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.

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