Bruce Cabot was born Etienne Pelissier Jacques de Bujac in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to French Army Colonel Etienne de Bujac and Julia Armandine Graves, who died shortly after giving birth to him. Leaving the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee without graduating, Cabot worked at many jobs, including as a sailor, an insurance salesman, oil worker, surveyor, prize fighter, sold cars, handled real estate and also worked a slaughterhouse. A meeting with a film magnate[who?] started his screen career.
Cabot appeared in nearly one hundred feature films. He made his debut in 1931 in Heroes of the Flames. He tested for the lead role of The Ringo Kid in John Ford's western Stagecoach (1939), but John Wayne got the part.
He played a soldier who seduced a naive woman (portrayed by Irene Dunne) and got her pregnant as he left for the war, in the 1933 production Ann Vickers. He then starred in the 1933 blockbuster King Kong, which became an enormous success and established Cabot as a star. Cabot also played villains, appearing as a gangster boss in Let 'Em Have It(1936) and as the Huron warrior Magua opposite Randolph Scott in The Last of the Mohicans (1936). He starred with Spencer Tracy, playing the leader of a lynch mob in Fritz Lang's first Hollywood film, Fury (1936), and with Errol Flynn in Michael Curtiz's epic Western Dodge City, which became one of Warner Bros.'s biggest hits. A consistent box office draw, Cabot appeared in many movies at many studios before leaving Hollywood to serve in World War II.
Cabot was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces and was as an Air Transport Command operations officer in Tunis. It is alleged he was implicated by the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in a gold smuggling ring that shipped Nazi gold to Brazil after the war's end.
Cabot returned to Hollywood after his discharge. He met John Wayne on the set of Angel and the Badman (1947) and they became close friends. Cabot played supporting roles in many of Wayne's movies. They appeared together in ten additional films: The Comancheros (1961), Hatari! (1962), McLintock! (1963), In Harm's Way (1965), The War Wagon(1967), The Green Berets (1968), Hellfighters (1968), The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), and Big Jake (1971).
Cabot's final screen appearance was in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.
Cabot was married three times, to actresses Adrienne Ames and Francesca De Scaffa. His first marriage was to actress Mary Mather Smith. It is possible she was the black actress who starred in such all black cast films as "The Girl from Chicago" but information about their marriage is difficult to find. He was famously good friends with Errol Flynn but they fell out during the production of the unfinished The Story of William Tell. Flynn was producing the film and asked Cabot, whom he described as "an old, old pal," to play in it. When Flynn's financial backers defaulted, production halted, leaving Flynn broke in Rome. Cabot, in an attempt to get paid, had Flynn's and his wife Patrice Wymore's personal cars seized. Flynn wrote angrily in his autobiography of what he termed Cabot's "betrayal."
Bruce Cabot died in 1972 in Woodland Hills, California from lung cancer and was buried in his hometown, Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Inducted into the New Mexico Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2012.