Thursday, 24 March 2016

Godspeed Peter Brown

Peter Brown, who played deputy Johnny McKay on Lawman and Texas Ranger Chad Cooper on Laredo, died on March 21 2016 at the age of 80. The cause was complications from Parkinson's disease.

Peter Brown was born Pierre Lind de Lappe in New York City on October 5 1935.  His mother, Mina Reaume, was a stage actress who was the voice of the Dragon Lady on the radio show Terry & the Pirates. Peter Brown Anglicised his first name to "Peter" and took the surname of his stepfather Albert Brown.

Peter Brown served in the United States Army with the 2nd Infantry Division. Afterwards he studied drama at the University of California, Los Angeles. He appeared in plays in the Los Angeles area and even on NBC's afternoon anthology series NBC Matinee Theatre. He supported himself by pumping gas at a filling station on the Sunset Strip. It was there that studio head Jack Warner met him and offered him a screen test with the studio. Peter Brown then signed with Warner Bros.

Peter Brown made his prime time, television debut on an episode of West Point. He made his film debut that same year in an uncredited part in the film The Story of Esther Costello. The next few years he made guest appearances on the shows Colt .45 and Maverick. He appeared in such films as Darby's Rangers (1958), Too Much, Too Soon (1958), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), and Violent Road (1958). It was in 1958 that he first appeared as Deputy Johnny McKay on the TV Western Lawman. Lawman proved to be a hit and ran four seasons. Ultimately it was cancelled only because ABC wanted to make room on the schedule for a Sunday night movie anthology. He made guest appearances as Johnny McKay on two other Warner Bros. Westerns, Maverick and Sugarfoot.

In the Sixties Johnny McKay starred as Texas Ranger Chad Cooper on Laredo. The show ran for two seasons on NBC. He guest starred on the TV shows Hawaiian Eye, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Redigo, Wagon Train, The Virginian, and The Mod Squad. He starred in the 1962 propaganda short subject "Red Nightmare" and had a major role in the 1963 film Summer Magic. He appeared in the films Merrill's Marauders (1962), A Tiger Walks (1964), Ride the Wild Surf (1964), Kitten with a Whip (1964), and Attack at Dawn (1970).

For much of the Seventies Peter Brown had a recurring role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. He guest starred on such shows as My Three Sons, Dan August, Mission: Impossible, Medical Centre, The Bob Newhart Show, The Magician, Police Story, Marcus Welby M.D., Police Woman, Quincy M.E., Wonder Woman, Charlie's Angels, and The Dukes of Hazzard. He appeared in the films Chrome and Hot Leather (1971), Piranha (1972), Foxy Brown (1974), Memory of Us (1974), Act of Vengeance (1974), and Sunburst (1975).

In the Eighties Peter Brown guest starred on such shows as Fantasy Island, Dallas, Magnum P.I., Hart to Hart, T.J. Hooker, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Simon & Simon, Airwolf, The A-Team, and Baywatch. Late in the decade he had a recurring role on the soap opera The Young & the Restless. He appeared in the films The Concrete Jungle (1982), The Aurora Encounter (1986), The Messenger (1986), and Demonstone (1990).

In the early Nineties Peter Brown had a recurring role on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. He guest starred on such shows as Wings, Babylon 5, and JAG. He appeared in the films Fists of Iron (1995), Asylum (1997), and Wasteland Justice (1999). In the Naughts he appeared in the films The Wedding Planner (2001), Big Chuck, Little Chuck (2004), Y.M.I. (2004), Land of the Free? (2004), Three Bad Men (2005), and Hell to Pay (2005).

I rather suspect that when most people think of Peter Brown it is of the stalwart Deputy Johnny McKay on Lawman or the upright Texas Ranger Chad Cooper on Laredo. Others might think of him as Tom Hamilton in the film Summer Magic or one of his roles on various soap operas. That having been said, Peter Brown did have some versatility. In Foxy Brown he played a thoroughly unsavoury mobster. He also played a thoroughly detestable character in the exploitation film Act of Vengeance. While Peter Brown was arguably at his best playing the heroic types for which he was best known, he could easily play villains as well.

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