Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Boss Hogg

Sorrell Booke was born on January 4, 1930 in Buffalo, New York - a far cry from fictitious Hazzard County. He was extraordinarily bright and exceled in school, graduating Bennett High School as class valedictorian in 1948.  He'd later earn degrees from both Columbia and Yale Universities.  Really!

He was talented as well.  Booke was known around Buffalo for his impersonations, which landed him his first acting jobs on local radio. 

After college, Booke joined the Army and served as a counterintelligence officer during the Korean War.  His fluency in five foreign languages, including Japanese and Russian, undoubtedly served him well.

Following the war, Booke began acting professionally on the New York stage.  His most prominent role was that of Billboard T. Rawkins, a Boss Hogg-esque character in a revival of Finian's Rainbow.  

Booke with former Six Feet Under Hollywood
profilee Carroll O'Connor.
Armed with a theatre degree from Yale and more than ten years experience on the stage, Booke made his way to Hollywood, where he found roles easy to come by.  One of the earliest was in the 1963 musical Purlie Victorious, the story of a traveling preacher during the era of Jim Crow.  The film was written by and starred Ossie Davis and included other up-and-coming actors such as Alan Alda, Helen Martin and Ruby Dee.  You can watch the film in its entirety here.

Booke also began appearing on television in the 1960s, including an episode of Dr. Kildare, for which he earned an Emmy nomination.  He'd appear in other series as well, including Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-0, before landing a recurring role on All in the Family as Archie Bunker's boss, Mr. Sanders.

All of this was leading up to the role for which he is most famously associated, that of Boss Jefferson Davis Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard.  The series was an overnight success for CBS and it propelled Booke into the national spotlight.  For seven seasons, he served as the corrupt county commissioner and main antagonist for the title characters Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat).  Booke was one of only two cast members to appear in all 147 episodes, the other being Denver Pyle, aka Uncle Jesse.

The series spawned a spin-off titled Enos, on which Booke made an appearance, as well as a Saturday morning cartoon series, simply titled The Dukes.  You can watch the series intro here.

When the series folded in 1985, Booke resumed his voice acting career, on such series as The Smurfs, Captain Planet and the made-for-TV movie Scooby Doo Meets the Boo Brothers. Watch a clip here, wherein Booke plays Sheriff Rufus Buzby. Fair warning - this clip includes Scrappy.

Booke had a history of cancer.  Eagle-eyed fans may notice that during the show's first season, Boss Hogg had a distinctive mole on his chin that disappeared by Season 2.  He'd battle it throughout the show's run and long after, before finally succumbing on February 11, 1994.  He was 60 years old. 

Sorrell Booke was laid to rest at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.

Location: Court of Dedication, Block #2, Plot #72, Space #4B
Inscription: Beloved Pa, Grandpa, Brother and Boss

Rest in peace, little fat buddy.

  • Three years after Booke passed away, CBS reunited the surviving Dukes cast members for a reunion movie of the week.  The film was dedicated to Booke, but unfortunately, they misspelled his name.

  • As noted above, Booke served as a counterintelligence officer with the Army during the Korean War.  Twenty years later, he'd play a U.S. Army general in two early episodes of M*A*S*H.

  • Several cast members were given the opportunity to direct Dukes episodes, and Booke was no exception.  He directed four in all, including one of the derided Coy and Vance episodes, as well as the "Spock's Brain" of the series, "Strange Visitor to Hazzard."  Never seen it?  Watch a clip here.

  • What do you get when you combine Sorrell Booke, Scott Baio and the Krofft puppets?  The CBS Saturday Morning Preview, one of the most bizarre TV specials you'll ever run across.  Watch it in its entirety here.

  • Good answer!  Watch Booke and his Dukes co-stars take on The Waltons in a celebrity edition of Family Feud here.

  • Fellow blogger and Dukes expert Billie Rae Bates released her book Them Dukes! Them Dukes!: A Guide to TV's The Dukes of Hazzard in 2014.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. So much I want to watch on YouTube, so little time ... Now I have to add that "Purlie" movie to the list!