Saturday, August 3, 2013

Michael Ansara R.I.P.

Michael Ansara, who played Deputy Marshal Buckhart on the TV show Law of the Plainsman, Cochise on the TV show Broken Arrow, and made an large number of guest appearances on other shows, died on 31 July 2013 at the age of 91.

Michael Ansara was born in Syria on 15 April 1922. He immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was two years old. He attended Los Angeles City College with the intent of becoming a physician, but while there became interested in acting. He graduated from Los Angeles City College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. He made his film debut in an uncredited part in Action in Arabia (1944).  He went onto small roles in such films as Intrigue (1947), Queen Esther (1948), and Kim (1950).

Mr. Ansara made his television debut in an episode of Family Theatre in 1951. During the Fifties he starred in two prime times television series. He appeared as Cochise in Broken Arrow, which ran from 1956 to 1958, and then as Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart in Law of the Plainsman, which ran from 1959 to 1960.  He guest starred on such shows as China Smith, Terry and the Pirates, The Lone Ranger, Dragnet, Medic, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans, Frontier Doctor, Zane Grey Theatre, Naked City, The Rifleman (on which the backdoor pilot for Law of the Plainsman appeared), The Westerner, and The Untouchables. He appeared in such films as My Favourite Spy (1951), Brave Warrior (1952), The Golden Hawk (1952), The Lawless Breed (1953), Julius Caesar (1953), The Robe (1953), The Saracen Blade (1954), Sign of the Pagan (1954), Jupiter's Darling (1955), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Diane (1956), The Lone Ranger (1956), The Ten Commandments (1956), and The Sad Sack (1957).

In the Sixties Michael Ansara appeared on such shows as Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, The Farmer's Daughter, Burke's Law, Perry Mason, The Outer LimitsRawhide, Ben Casey, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Lost in Space, Bewitched, The Virginian, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Star Trek, It Takes a Thief, The High Chaparral, and I Dream of Jeannie. He appeared in such films as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), The Comancheros (1961), The Confession (1964), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Harum Scarum (1965), And Now Miguel (1966), Texas Across the River (1966), The Destructors (1968), Daring Game (1968), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Phynx (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Ansara guest starred on such shows as The Mod Squad, Bearcats, Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, Mission: Impossible, McMillan and Wife, Police Story, Barbary Coast, McCloud, Kojak, Vega$, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He appeared in such films as Dear Dead Delilah (1972), Stand Up and Be Counted (1972), The Doll Squad (1973), The Bears and I (1974), It's Alive (1974), The Message (1977), Day of the Animals (1977), and The Manitou (1978).

In the Eighties Michael Ansara found a new career voicing animated cartoons. During the Eighties his voice appeared on such animated series as Thundarr the Barbarian, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and Rambo. He appeared on such TV shows as Simon & Simon; Days of Our Lives; Hunter, The Fall Guy, Hardcastle and McCormick, Mike Hammer; and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the films The Guns and the Fury (1981), Bayou Romance (1982), Access Code (1984), KGB: The Secret War (1985), Knights of the City (1986), and Border Shootout (1990).

From the Nineties into the Naughts Michael Ansara guest starred on the shows Babylon 5 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. He provided the voice of Mr. Freeze in the animated series Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and Batman Beyond, also providing the voice of Dr. Freeze for the films Subzero and Batman Beyond: The Movie, as well as the video game Batman: Vengeance. He appeared in the film The Long Road Home (1999).

Although he was Syrian in birth, Michael Ansara was one of the many actors in Hollywood who was called upon to play just about any role belong to an ethnicity that was Northern European in descent. Over the years he played Native Americans (indeed, his two lead roles on TV shows were both Natives), Mexicans, Arabs, and Pacific Islanders (indeed, he played King Kamehameha, the historic Hawaiian king, on an episode of I Dream of Jeannie). With his great height (he stood 6' 3") and a booming voice, he also played a good number of heavies over the years. Indeed, among his most famous roles was that of Klingon commander Kang on various Star Trek shows. Despite this, there can be no doubt that Michael Ansara was a very versatile actor. While he was very good at playing villains, it must be noted that his two lead roles on TV shows (Broken Arrow and Law of the Plainsman) were both heroes, and he excelled in both. What is more, although he rarely got to display it, he had a gift for comedy. One of his most memorable roles for me was that of Rufus the Red, the enemy of one of Darrin's Irish ancestors, on Bewitched. It can be little wonder why Michael Ansara was so prolific as an actor. With his singular appearance and a talent to play nearly any role, it is not surprising as to why he was so much in demand during his career.

1 comment:

Jim Marquis said...

What an amazing career. I remember him guest starring on so many shows during my childhood.