Bernard Philip Ofner was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Harry Nathan Ofner, a commercial salesman for the leather industry, and Leona Frank Ofner, a naturalized citizen of German origin, who went by the nickname Lonnie. Phillips grew up and was educated in St. Louis, then moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating from college in 1935.
Interested in acting, he was able to get a small part in an independently-produced Grade B western called Black Aces in 1937, but his show business career then languished. Phillips enlisted in the US Army in July 1941 under his real name, serving in the signal corps during World War II.
Following the war, Phillips procured small parts in several films during 1949-1952, before getting a regular role on the NBC television version of Dragnet, as Sgt. Ed Jacobs. He also voiced the recurring role of Hamilton J. Finger, a police sergeant in Frank Sinatra's radio program, Rocky Fortune, in 1953 and 1954. Thereafter he was a prolific character actor in both films and television series throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1959-1960 television season, Phillips portrayed police Lieutenant Geller in the syndicated crime drama, Johnny Midnight, starring Edmond O'Brien as a New York City actor-turned-private detective. The following season, Phillips appeared as another police lieutenant, named "Avery", in seven episodes of the syndicated crime drama The Brothers Brannagan, starring Stephen Dunne and Mark Roberts.
Phillips remained active in television during the 1970s just prior to his death in 1982.