Thursday, April 13, 2023

Keeping up with James Brolin


James Brolin is best known for his television roles as Dr. Steven Kiley on Marcus Welby, M.D. from 1969 to 1976, Peter McDermott on Hotel from 1983 to 1988 and John Short on Life in Pieces from 2015 to 2019.  He's also the father of actor Josh Brolin, and oh yes, he's the husband of the legendary Barbra Streisand.

James Brolin was born Craig Kenneth Bruderlin in Westwood Village, Los Angeles, California on July 18, 1940.  He is the eldest of the four children (two brothers and two sisters) of Helen Sue (née Mansur) (1915-2014), a housewife, and Henry Hurst Bruderlin (1911-2002), a building contractor.  As a teenage moviegoer, he idolized actor James Dean, and he shot 8 mm film.

Jim attended Santa Monica City College and he studied drama at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  In 1960, he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1960 and began appearing as a contract player in Sandra Dee movies.  

In 1961, Jim had a role in an episode of the TV series Bus Stop, a one-hour drama about the bus travellers who pass through a small town eatery.  That role led to several guest roles on television: Margie (1962), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1965), Twelve O'Clock High (1965), The Patty Duke Show (1965) and The Virginian (1969).  Jim also appeared in three episodes of the Adam West Batman series - two episodes in 1966 and one in 1967 - "The Cat and the Fiddle" (Season 2, Episode 4), "The Catwoman Goeth," Season 2, Episode 34 and "Ring Around the Riddler" (Season 3, Episode 2).

Then came the TV role for which James Brolin is best known.  For seven seasons (1969 to1976), Jim portrayed Dr. Steven Kiley, the much younger assistant of Dr. Welby (Robert Young) in all 170 episodes of the popular TV medical drama Marcus Welby, M.D.  The generation gap between the two doctors was largely evident., right from the opening credits of the show.  Dr. Welby, a widower, drove his sedan into work, while Dr. Kiley rode into work on his motorcycle, a Triumph Bonnewille.  Kiley was a bachelor until the show's final season, when he married publicity relations director Janet Blake, played by Pamela Hensley.

James Brolin and Robert Young

Brolin as Dr. Kiley on his motorcycle

Yet, despite the generation gap between Dr. Welby and Dr. Kiley, there was a reversal of the usual roles.  The older Welby treated his patients in a more unorthodox manner, while Kiley used more straight-laced methods.  Welby and Kiley were supported by their loyal nurse and friend, Consuelo Lopez (Elena Verdugo).  

James Brolin in 1974

In the mid-1970's medical dramas became less popular.  Ratings for ABC's Marcus Welby, M.D. and CBS;s Medical Center started to drop.  Both shows were cancelled and went off the air in 1976.  By the mid-1970s, however, James Brolin had established himself as a leading man in feature films such as Gable and Lombard (1976), The Car (1977), Capricorn One (1978,  in which his co-star was Elliott Gould, Barbra Streisand's ex-husband)), The Amityville Horror (1979), Night of the Juggler (1980) and High Risk (1981).

In 1982, James Brolin came very close to becoming the first American ever to portray James Bond.  Roger Moore had stated that he was not going to do any more Bond movies, so other actors were being considered for the role.  Following his performances in Westworld (1973) and The Amityville Horror, (1979), Jim was cast as 007 in Octopussy, the 13th installment of the Bond film series, which as set to be released in 1983.  He actually flew to the U.K., talked about dealing with his non-British accent, and worked out with the stuntmen.  However, about a week after his return home, he received a message that Roger Moore had decided to star in Octopussy after all.  Of his missed opportunity to play Bond, Jim would later remark, "I'm a fatalist, in a way.  I just went, "Okay, all right!  But I look back and I think it could have been a great gig."

Jim returned to television in 1983 on Aaron Spilling's primetime soap opera, HotelHotel was based on the 1965 Arthur Hailey novel of the same name, and Jim played hotel manager Peter McDermott.  The series aired for five seasons, until 1988, on the ABC network.  It had the good fortune to have the timeslot following Dynasty.

Hotel chronicled the comings and goings of guests at the elegant, fictitious St Gregory Hotel in San Francisco.  It featured actors such as Anne Baxter, Connie Sellecca and Shari Belafonte, daughter of Harry, who created the music for the show. (Hollywood legend Bette Davis appeared in the pilot for the series, but opted not to continue).

Below is a photo of the cast of Hotel with James Brolin and Connie Sellecca in front.

James Brolin portrayed the Governor of Florida, Robert Ritchie, in two 2002 episodes of The West Wing.  Ritchie, a Republican, was the political opponent of President Jeb Bartlet (Martin Sheen).  

James Brolin on The West Wing

Brolin also played Ronald Reagan in The Reagans, a 2003 TV film that covered the lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan from 1948 until Reagan's last day as the American president, with Judy Davis as the former First Lady.  In 2004, Jim was nominated for a primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his performance in The Reagans.

Below is a photo of James Brolin as Ronald Reagan in The Reagans.

From 2015 to 2019, Jim starred as John Short in all 79 episodes of Life in Pieces, along with Dianne Wiest, Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt and Thomas Sadoski.  Life in Pieces was a family comedy, with separate stories told from the point of view of various family members.  

In recent years, Jim has narrated a Netflix adaptation of a comic book series called Sweet Tooth, co-produced by Robert Downey, Jr.  He has directed some Hallmark movies and some television episodes.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to his career momentum.  "It's too bad we had to rip up and throw away 2020," he told in 2021, "because I was on a roll, and people were excited to work with this 80-year old fart.  I'm just hoping we can step it back up."

James Brolin has been married three times and hi has three children.  In 1966, he wed aspiring actress and  Texas-born wildlife activist Jane Cameron Agee.  Jim and Jane met while she was working in the 20th Century Fox casting department..  They had two sons, Josh (born February 12, 1968) and Jess Brolin (born February 7, 1972), before divorcing in 1984.  

In 1986, Jim married actress Jan Smithers, who played Bailey Quarters on the CBS comedy WKRP in Cincinnati (1978 to 1982). They had a daughter, Molly Elizabeth (born 1987).  In 1985, Jan filed for divorce from Brolin.

Jim first met singer/actress Barbra Streisand at a blind date dinner party in 1996.  Streisand was 54 at the time, and Brolin was 56.  They were married on July 1, 1998 in a much-anticipated backyard wedding at Barbra's home in Malibu, California.  Their families blended and Jim became stepfather to Jason Gould, Barbra's only child (from her first marriage to actor Elliott Gould).  Barbra is stepmother to Jim's three children.  

Brolin and Streisand

In a 2021 interview with, Jim was asked what he learned from his two failed marriages that made him get it right the third time?  He replied, "Oh, how to run like hell.  My parents didn't teach me anything; my sweet mother thought everything was always so perfect, so I was not a good attitude negotiator.  The best part of being married later in life is you get great wisdom - you don't have your learner's permit anymore."

During the height of the COVID pandemic, Jim was able to spend some quality time with Barbra at their sprawling estate in Malibu, California.  The two passed the time exercising and swimming in their backyard pool.  Then they sat around reading.

In 2021, Jim appeared on The Talk and he discussed the couple's 23rd wedding anniversary  He said that the pandemic had brought them closer together.  "We've literally fallen in love over this period of time, just being stuck together very day and making it work," he stated.  "Neither one of us [have] ever gone out the door and we are good at talking things out and 23 years in better than ever."


* On August 27, 1998, James Brolin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

* James Brolin answers to the name "Jim."  In his 2021 interview with, he stated that "I've always been 'James Brolin' because when you're starring in a movie, it looks good in print.  But it's been 'Jim' since I was in junior high school.  If I'm walking away and somebody say 'James,' I rarely turn around."

* Jim's first wife, Jane Agee Brolin died in a car accident on  February 13, 1995, one day after their son Josh's 27th birthday.  Of Jane's death, Jim remarked, "I think it she was avoiding a deer.  I was surprised, and oh, I was affected.  I was really ripped up."

* James Brolin is a lifelong Democrat.  He supported John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.  In 2008, he campaigned for candidate Hillary Clinton.

* In 1970, Jim won a primetime Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Dr. Steven Kiley on Marcus Welby, M.D.  

* Brolin was a pro race car driver and he has a pilot's licence.  He is also an equestrian, dog trainer and home designer.

SOURCES: Parade (, "James Brolin Opens up on Life With Barbra Streisand, Advice from Clint Eastwood and Almost Becoming James Bond," by Mara Reinstein, February 5, 2021; UCR (ultimateclassicrock,com), "When Roger Moor Robbed James Brolin of the Chance to Be Bond," by Martin Kielty, June 7, 2002; ET, "James Brolin Says He And Barbra Streisand Have 'Fallen in Love,' All Over Again During COVID Quarantine," by Brent Furdyk, June 12, 2021; Wikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDB)

- Joanne

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