Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ken Howard R.I.P.

Ken Howard, actor and one-time president of the Screen Actors Guild, died on March 23 2016 at the age of 71. No cause of death has been given.

Ken Howard was born on March 28 1944 in El Centro, California. He grew up in Manhasset, New York. He attended  Amherst College and then studied acting at the Yale School of Drama. He made his Broadway debut in Promises Promises in 1970. That same year he made his film debut in Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. In the late Sixties he went on to appear on Broadway in 1776 (in which he played Thomas Jefferson) and Child's Play.

The Seventies would prove to be a busy decade for Mr. Howard. He appeared on Broadway in the productions Seesaw, Little Black Sheep, The Norman Conquests: Living Together, The Norman Conquests: Table Manners, The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He appeared in the films Such Good Friends (1971), The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie (1972), 1776 (1972), and Independence (1976). On television he played the lead role in three different TV shows: Adam's Rib (a sitcom based on the classic film of the same name), The Manhunter (a series about a bounty hunter set during the Depression), and The White Shadow (a series centred on a high school basketball coach). He guest starred on the shows Bonanza, Medical Centre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame.

The Eighties saw Ken Howard appear as a regular in multiple TV shows as well: the sitcom It's Not Easy, Dynasty, and The Colbys. He guest starred on the shows Glitter, Hotel, and American Playhouse. He appeared in the miniseries The Thorn Birds. He appeared in the film Second Thoughts (1983). He appeared on Broadway in Rumours.

In the Nineties Ken Howard guest starred on P.S.I. Luv U; The Golden Girls; One West Waikiki; Murder, She Wrote; The Client; Diagnosis Murder; The West Wing; and The Practice. He had a recurring role on Melrose Place. He was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series. Mr. Howard appeared in the films Oscar (1991), Ulterior Motives (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Net (1995), and At First Sight (1999).

In the Naughts Ken Howard was a regular on the shows Crossing Jordan and Cane. He guest starred on the shows Family Law, Arli$$, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, The Ghost Whisperer, George Lopez, Huff, Conviction, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Brothers and Sisters, Eli Stone, Boston Legal, Dirty Sexy Money, and Cold Case. He appeared in the films Stuck (2004), In Her Shoes (2005), Arc (2006), Smother (2007), Michael Clayton (2007), Under Still Waters (2008), 2:13 (2009), The Beacon (2009), and A Numbers Game (2010).

In the Teens Ken Howard had a recurring role on 30 Rock and appeared in episodes of the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He guest starred on such shows as Fairly Legal, The Closer, Blue Bloods, and The McCarthys. He appeared in the films J. Edgar (2011), Just an American (2012), A Fighting Man (2012), A.C.O.D. (2013), Better Living Through Chemistry (2014), The Judge (2014), The Wedding Ringer (2015), and Joy (2015).

Ken Howard was both prolific and versatile. When it comes to television I remember him best for two roles. The first is Dave Barrett, the protagonist of the TV series The Manhunter. At a time when private eye shows were a dime a dozen, The Manhunter was different. Not only was it set in the West during the Depression (Barrett lived on a farm in Idaho), but its protagonist actually had a family (his parents and his sister were regulars on the show). What is more, Barrett wasn't a private eye, but a bounty hunter. Ken Howard did a very good job of bringing the character of Barrett to life. The other TV role I remember him well for is Jordan Cavanaugh's stubborn father Max on Crossing Jordan. Mr. Howard gave a very nuanced performance as Max, and he had a very good rapport with series star Jill Hennessey.

Of course, Ken Howard did more than television. He also did films. Indeed, he played Thomas Jefferson twice on the silver screen, appearing in the role in the musical 1776 and the docudrama Independence. Thomas Jefferson wasn't the only historical figure Ken Howard played either. He also played Attorney General Harlan F. Stone in J. Edgar, Mark Twain in an episode of Bonanza, and Father Damien  in the 1980 TV movie Father Damien: The Leper Priest. With a knack for bringing characters to life, it is little wonder Ken Howard was in demand to play historical figures. In fact, he was in demand throughout his career, playing a wide variety of characters. Ken Howard played everything from lawyers to politicians and from cops to criminals. What is more, he did all of them well.

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