Brand dropped out of high school to join the army, going on to be the fourth most decorated soldier of World War Two. After his discharge in 1946 he studied drama in New York, then made his film debut in D.O.A. (1949). A thickset, burly man with cruel but intelligent features and an aggressive air, he tended to be cast as heavies, criminals, gangsters, and Indians, with the occasional good-guy role. He played mob boss Al Capone twice, in The George Raft Story (1961) and The Scarface Mob (1962).