Gravel-voiced, authoritative American character actor, a reliable presence on screen for more than four decades.
Edward Thomas Binns was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Esther (Bracken) and Edward Thoms Binns. His family were Quakers. He was a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and first learned his trade as an apprentice at the Cleveland Playhouse. Binns was among the first to join the newly established Actors Studio in 1947, which effectively paved the way for future opportunities. He made his first stage appearance that same year, appearing as a non-commissioned officer in the cast of the hit play “Command Decision”. Another acclaimed performance saw him as a tough NYPD cop in “Detective Story” (1949), a part played in the film version by Frank Faylen two years later. It was no coincidence, that Binns would come to specialize in no-nonsense, hard-nosed detectives or guys in uniform, once his screen career took off in the mid-1950’s. At the peak of his popularity, he starred in his own police series, Brenner (1959), which had a five-year run on CBS.
Before Binns became a much sought-after general purpose actor, utilized in literally hundreds of early live television shows, his career suffered a serious setback: he was blacklisted during the McCarthy witch hunts as a suspected communist sympathizer. This turned out to be a case of mistaken identity (a Brooklyn alderwoman with the same surname — not related — had been a member of the Communist Party), but the blacklisting was not expunged for another two years. Another (lesser) source of disgruntlement for Binns was, that he found himself often mistaken for the actor Frank Lovejoy (though, arguably, he more closely resembled Charles Aidman!).
In feature films, Binns was at his convincing best as the juror most likely to be swayed in 12 Angry Men (1957); as bomber pilot Colonel Grady in Fail-Safe (1964); and as General Walter Bedell Smith in Patton (1970). He had numerous excellent TV credits to his name, including a recurring role as Al Mundy’s boss on It Takes a Thief (1968) and as General Korshak, attempting to poach Hawkeye as his personal physician in M*A*S*H (1972). He was otherwise gainfully employed as a narrator, voicing commercials for Amtrak and United Way and, latterly, as a drama teacher. Ed Binns died of a heart attack, while being driven in his car on the way from Manhattan to his Connecticut home, on December 4 1990.