Bonar Colleano

Bonar Colleano (14 March 1924 – 18 August 1958) was an American stage and film actor based in the United Kingdom.

Bonar Colleano
Bonar William Sullivan

(1924-03-14)14 March 1924
Died18 August 1958(1958-08-18) (aged 34)
Years active1944–1958
Tamara Lees
(m. 1946; div. 1951)

Susan Shaw (m. 1954)
Children2, including Robbie McIntosh


Early life

Colleano was born Bonar Sullivan in New York City. He had childhood experiences with the Ringling Brothers Circus and in his family's famous circus.[1]

He moved to the United Kingdom when he was 12 so his family could appear at the London Palladium.[2] He spent several years performing in music halls. When war broke out in 1939, he began entertaining troops in Britain and was not called up for either nation's military forces.[3] In 1941 he was in a revue Piccadixie.[4]

Film career

Colleano's first important role came with the popular wartime drama The Way to the Stars (also known as Johnny in the Clouds, 1945), playing an American airman.

He played American servicemen in Wanted for Murder (1946), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and While the Sun Shines (1947).

Colleano played an Italian in One Night with You (1948), and was in Good-Time Girl (1948) and Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948). He worked regularly in radio, appearing in a revue Navy Mixture,[5] and had a lead part in Once a Jolly Swagman (1949).

Leading roles

Colleano's reputation shot up when cast in the role of Stanley Kowalski in the original English stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire (1949) at the Aldwych Theatre, London, directed by Laurence Olivier and co-starring Vivien Leigh.[6]

His film parts got better. Give Us This Day (1949) was set in the U.S. but shot in England. He was a romantic lead in Dance Hall (1950).

It led to lead roles in films starting with Pool of London (1951) and A Tale of Five Cities (1952). The latter enabled him to display some of his circus skills.[7] He went to the US and starred in a Hollywood production, Stanley Kramer's Eight Iron Men (1952).[8]

He went back to Britain to play the lead in Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? (1953), a comedy with Diana Dors, and in Escape by Night (1953).

Support parts

Colleano had another Hollywood role, a support, in Flame and the Flesh (1954), shot in England and Italy.

He went back to support parts in British films with Time Is My Enemy (1954) and The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1955).

Colleano had good support roles in the oddball Shakespeare derivation Joe MacBeth (1955) and Stars in Your Eyes (1956).

Warwick Productions

Warwick Productions used him in Zarak (1956). They liked his work and kept him on for Interpol (1957), Fire Down Below (1957), No Time to Die (1958) and The Man Inside (1958). He was also in Death Over My Shoulder (1958).

Personal life

He was from a well known Australian circus family and was a nephew of Con Colleano, the first tightrope walker to perform a forward somersault on the wire. In 1946, he married actress Tamara Lees, but the couple divorced in 1951. His second wife was actress Susan Shaw, who descended into alcoholism after his death. Their son Mark Colleano is also an actor.[9] In 1950, while living in the U.K., he fathered future Average White Band drummer, Robbie McIntosh. Colleano was not married to McIntosh's mother.


Colleano died in 1958 at the age of 34, when he crashed his sports car (a Jaguar XK140) in Birkenhead shortly after leaving the Queensway Tunnel.[10] He was driving back from Liverpool's New Shakespeare Theatre, where he had been appearing in a stage production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. His passenger, fellow actor and friend Michael Balfour, required 98 stitches,[10] but eventually recovered.[10]


In the lyrics of Ian Dury and the Blockheads' 1979 song "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3", Colleano was included in the list of reasons to be cheerful.


Year Film Role Other notes
1945 The Way to the Stars Joe Friselli known as Johnny in the Clouds in the USA
1946 Wanted for Murder Cpl. Nick Mappolo
A Matter of Life and Death An American Pilot Alternative title: Stairway to Heaven
1947 While the Sun Shines Joe Mulvaney
1948 Merry-Go-Round
One Night with You Piero Santellini
Good-Time Girl Micky Malone
Sleeping Car to Trieste Sergeant West
1949 Maniacs on Wheels Tommy Possey Alternative title: Once A Jolly Swagman
Give Us This Day Julio
1950 Dance Hall Alec
1951 Pool of London Dan MacDonald
A Tale of Five Cities Bob Mitchell Alternative title: A Tale of Five Women
1952 Eight Iron Men Pvt. Collucci
1953 Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? Cmdr. Laurie Vining
Escape by Night Tom Buchan
1954 Flame and the Flesh Ciccio
Time Is My Enemy Harry Bond
The Sea Shall Not Have Them Sgt. Kirby
1955 Joe MacBeth Lennie
1956 Stars in Your Eyes David Laws
Zarak Biri
1957 Pickup Alley Amalio
Fire Down Below Lt. Sellars
1958 Them Nice Americans Joe
Death Over My Shoulder Joe Longo
No Time to Die The Polish POW Also known as Tank Force
The Man Inside Martin Lomer
Year Title Role Notes
1946 In the Zone Davis TV Film
1957 ITV Television Playhouse Sam Pickens Episode: The Confidence Man
1958 East End, West End 1 episode
Doomsday for Dyson Jackston TV Film


  1. "STARS OF TIGHTROPE". Cairns Post (13, 867). Queensland. 13 August 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 27 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  2. ""POOL OF LONDON"". Western Herald. New South Wales. 10 April 1953. p. 10. Retrieved 27 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. Williams, Tony. "The Importance of Being Bonar". The November 3rd Club. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  4. EDINBURGH THEATRES: LYCEUM: "Smilin' Through" The Scotsman 26 Aug 1941: 3.
  5. "No title". The National Advocate. New South Wales. 18 September 1947. p. 5. Retrieved 27 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "A Streetcar Named Desire". The Sun (2430). New South Wales. 6 November 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 27 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "CIRCUS STAR IN FIRST FILM". Singleton Argus. New South Wales. 14 May 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 27 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  8. Over There Horton, Robert. Film Comment; New York Vol. 54, Iss. 5, (Sep/Oct 2018): 18-19.
  9. "1958: Film stars raise cash for Colleano". BBC News. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  10. "Bonar Colleano". Entertainment Calendar. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2016.


  • Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies. Harper Collins. 2001. ISBN 0-06-093507-3.
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