Barry Sullivan (American actor)

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 in Harbormaster (1957)
Patrick Barry Sullivan

(1912-08-29)August 29, 1912
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 1994(1994-06-06) (aged 81)
Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1936–87
Spouse(s)Marie Brown (1937–57; divorced)
Gita Hall (1958–61; divorced)
Desiree Sumarra (1962–65)

David Shipman wrote of Sullivan:

Barry Sullivan redefined the term "leading man", being neither a genuine star, although billed above the title, nor a character actor, since he was seldom called upon to play anyone but himself - nice and reliable, the old standby. There were many others of his generation competing for the same roles - Wendell Corey, with his somewhat charming gloom, the cynical but easygoing Van Heflin, the acquiescent but dangerous Robert Ryan. Many cinemagoers found the Sullivans and Ryans more rewarding than the bona fide box-office champs but, like them, they could be counted upon when it came to facing up to the great ladies of the screen.[2]

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. "[3]


Early years

Born in New York City, Sullivan was a law student at New York University and Temple University.[4] He fell into acting when in college playing semi-pro football. He was later a department store buyer.[5] 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.


Radio and stage

Sullivan replaced Vincent Price in the role of Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar on the NBC Radio show The Saint.[6] Sullivan lasted only two episodes before the show was cancelled. His first appearance on Broadway was in I Want a Policeman in 1936.[7] That year he was also in R.C. Sheriff's St Helena.[8]

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).

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 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.


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.[9]

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).[10] He starred with Edward Small and Dennis O'Keefe in a comedy, Getting Gertie's Garter (1945). [11]

Then he went over 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.[12] 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.[13]

Sullivan played the lead in a series of lower budgeted film noirs: 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.[14] 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).[15]

In 1956 he was in Too Late the Phalarope on Broadway which had a short run.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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. and It Takes a Thief.

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.

Personal life

Sullivan was a Democratic Party activist and an advocate for the mentally disabled. 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.[20][21]

In June 1961, he was divorced by model and actress Gita Hall,[22][23]. Gita Hall's daughter with Barry Sullivan (Birgitta ‘Patricia’ Christina. Known as Patsy) became the youngest model ever to sign a contract with a cosmetic company. She was 12 years old when signed. Patsy would also be a many time magazine cover girl. She gave him six grandchildren via her romance and marriage to songwriter Jimmy Webb. His third marriage to Desiree Sumara produced no children and ended in 1965.[24] 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.


Sullivan died at age 81 of respiratory failure on June 6, 1994.[25]

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

1946Lux Radio TheatreConey Island[26]
1952Hollywood Star PlayhouseDeath Is a Right Hook[27]
1953Hollywood Star PlayhouseThe Soil[28]
1953Stars over HollywoodDry Spell[29]


  1. "Obituary: Barry Sullivan". The Independent. June 11, 1994. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  2. Obituary: Barry Sullivan: [3 Edition] Shipman, David. The Independent11 June 1994.
  3. Personal: Highlighting the dark side Obituary: Barry Sullivan Bergan, Ronald. The Guardian 10 June 1994.
  4. "Barry Sullivan: Outspoken Star". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. October 30, 1960. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. Actor Barry Sullivan dies: [FINAL Edition] Pantagraph; Bloomington, Ill. [Bloomington, Ill]08 June 1994: B5.
  6. Buxton, Frank and Owen, Bill (1972). The Big Broadcast: 19201950. The Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-16240-6. P. 206.
  7. League, The Broadway. "I Want a Policeman – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  8. League, The Broadway. "St. Helena – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  9. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times7 Dec 1942: 23.
  10. DRAMA AND FILM: Sandburg Will Write Epic Story for Metro Paramount Building Up Barry Sullivan With Lead Opposite Dorothy Lamour Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 18 Sep 1943: A7.
  11. SCREEN NEWS: Barry Sullivan Chosen for 'Gertie's Garter' Of Local Origin. New York Times 15 Mar 1945: 26.
  12. MONOGRAM SIGNS BARRY SULLIVAN: Former Paramount Actor to Be Starred in Three Pictures-- 4 Films Due This Week Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times 25 Mar 1946: 29.
  13. Barry Sullivan Wins Metro Starring Role Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 21 Sep 1950: B12.
  14. Drama: Barry Sullivan Fortune Hunter' Luminary; Lita Milan Heralded as Find Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 Apr 1954: B9.
  15. Barry Sullivan Joining Independents; 'Madame Butterfly' Programmed Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 8 Sep 1955: a9.
  16. HAPPY SURPRISE ON N.Y. STAGE: Barry Sullivan Lends Rare Distinction to 'Phalarope' Barry Sullivan Happy Surprise in 'Phalarope' Kerr, Walter F. Los Angeles Times 28 Oct 1956: E2.
  17. Barry Sullivan In 'Wolf Larsen' AT Twin Houses N.E.T.. The Christian Science Monitor 6 Nov 1958: 7.
  18. Billy Ingram. "Oddball Game Shows of the '50s". Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  19. Barry Sullivan to Do 'Harbourmaster' Film; 'Buccaneer' Launched Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 1 Oct 1957: C9.
  20. "Barry Sullivan's Wife Gets Divorce After Desertion". Toledo Blade. June 26, 1957. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  21. Actor Barry Sullivan Sued for Divorce Los Angeles Times 24 May 1957: 2.
  22. "Wife Divorces Barry Sullivan". The Daily Mail. June 26, 1959. p. 3. Retrieved May 21, 2015 via
  23. "Gita Hall Wins Divorce From Husband Sullivan". Arizona Republic. April 11, 1961. p. 49. Retrieved May 21, 2015 via
  24. Actress Divorces Barry Sullivan Los Angeles Times 19 Jan 1965: B14.
  25. "Barry Sullivan". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  26. "Lux Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. September 28, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved October 5, 2015 via
  27. Kirby, Walter (March 23, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved May 21, 2015 via
  28. Kirby, Walter (January 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 19, 2015 via
  29. 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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