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Bruce Bennett

Bennett in the trailer for
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Born Harold Herman Brix
May 19, 1906(1906-05-19)
Tacoma, Washington,
United States
Died February 24, 2007 (aged 100)
Santa Monica, California,
United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1931–1973; 1980

Bruce Bennett (May 19, 1906 – February 24, 2007)[1][2] was an American actor and Olympic silver medalist shot putter. During the 1930s, he went by his real name, Herman Brix (having dropped the first name "Harold").


Early life and Olympics

Born as Harold Herman Brix in Tacoma, Washington, he was the fourth born in a family of five children of an immigrant couple from Germany. His eldest brother and father's favored son, Hermann, died before his birth and was given his middle name in this child's memory. To please his father, by high school he had discontinued using his own first name, Harold, in favor of his middle name, Herman. His father was a lumber man who owned a couple of different logging camps. His first career was as an athlete. At University of Washington, where he majored in economics, he played football (tackle) in the 1926 Rose Bowl and was a track-and-field star. Two years later he won the silver medal for shot-putting in the 1928 Olympic Games, and held the indoor and outdoor records for shot-putting.[3]

Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Competitor for the  United States
Silver 1928 Amsterdam Shot put

Early film career and Tarzan

He moved to Los Angeles in 1929 after being invited to compete for the Los Angeles Athletic Club and befriended actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who arranged a screen test for him at Paramount.

In 1931, MGM, adapting author Edgar Rice Burroughs' popular Tarzan adventures for the screen, selected Herman Brix to play the title character. Unfortunately, Brix broke his shoulder filming the 1931 football movie Touchdown, which also prevented his entry into the 1932 Olympics while holding the world record for shot put. Swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller replaced Brix and became a major star.

Herman Brix shown in the opening credits of the serial The New Adventures of Tarzan

After Ashton Dearholt convinced Burroughs to allow him to form Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises, Inc. and make a Tarzan serial film, Dearholt cast Brix in the lead. Pressbook copy has it that Burroughs made the choice himself, but in fact, in his biography, Brix confirmed that Burroughs never even saw him until after the contract was signed, and then only briefly. The film was begun on location in Guatemala, under rugged conditions (jungle diseases and cash shortages were frequent). Brix did his own stunts, including a fall to rocky cliffs below. The Washington Post quoted Gabe Essoe's passage from his book Tarzan of the Movies: "Brix's portrayal was the only time between the silents and the 1960s that Tarzan was accurately depicted in films. He was mannered, cultured, soft-spoken, a well-educated English lord who spoke several languages, and didn't grunt."[3]

Due to financial mismanagement, Dearholt had to complete filming of much of the serial back in Hollywood, and Brix, although his travel and daily living expenses in Guatemala were covered throughout the shoot, never received his contracted salary, along with the rest of the cast. The finished film, The New Adventures of Tarzan, was released in 1935 by Burroughs-Tarzan, and offered to theaters as a 12-chapter serial or a seven-reel feature. A second feature, Tarzan and the Green Goddess, was culled from the footage in 1938.

Name change and movie career

Brix continued to work in serials and action features for low-budget studios until 1939. Finding himself still typecast as Tarzan in the minds of major producers, Brix changed his name to "Bruce Bennett" and became a member of Columbia Pictures' stock company. During the next few years he would be seen playing minor roles in many Columbia films, from expensive dramas to B mysteries to Three Stooges short subjects (including How High Is Up?). His screen career was interrupted by World War II, when he entered the service.

Bennett appeared in many films in the 1940s and early 1950s, including Sahara (1943), Mildred Pierce (1945), Nora Prentiss (1947), Dark Passage (1947), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Mystery Street (1950), Sudden Fear (1952) and Strategic Air Command (film) (1955).

The Washington Post noted, "He moved into grittier roles in the late 1940s and early 1950s, playing a detective in William Castle's Undertow and a forensic scientist who helps solve a crime in John Sturges' Mystery Street. He also portrayed an aging baseball player in Angels in the Outfield (1951).[3]


Bennett had two children, Christopher Brix and Christina Katich, by longtime wife Jeannette, who died in 2000. They named their children after his parents. They had three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Later life

From the mid-1950s on, Bennett mainly appeared in B-movies, such as The Alligator People (1959), and on television in guest starring roles. He was a very successful businessman during the 1960s.

A lifelong parasailer and skydiver, he last went skydiving (from an altitude of 10,000 feet), over Lake Tahoe, at the age of 96. [4]

Bennett turned 100 on May 19, 2006, and died less than a year later in February 2007 of complications from a broken hip.[5]


  1. ^ Harold H. Brix in the Social Security Death Index.
  2. ^ Harold Brix, age 3, in U.S. Census, April 15, 1910, State of Washington, County of Pierce, enumeration district 275, p. 7-B, family 195.
  3. ^ a b c Film Star and Olympian Herman Brix -
  4. ^ Bruce Bennett (I) - Biography
  5. ^


  • Ephraim Katz: Encyclopedia of Film (ISBN 0 333 90690 X)

External links

Preceded by
Buster Crabbe
Actors to portray Tarzan
1935, 1938
Succeeded by
Glenn Morris


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I wish I would have had more to do in the film. I hated to get killed so soon.
There was only a single sharpshooter up in the trees to keep the croc away from me.

Bruce Bennett (19 May 190624 February 2007), born Harold Herman Brix, was an American actor and Olympic silver medalist shot putter.



  • I guess the one thing I really learned from participating in sports was to just never say "no", never stop trying, and to always believe that you can do better than the next fellow. I tried to follow this throughout my life, but I always tried to be respectful about it.
  • All I knew about shot putting was that my brother could do 44 feet … I decided I wanted to beat him. … So I got a shot and went to work and made up my mind to do 45 feet.
    • On developing his shot-putting skill, as quoted in "Film Star and Olympian Herman Brix" by Adam Bernstein, in The Washington Post (28 February 2007)


  • I feel very sincerely that age isn't computable by number of years. It is truly only a state of mind. We know many young people of 90 and old people of 20. By my mind, I'm still young!
    • from a 1988 interview

Quotes about Bennett

  • Herman Brix brought a presence to the screen that many people feel personifies the Tarzan of the books … lean and muscular, articulate and dignified. He moved with the superb athletic grace that my grandfather envisioned.
    • Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who had selected Brix for the role, in his preface for Please Don't Call Me Tarzan : The Life Story of Herman Brix/Bruce Bennett (2001) by Mike Chapman

External links

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