Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Tribute to Noah Beery, Jr. on His 100th Birthday

Today most people probably know Noah Beery, Jr. as Jim Rockford's dad, Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, on The Rockford Files. But Noah Beery, Jr. had a long career well before appearing on The Rockford Files, playing character roles in several films from the Thirties onwards. It was 100 years ago today, on 10 August 1913, that Noah Beery, Jr. was born.

Looking back there should be little wonder that Noah Beery, Jr. would become an actor. His father was character actor Noah Beery, Sr., who appeared in such films as The Mark of Zorro (1920) and She Done Him Wrong (1933).  His uncle was Wallace Beery, who played  the title role in The Champ (1931)  and Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1934). Noah Beery, Jr. made his film debut while very young, appearing in The Mark of Zorro (1920) when he was only seven.

Noah Beery, Jr.'s first major role was in Heroes of the West (1932), in which he played the lead, something that would be rare for most of his career. This photo is from the early Thirties. Despite being identified with friendly, grizzled types for most of his career, I don't think Mr. Beery was bad looking when he was all cleaned up!

Here in Noah Beery, Jr. in the opening credits for the serial Tailspin Tommy from 1934, based on Hal Forrest's comic strip of the same name. Mr. Beery played Tommy's sidekick "Skeeter" Milligan.

Here Noah Beery, Jr. is sitting beside Anne Baxter, with Oscar O'Shea as a train conductor standing beside them. This is a still from 20 Mule Team (1940), a Western in which Mr. Beery's uncle Wallace Beery also appeared!

Here is David Bruce as Larry O' Ryan and Noah Beery, Jr. as Cpl. Kurt Richter from "Gung Ho!": The Story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders in 1943.

Although Noah Beery, Jr. may be best known for Westerns, he also did other genres as well. Here he is in a scene from the science fiction film Rocketship X-M (1950).

By the Fifties Noah Beery, Jr. was appearing on television. He guest starred on such shows as Schlitz Playhouse, Climax!, Studio One, and Rawhide. He was also a regular on the shows Riverboat and Circus Boy. On the latter he played Joey the Clown. The young star of Circus Boy was Micky Braddock, son of actor George Dolenz, who would go onto greater fame as Micky Dolenz of The Monkees.

Noah Beery, Jr. continued to do a good deal of television in the late Fifties and well into the Sixties. He was a regular on the Western Hondo and guest starred on such shows as Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and High Chaparral. He also continued to appear in films, including Inherit the Wind (1960), Journey to Shiloh (1968), and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), from which this screen shot is taken. 

In the Seventies Noah Beery, Jr. played Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, father of detective Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) on The Rockford Files. While it may now be the role for which he is best known, Mr. Beery guest starred on several other TV shows, including Alias Smith & Jones, The Waltons, The Streets of San Francisco, and Ellery Queen. He also appeared in the films 43: The Richard Petty Story (1972), Walking Tall (1973), and The Spikes Gang (1974). 

Noah Beery, Jr. turned 68 in 1981, but he continued to act into the Eighties. He was a regular on the TV show The Quest and the night time soap opera The Yellow Rose. He also guest starred on such shows as Magnum P.I., Hot Pursuit, Cover Up, Trapper John M.D., and Murder She Wrote. He also appeared in the films The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and Waltz Across Texas (1982). Mr. Beery retired from acting in the late Eighties. He died of a cerebral thrombosis on 1 November 1994.

There can be no doubt that Noah Beery, Jr. was a singular actor. He was handsome in a boyish sort of way, even well into his later years, yet at the same time he seemed more ordinary person than matinee idol. This was also true of his acting style. He generally played friendly, unassuming, and often humorous characters and did so with a no real theatrics or grandstanding. This made his characters not only made his characters seem like everyday people, but also the sort one would not mind inviting to dinner or having a drink with. In the end Noah Beery, Jr. was in many respects the everyman of classic film and classic television. While he generally played the sidekick rather than the hero, it was this quality that made him as memorable as any of the leads whom he played opposite. 

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