Brolin was raised in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, not far from 20th Century Fox, the studio where he began in show business, first aspiring to be a cinematographer or director. But the Fox studio soon put him under contract as an actor, and he made his debut in an episode of the TV series Bus Stop (ABC, 1961), and in a bit in the feature generational comedy Take Her, She's Mine (1963). He continued in many small parts in Fox movie and TV productions (including a recurring role on the 1966-67 ABC TV series The Monroes and as a private eye in the 1965 Frank Sinatra movie Von Ryan's Express) until 1967, when he got his first leading role, opposite Jacqueline Bisset in the movie The Cape Town Affair (a remake of Sam Fuller's 1953 Richard Widmark film Pick-Up on South Street), which was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.
Brolin moved over to Universal Studios in 1968, and was cast almost immediately as Dr. Steven Kiley, the highly-trained, brash and opinionated young physician who dreamed of a high-powered career but ended up sharing a practice with an aging-but-kindly general practitioner (Robert Young) in the 1969 TV movie/pilot for Marcus Welby, M.D.
Brolin won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his work. In that show, Brolin legitimized the motorcycle in America, bike sales shot sky high in 1970, and he became a TV star as the show shot to #1.
He was immediately cast in several TV movies, including Short Walk to Daylight (ABC, 1972) and Trapped (ABC, 1973), the latter being the highest-rated TV-movie of that year, thanks in no small measure to Brolin's popularity.
Brolin continued a feature film career after the end of the series. His successes were in a Universal to MGM loan-out, in Skyjacked and in Michael Crichton's Westworld, and next he starred in Universal's Gable and Lombard as Clark Gable, opposite Jill Clayburgh (1976). Next, Brolin found himself in Universal's The Car (1977), as a rural cop battling an automobile possessed by the devil.
After that, Brolin starred in the highly successful film Capricorn One, about a staged NASA mission to Mars. Then in 1979, he starred in the blockbuster The Amityville Horror, as the head of a terrorized household. The film remained the highest-grossing independent feature film for the following decade. His subsequent big-screen outings were the South American adventure drug-caper film High Risk and Allison Anders' Gas, Food Lodging. Brolin now had over 500 hours of finished film and television in the can to date, approximating ten thousand working days on film sets.
In 1983, Brolin returned to series TV as Peter McDermott, the general manager of the fictional St. Gregory Hotel in San Francisco on Hotel. While the ABC series was anthological in nature, McDermott ended up in many romantic sequences with his assistant, portrayed by Connie Sellecca. The series had a six-year run, reaching #1 in the Nielsen ratings, during which Brolin finally joined the DGA and directed many of its best episodes. After that, he followed with work on two short-lived series, the primetime soap Angel Falls (CBS, 1993), and Extreme (ABC, 1995); then, he scored again as the star of the U.S. Marine fighter pilot action series Pensacola: Wings of Gold from 1997 to 2001. The series also aired in 39 countries around the world.
Brolin was also to appear in quite a few long forms, including the 1991 CBS miniseries And the Sea Will Tell, based on the book by attorney Vincent Bugliosi. Additionally, Brolin directed episodes of the ABC series The Young Riders, which starred his son, Josh Brolin.
The younger Brolin also appeared in his father's feature directorial debut, My Brother's War (1998), about two young boys raised in the Irish Republican Army. The film won Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Film Festival in 1998.
Brolin's career heated up as he played a small but important role in director Steven
Soderbergh's acclaimed ensemble drama Traffic (2000), and appeared as a lothario businessman who gets caught in the middle of Leonardo DiCaprio's family in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002). He also played against type in wacky comedies, appearing as Dana Carvey's super-spy dad in Master of Disguise (2002) and playing Selma Blair's shotgun-toting father in MGM's A Guy Thing (2003).
When not working, Brolin is seen at the local airports in his STOL (short takeoff and landing) Cessna Skywagon and Helio Courier, or in his shop at home restoring old watercraft. For many years, he was a horse breeder and trainer. He has designed and built a few spec homes through the years, and owned a lumber business in San Luis Obispo area. Brolin is an avid fly and ocean sport fisherman.
Read earlier biographies on this page.
James Brolin Facts
|July 18, 1940 (83)
|Los Angeles, California, USA
|6' 4" (1m93) How tall is James Brolin compared to you?
|Catch Me If You Can
|Acts of the Apostles
|Tracks Of A Killer
|Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas