Biography

American actor James Burke not only had the Irish face and brogueish voice of a New York detective, but even his name conjured up images of a big-city flatfoot. In Columbia's Ellery Queen series of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Burke was cast exquisitely to type as the thick-eared Sergeant Velie, who referred to the erudite Queen as "Maestro." Burke also showed up as a rural law enforcement officer in such films as Nightmare Alley (1947), in which he has a fine scene as a flint-hearted sheriff moved to tears by the persuasive patter of carnival barker Tyrone Power. One of the best of James Burke's non-cop performances was as westerner Charlie Ruggles' rambunctious, handlebar-mustached "pardner" in Ruggles of Red Gap (135), wherein Burke and Ruggles engage in an impromptu game of piggyback on the streets of Paris. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi