|Intro||American actor, director, producer|
|Was||Actor Television actor Film actor Television director|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||30 November 1926, Los Angeles, USA|
|Death||17 January 2003, Los Angeles, USA (aged 76 years)|
Richard Donald Crenna (November 30, 1926 – January 17, 2003) was an award-winning American motion picture, television, and radio actor and television director.
Crenna starred in such motion pictures as The Sand Pebbles, Wait Until Dark, Un Flic, Body Heat, the first three Rambo movies, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and The Flamingo Kid. Crenna's first success came on radio in 1948 as high school student "Walter Denton" co-starring with Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in the CBS network series Our Miss Brooks. Crenna continued with the long running comedy in its 1952 move into television. He also had a role as "Luke McCoy" in the ABC, and later CBS, television series, The Real McCoys (1957–63).
Crenna was born November 30, 1926, in Los Angeles, the only child of Edith J. (née Pollette), who was a hotel manager in Los Angeles, and Dominick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian descent. Crenna attended Virgil Junior High School, followed by Belmont High School in Los Angeles, from which he graduated in 1944.
World War II service
Following high school, Crenna served in the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in the infantry as a radioman, where he saw combat in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge (late 1944 – early 1945). He also briefly served in the Pacific Theater of World War II processing intercepted Japanese radio messages.
After World War II, Crenna attended the University of Southern California, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
Crenna got his acting start on radio. In 1937, he had gained his first role that of "the kid who did everything wrong" on Boy Scout Jamboree, a show on which he continued to appear occasionally in numerous roles until 1948. In the following year, he started playing Walter "Bronco" Thompson on The Great Gildersleeve, and played it until 1954. He also originated the role of geeky Walter Denton on the Radio Comedy Our Miss Brooks alongside Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in 1948, and followed that role when the series moved to television in 1952. He remained in that role until 1957. He appeared as a delivery boy in My Favorite Husband episode "Liz Cooks Dinner for 12", was Oogie Pringle on A Date With Judy episode "The Competitive Diet" and several other episodes from the show and as a teenager on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show episode "Watching the Neighbor's Daughter".
Early television years
As previously mentioned, Crenna played Walter Denton on radio's Our Miss Brooks remaining with the cast when it moved into television in 1952. He remained with the show until it was canceled in 1957. He guest starred on the I Love Lucy episode, "The Young Fans", with Janet Waldo and on NBC's 1955–56 anthology series, Frontier, in the lead role of the episode entitled, "The Ten Days of John Leslie". In 1955, he was the guest star on The Millionaire in the episode, "The Ralph McKnight Story".
Crenna appeared in 1956 on the television series, Father Knows Best, in the episode, "The Promising Young Man," as a young man named Woody. In 1957, he played a bank robber on the Cheyenne television series (season 2, episode 19).
When the Our Miss Brooks TV series was canceled in 1957, Crenna was searching for a new series to showcase his talent. Crenna then joined the cast of the comedy series, The Real McCoys, as Luke McCoy – alongside veteran actor Walter Brennan, who played Grandpa Amos McCoy. Kathleen Nolan was cast as his young wife, Kate McCoy. Crenna ultimately became one of the series's four directors during its six-year run (1957–63).
In the 1960s, Richard Crenna directed many episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and was credited as "Dick Crenna". He also directed episodes of Lou Grant, which ran on CBS from 1977–82.
Crenna portrayed California state senator James Slattery in the CBS-TV series, Slattery's People (1964–65). For his acting in this series, he was twice nominated for an Emmy Award with slightly different names: for "Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment" and for "Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series", both in 1965. Crenna was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best TV Star – Male" for this same role, again in 1965. In 1966, Crenna played beside Steve McQueen as an ill-fated captain of an American gunboat in 1920s China in The Sand Pebbles.
During the 1970s, Crenna continued acting in such Western dramas such as The Deserter, Catlow, The Man Called Noon and Breakheart Pass. He made a notable performance in Jean-Pierre Melville's final film Un Flic in 1972. In 1976, Crenna returned to weekly network television in the Norman Lear CBS sit-com All's Fair, a political satire co-starring Bernadette Peters that lasted a single season. The 1978 NBC-TV miniseries, Centennial, based on James A. Michener's historical novel Centennial, saw Crenna in the role of deranged religious fanatic Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn, who ordered the 1864 massacre of Colorado American Indians.
Crenna won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television nomination for his performance in the title role of the 1985 film, The Rape of Richard Beck.
Crenna then played John Rambo's ex-commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman, in the first three Rambo films, a role for which he was hired after Kirk Douglas left the production a day into filming. Trautman became the veteran actor's most famous role; his performance received wide critical praise. He also spoofed the character in Hot Shots! Part Deux in 1993.
Crenna portrayed New York City Police lieutenant of detectives Frank Janek in a series of seven popular made-for-television films, beginning in 1988 and ending in 1994. The character of Janek had originally appeared in a series of novels by William Bayer.
Crenna was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard.
Illnesses and death
Crenna developed pancreatic cancer and died of heart failure at age 76 on January 17, 2003, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife, Penni, and his three adult children by his side, according to his daughter, Seana Crenna. His remains were cremated.
Awards and nominations
|1959||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||The Real McCoys||Nominated|
|1965||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1965||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1966||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1984||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||The Flamingo Kid||Nominated|
|1985||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film||The Rape of Richard Beck||Nominated|
|1985||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie||The Rape of Richard Beck||Won|