Partner Kenneth Du Main
808 Willow Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093
Forest Lawn Memorial Park Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
David Shedd Bradley (April 6, 1920 - December 19, 1997) was a director, film teacher and historian. Always a fan of classic movies, Bradley and Kenneth Du Main, his partner of more than 40 years, would frequently host elaborate parties dedicated to old silent movies. They would frequently invite one of the actors in the movie to watch the movie during the party.
A native of Evanston, Illinois, David Shedd Bradley was the son of a wealthy Chicago family that gave the city its Shedd Aquarium (his mother was Katherine Darling Shedd Bailey (1890–1987)) and was a major supporter of the Chicago Symphony. David Shedd Bradley was a grandson of Charles Banks Shedd, a prominent Chicago real estate investor, banker, and financier, and civic leader who also served as an executive officer of the Knickerbocker Ice Company of Chicago, which had been founded principally by Edward Avery Shedd, younger brother of Charles Banks Shedd. He attended the Todd School for Boys (from which Orson Welles had graduated in 1931) from 1935 to 1937, and Lake Forest Academy during 1937–1940. He then spent a year at the Goodman Memorial Theatre Drama Department of the Art Institute of Chicago.
As a student at Northwestern in the 1940s, long before independent films came into fashion, he directed two 16mm features starring a fellow undergraduate, Charlton Heston. In his autobiography, Heston recalled Bradley's visiting him backstage while Heston was performing in a school play at New Trier High School. Bradley, he said, insisted that Heston take the title role in "Peer Gynt". His vision of the piece Peer Gynt ... was remarkable, Heston wrote.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Bradley served in the Army Signal Corps motion picture section during World War II and worked as a photographer during the European campaign, eventually filming the arrival of the Allies in Paris.
Bradley was a member of the Director's Guild of America and was once under contract at MGM. He directed films such as "Talk About a Stranger," which featured Nancy Davis, later Nancy Reagan, the former first lady. His film directorial credits also included Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," featuring a young Charlton Heston, and "Julius Caesar" (where Bradley played Caesar and assigned Heston the Marc Antony role). "They were shot on location around Chicago, wherever they could find a building that looked Greco-Roman," recalled Ken Du Main. Locations included the steps of the downtown post office, and the portico of the Elks' National Headquarters. The films helped open Hollywood doors for Heston, and also for Bradley, who was signed up for a training program at MGM and directed "Talk About a Stranger" (1952), with George Murphy and Nancy Davis (Reagan). "On the lot, he was whispered about as a demigod of the avant garde," Du Main remembered. "The idea of just going out and making your own films was new. And he was a friend of Orson Welles - that impressed them." Bradley made a few other films but fought with the studio over the re-edit of "12 to the Moon" and moved on to his real vocation, which was to hold strong opinions and express them at every opportunity.
Bradley was fascinated by movies since his boyhood, when he began a collection of films that eventually numbered several hundred titles, including a number of classic silent films. Some of the titles he collected, such as 1926's "London After Midnight," starring Lon Chaney, were extremely rare and and were much sought after by other historians and film buffs. At a time when silent films were being forgotten and the studios were ignoring their archives, he began collecting prints of films. He had thousands, many the only surviving copies, and originally planned to leave them to Northwestern, but feuded with its film school. He was then teaching at UCLA, and decided to leave them there, but had another feud, switched to Santa Monica City College, and willed the films, Du Main said, to "Indiana University." Visitors to the home he shared with Du Main in the Hollywood Hills would be treated to private screenings of rare treasures. A visit to Bradley's home was invariably an occasion for him to take center stage in his living room and lecture his guests.
His lifelong passion was the Chicago Symphony. "He loved Fritz Reiner and liked Georg Sotti," recalled his friend Gregory Nava, the movie director. "But he hated Jean Martinon. He would play different versions of the same piece of music and shout out a note-by-note criticism, and then put on Reiner, and everything was glorious." He was playing a record by the despised Martinon when he kicked a footstool into the record player, prompting Du Main to caution, "Careful, David - you'll need that record for future outbursts." On New Year's Day, Bradley and Du Main would invite silent stars and directors to a party also attended by younger film folks eager to meet them. The guest lists over the years included von Sternberg, Fritz Lang, Claire Windsor, Madge Bellamy, Mae Murray, Allen Dwan and Mary Miles Minter. Bradley filmed every one of his New Year's Day parties, including one at which Mary Philbin, star of the 1925 "Phantom of the Opera," re-enacted the unmasking of the phantom (played by Lon Chaney in the original and by Bradley, of course, in the re-enactment). Every party's climax was the screening of a surprise treasure from Bradley's archive, starring one of his guests. The stars typically hadn't seen their films in 50 years, and would be moved to tears. Bradley would kiss their feet in the closing shot of each home movie. "He made those people feel wonderful when the world was ignoring them," remembers writer-producer Anna Thomas, Nava's wife "He made a fuss over them. A lot of people didn't see it, because he was so cranky, but David had such a great big heart."
Bradley was a popular instructor at a number of colleges and universities, including UCLA. "His passion was the movies," recalled his nephew, Dan Bradley. "He enjoyed passing on his knowledge of the industry to the college-age students. His classes were always oversubscribed; they couldn't get enough of what he was offering." In class, Bradley was known for being theatrical and involving his students in his lectures, according to a director and former student at Santa Monica College, Whitney Scott Bain. "The guy just loved movies. His heart and soul was film," Bain said.
Bradley died on December 19, 1997, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE