BRAD DAVIS (d: 1991) was an American actor, best known for his role in the 1978 film Midnight Express. Davis was born Robert Creel Davis in Tallahassee, Florida to Eugene Davis, a dentist whose career declined due to alcoholism, and his wife, the former Anne Creel. His brother Gene is also an actor. According to an article in The New York Times published in 1987, Davis’ mother sexually abused him as a child. As an adult, he was an alcoholic and an intravenous drug user before becoming sober in 1981. Davis was known as “Bobby” during his youth, but took Brad as his stage name in 1973.
At 17, after winning a music talent contest, Davis worked at Theatre Atlanta. He later moved to New York City and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, as well as studied acting at the American Place Theater. After a role on the soap opera How to Survive a Marriage, he performed in off-Broadway plays. In 1976 he was cast as Sally Field’s love interest in the television film Sybil. He played the lead role in Larry Kramer’s play about AIDS, The Normal Heart (1985). His most successful film role was as the main character in Midnight Express (1978), for which he won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year – Actor. He also had a small role in Roots. The steamy shower scene in “Midnight Express” and Davis’ portrayal of the sexy gay sailor in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film adaptation of Jean Genet’s Querelle (1983) made him a gay film icon.
Diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, Davis kept his condition secret until shortly before his death. Although it was announced he died of AIDS in 1991 in Los Angeles, he actually died of an intentional drug overdose. Near death and in severe pain in a hospital, he opted to return home and end his life on his own terms.