Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cowboy Actor John Hart and Writer Norman Katkov Pass On

John Hart

John Hart, the actor best known for taking over the role of The Lone Ranger from Clayton Moore for a short time, passed on September 20 at the age of 91. He also played Jack Armstrong in the serial Jack Armstrong All-American Boy and Hawkeye in the Fifties TV series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans.

John Hart was born December 13, 1917 in Los Angeles, California, but grew up in San Marino, California. His mother was a drama critic for The Pasadena Star-News. As a young man he worked as a cowboy in the summers.

Before appearing in films, John Hart acted in a number of productions at the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his film debut in an uncredited role as a sailor in Daughter of Shanghai in 1937. After appearing in an uncredited part in The Buccaneer in 1938, Hart was signed to Paramount. Even so, most of Hart's roles prior to World War II tended to be small and often uncredited. He appeared in such films as King of AlcatrazMillion Dollar Legs, and North West Mounted Police. His acting career was interrupted by World War II. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1941. He would not return to acting until 1947.

John Hart's first role after the war was as Big Jim in the musical Vacation Days. He played Jack Armstrong in the Columbia serial Jack Armstrong All-American Boy that same year. John Hart would find steady employment in both serials and Westerns. He appeared as Dent in the serial Brick Bradford, as a henchman in the serial The Adventures of Batman and Robin, and a henchman in Atom Man vs. Superman. He appeared in such B Westerns as Cowboy and the Prizefighter, Colorado Ambush, Stagecoach Driver, Warpath, and Texas City. He also appeared in such varied films as Pirates of the High Seas, Aladdin and His Lamp, and Thief of Damascus.

John Hart would eventually move into television. He guest starred on The Lone Ranger in 1950, two years before he would play the Masked Man himself. He also appeared on Sky King and Gangbusters. It was in 1952 that he would replace Clayton Moore, who had asked for a pay raise, as The Lone Ranger. The show's producers had reasoned that it was the character, not the actor, who drew viewers to the show. The producers would be proven wrong, however, as the public never quite warmed to Hart as The Lone Ranger. By 1954 Clayton Moore was back in the part.

John Hart would go onto appear in the serial The Adventures of Captain Africa in 1955, and make guest appearances on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and Highway Patrol. In 1957 he played the role in the syndicated series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans. From the Fifties into the Eighties, John Hart would regularly appear in television shows and in movies. During the 1961-1962 season he was a regular on the television Western Rawhide. He guest starred on such shows as The Jack Benny Programme, Ben Casey, The Lieutenant, The Addams Family, Perry Mason, Barbary Coast, and Happy Days, In the 1980-1981 season he was a semi-regular on Dallas. John Hart appeared in movies such as The Shaggy Dog, Marnie, Viva Las Vegas, The Phynx (as The Lone Ranger), and Blackenstein.

John Hart is best known as the other actor besides Clayton Moore to play The Lone Ranger in the Fifties TV series. That having been said, he deserves to be remembered for more. In fact, John Hart did particularly well in heroic roles. If he mostly played in Westerns and action movies it was with good reason. Not only did he look the part , but he was capable of acting convincingly in such parts as well. There can be no doubt that the fact that he had actually worked as a cowboy. Although the role was undoubtedly Clayton Moore's, Hart made a good Lone Ranger and did well in similar roles as well.

Norman Katkov

Writer of screen and television Norman Katkov died on September 13 at the age of 91.

Norman Katkov was born in the Ukraine on July 26, 1918. He was still a child when his family moved to the United States, settling in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940 with a degree in journalism. Afterwards he worked as a police reporter for The St. Paul Pioneer Press. During World War II he served in the United States Army. Following the war he worked for The New York World Telegram. It was also after the war that he started writing short stories for such magazines as Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post.

His first writing for the big screen was uncredited work on the film noir Macao in 1952. His first work on television would be a 1956 episode of General Electric Theatre. Over the next few years he wrote episodes for such shows as Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, and Steve Canyon. He wrote the screenplay for the Doris Day sex comedy It Happened to Jane.

It was in 1960 that he became one of the regular writers on Wanted Dead or Alive, the Western starring Steve McQueen. He also wrote episodes of Outlaws, Cain's Hundred, 87th Precinct, Dr. Kildare, and The Untouchables. In 1962 he started to write regularly for Ben Casey. He would be nominated for the 1963 Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for the episode "A Cardinal Act of Mercy" for the show.  After Ben Casey ended, Norman Katkov would write for such shows as The Wild Wild West, The Loner, The Virginian, Bonanza, Mannix, Ironside, Dan August, Mission: Impossible, and  Kung Fu. He was the story editor for the short lived series Banyon. He also wrote the screenplay for Once You Kiss a Stranger.

Norman Katkov also wrote novels, including A Little Sleep, A Little Slumber and Blood and Orchids

Norman Katkov was one of the better writers to work in television. The teleplays he wrote always featured strong characters and equally strong plots. Indeed, he wrote one of the better episodes of The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Human Trigger," and two of the best episodes of Kung Fu. He was a writer who approached television with the same eye for quality that he did his novels. Katkov was only nominated for one Emmy, but he should have been nominated for more.

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