He was born on New York City, to Gertrude and Charles Kelm. His mother was a German immigrant, and his father was Jewish. Following his parents' divorce, he grew up in California with his mother, older brother Walter, and maternal grandparents, Ida and John Henry Gelien. His life-long passion for horseback riding led to a job with a riding academy.
His fetching handsomeness and trim, athletic physique eventually steered the Californian toward the idea of acting. An introduction to famed agent Henry Willson had him signing on the dotted line and what from that emerged a major movie career.
He died 3 days before his 87th birthday.