Monday, October 13, 2008

Gil Stratton R.I.P.

Actor Gil Stratton passed Saturday from congestive heart failure. He was 86 years old.

Stratton was born Gil Stratton Jr. in Brooklyn on June 2, 1922. He went to school at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. He received a bachelor's degree at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He had started acting while still in his teens. By age 19 he debuted on Broadway in Best Foot Forward. In 1943 he appeared in the film adaptation of Best Foot Forward and Girl Crazy. His acting career was interrupted by World War II, during which he joined the Army Air Corps.

After World War II ended, Stratton resumed his acting career. He appeared frequently on radio, including on such shows as My Favourite Husband, Broadway is My Beat, Dragnet, and Gunsmoke. He was a regular on Life of Riley, Fibber McGee and Molly, This is Your FBI, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, and My Little Margie.

Stratton also resumed his film career. He appeared in such films as Kilroy Was Here, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, Here Come the Marines, Monkey Business, and Stalag 17 (in which played "Cookie" Cook and provided the narration). He also appeared on television, making his debut in a skit on Your Show of Shows. He would go onto appear in Dragnet, Shower of Stars, Damon Runyon Theatre, and The Red Skelton Show. He was a regular on the series That's My Boy. As the Fifties progressed he appeared in such films as The Wild One, The Girl Rush, and Bundle of Joy.

During the Sixties Stratton put his acting career on hold. He had joined KNXT, Channel 2, in Los Angeles in the mid-Fifties. He would work on television and radio as an announcer and sportscaster well into the Nineties. Despite being a television personality in Los Angeles, he was one of the many Brooklynites who opposed the move of the Dodgers to Los Angeles. He told his viewers that if the Dodgers did move, he would jump off the Santa Monica pier. When the Dodgers did move, Stratton remained true to his word and jumped off the pier.

Stratton would resume his acting career in the late Seventies, appearing on the TV shows Police Story, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, Wonder Woman, and Remington Steele. He also appeared in movies, including The Cat from Outer Space, Inside Moves (playing himself as a sportscaster), and Dismembered.

For Los Angelenos Gil Stratton may be best remembered as a long time sportscaster. For the rest of the United States, however, he is probably better remembered as an actor. While Stratton rarely played major roles, he always gave his best in any part in which he was cast. Indeed, Cookie is one of the characters I remember best from Stalag 17. He was also blessed with an impressive voice, trained not by his years in sportscasting, but more likely from the many years he spent on radio shows. Indeed, he not only played Cookie in Stalag 17, he narrated the movie! Gil Stratton was a talented man with a great voice. He will certainly be missed.

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