June 7, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 1, 2015 – via

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