Sunday, October 15, 2023

George Peppard

"If you look at my movie list, you'll see some really good movies and then the start of ones that were not so good.  But I was making enough money to send my children to good schools, have a house for them and give them a center in their lives."

George William Peppard was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 1, 1928.  He was the son of a building contractor and an opera singer, but like so many other families in the late 1920s, they lost everything in the Great Depression.

After high school, Peppard enlisted in the Army.  Though he'd later famously play a Colonel on television, he left the service as a full Corporal.  He returned to the U.S. and completed his bachelor's degree at what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

After a short stint as a radio DJ, Peppard made his way to New York and the Broadway stage. He considered himself a method actor, having trained under professional acting coach Lee Strasberg.  He would apply this acting technique throughout his career, much to the chagrin of producers and co-stars.

In the mid-1950s, Peppard relocated to Hollywood, where he got his first roles on such television series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Kraft Television Theatre.  His rugged good looks quickly got him noticed, and in 1960, he was cast in what many consider to be his signature role, opposite Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Director Blake Edwards was dead set against hiring Peppard for the role, but he was ultimately overruled by studio executives.  Reportedly, Peppard did not get along with any cast members or crew, most famously Hepburn himself.

By the 1970s, Peppard had returned to television, and appeared for two seasons as the title role in the detective series Banacek.  Ten years later, he'd sign on as the lead for a new action series produced by Stephen Cannell called The A-Team.  It ran for five seasons on NBC and introduced Peppard to a new generation of viewers, this blogger included.

In 1992, Peppard, a lifelong smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Doctors removed part of his lung, but the damage had already been done.  He ultimately passed away on May 8, 1994.  He was just 65 years old.

In keeping with his wishes, Peppard's body was returned to Michigan.  He was buried with his parents in Dearborn's Northview Cemetery.  It is a very simple cemetery with winding dirt roads.

Rest in peace.

  • Despite his declining health, Peppard continued acting in Hollywood.  His final project was an episode of Matlock that was intended to serve as a spin-off for a new series.  The P.I. was to star Peppard and Tracy Nelson as a father/daughter detective team.  Although the series never came to be, the episode is included in Matlock reruns.

  • In 1972, Peppard stood trial in Boston, charged with attempted rape of a stripper in his hotel room.  He was ultimately cleared of the charges.

  • In 1979, Peppard appeared as a guest on the daytime game show Password Plus.  Ultimately, NBC opted not to air the episode after Peppard went on an insane rant criticizing their executives and the paperwork required to appear on the show.  Fortunately for us, the episode is available on YouTube.

  • In 1981, Peppard was hired to play the lead role of Blake Carrington on the ABC nighttime soap opera Dynasty.  During the first three weeks of shooting however, he was constantly at odds with producers over the character, believing him to be a J.R. Ewing knockoff.  He was ultimately released from the series and replaced by John Forsythe.

  • In addition to acting, Peppard was also a licensed pilot.

  • Look, I loved The A-Team, but it never made any sense to me that the entirety of the U.S. government couldn't find these guys, yet the average citizen on the street could find them at a moment's notice.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Darren #1: Dick York


"You know, three whales get in trouble and people from all over volunteer to help.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if one old has-been actor with a hose up his nose could help millions?"
  -- Dick York

Richard Allen "Dick" York was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on September 4, 1928.  He grew up in Chicago, where his father worked as a salesman while his mother was a seamstress.  It was here that he began his career in 1943 as star of the radio series That Brewster Boy.

York went on to appear in hundreds of radio shows and instructional films in the Windy City before moving to New York and the Broadway stage.  There, he starred in the acclaimed dramas Tea and Sympathy and Bus Stop.  Hollywood was the logical next step.

During production of the Gary Cooper film They Came to Cordura in 1959, York suffered a debilitating back injury that would mark the beginning of the end of his career.  Despite an addiction to painkillers, he'd continue working in Hollywood however, in such films as Inherit the Wind (1960) and in television, in such series as The Twilight Zone and Route 66.  Then in 1964, he was cast in the role he is most famously known for, Darren Stephens on the Elizabeth Montgomery series, Bewitched

The series ran for eight seasons, but York would only participate in the first five.  His back condition was only getting worse, and producers went out of their way to make him as comfortable as possible on set.  By 1969 however, if was clear to York himself that he was no longer physically able to perform in the role, and he asked to be released from his contract. The producers readily agreed.  Here's his final scene from the series. 

York and his wife then returned to Michigan, opting to care for her dying mother.  Shortly after they moved there however, York was dealt another blow when he was diagnosed with emphysema.  His years of cigarette addiction had finally caught up him.

York's final years saw him confined to a wheelchair and hooked up to an oxygen tank.  He maintained a positive outlook however, and even founded a charity called Acting for Life in 1973.  It raises money for the homeless, both here and abroad.  He later stated "I've been blessed.  I have no complaints.  I've been surrounded by people in radio, on stage, and in motion pictures and television who love me.  The things that have gone wrong have been simply physical things."

York ultimately lost his battle with emphysema on February 20, 1992.  He was 63 years old.

Dick York was laid to rest at Plainfield Cemetery in Rockford, Michigan.

Rest in peace.

  • York authored an autobiography entitled The Seesaw Girl and Me: A Memoir.  You can pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • At the end of the fourth season, York received an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.  He lost to Get Smart star, Don Adams.

  • York claimed he had no qualms with Dick Sargent taking on his iconic role.  Five years earlier, Sargent had turned down the role, opting to star in the short-lived sit-com Broadside instead.

  • After he left the series, York lost all contact with Montgomery, claiming in interviews that she was always too busy to see him.  According to series writer William Froug, York was smitten with Montgomery, who did not reciprocate his feelings, and in fact, could not stand him.