George Peppard

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George Peppard
George Peppard (1964).jpg
Peppard in 1964
Born George Peppard, Jr.
(1928-10-01)October 1, 1928
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died May 8, 1994(1994-05-08) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pneumonia
Alma mater Pittsburgh Playhouse
Carnegie Tech
Occupation Actor and Producer
Years active 1951–1994
Spouse(s) Helen Davies (m. 1954–64)
Elizabeth Ashley (m. 1966–72)
Sherry Boucher (m. 1975–79)
Alexis Adams (m. 1984–86)
Laura Taylor (m. 1992–94) (his death)
Children Bradford Peppard,
Julie Peppard,
Christian Peppard

George Peppard, Jr. (/pəˈpɑrd/; October 1, 1928 – May 8, 1994) was an American film and television actor and producer.

Peppard secured a major role when he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961),[1] portrayed a character based on Howard Hughes in The Carpetbaggers (1964), and played the title role of the millionaire sleuth Thomas Banacek in the early-1970s television series Banacek. He played Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-smoking leader of a renegade commando squad, in the 1980s television show The A-Team.[1]

Early life[edit]

George Peppard, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of building contractor George Peppard, Sr. and opera singer Vernelle Rohrer.[2] He graduated from Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan.

Peppard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on July 8, 1946 and rose to rank of Corporal in the 10th Marines, leaving the Corps at the end of his period of enlistment in January 1948.[3]

During 1948 and 1949, he studied Civil Engineering at Purdue University where he was a member of the Purdue Playmakers theatre troupe and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.[1] He then transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1955.[4] He also trained at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.[5] In addition to acting, Peppard was a pilot. He spent a portion of his 1966 honeymoon training to fly his Lear jet in Wichita, Kansas.[6][7]

Acting[edit]

Peppard made his stage debut in 1949 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. After moving to New York City, Peppard enrolled in The Actors Studio, where he studied the Method with Lee Strasberg. His first work on Broadway led to his first television appearance, with a young Paul Newman, in The United States Steel Hour (1956), as the singing, guitar-playing baseball player Piney Woods in Bang the Drum Slowly.

Peppard's Broadway appearance in The Pleasure of His Company (1958) led to an MGM contract. Following a strong film debut in The Strange One (1957), he played the illegitimate son of Robert Mitchum's character in the popular melodrama Home from the Hill (1960).

George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's

His good looks, elegant manner and superior acting skills landed Peppard his most famous film role as Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn. This 1961 role boosted him briefly to a major film star. His leading roles in that film's wake included How the West Was Won in 1962 (his character spanned two sections of the episodic Cinerama extravaganza), The Victors in 1963, The Carpetbaggers in 1964, and The Blue Max in 1966.

Peppard started choosing tough-guy roles in big, ambitious pictures where he was somewhat overshadowed by ensemble casts; for example, his role as German pilot Bruno Stachel, an obsessively competitive officer from humble beginnings who challenges the Prussian aristocracy during World War I in The Blue Max (1966). For this role, Peppard earned a private pilot's license and did much of his own stunt flying, although stunt pilot Derek Piggott was at the controls for the famous under-the-bridge scene.

He was cast as the lead in Sands of the Kalahari (1965) but walked off the set after only a few days of filming.[8]

Owing to Peppard's alcoholism and notoriously difficult personality on the set, his career devolved into a string of B-movies through the late sixties and early seventies. As film critic David Shipman once wrote of this stage in his career:

With his cool, blond baby-face looks and a touch of menace, of meanness, he had established a screen persona as strong as any of the time. He might have been the Alan Ladd or the Richard Widmark of the Sixties: but the Sixties didn't want a new Alan Ladd. Peppard began appearing in a series of action movies, predictably as a tough guy, but there were much tougher guys around - like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, whose films had now become television staples.[8]

Peppard then had a notable success with the TV series Banacek (1972–74), (part of the NBC Mystery Movie series), and one of his most critically acclaimed,[citation needed] though rarely seen, performances in the TV movie Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case (1975), as Sam Sheppard.

Among the disappointing films was the 1970 Western Cannon for Cordoba, in which Peppard played the steely Captain Rod Douglas, who has been put in charge of gathering a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission into Mexico, and 1967's Rough Night in Jericho in which he was billed over crooner Dean Martin and Jean Simmons, a reflection of his status at that point in his career. Peppard appeared in the short-lived (half a season) Doctors' Hospital (1975) and several other television films. He starred in the 1977 science-fiction film Damnation Alley, which has gone on to attain a substantial cult following. Peppard's role in the film was reportedly turned down by Steve McQueen because of salary issues. With fewer interesting roles coming his way, he acted in, directed and produced the drama Five Days from Home in 1979.

In a rare game show appearance, Peppard did a week of shows on Password Plus in 1979. Out of five shows, one was never broadcast on NBC (but aired much later on GSN) because of comments made by Peppard regarding personal dissatisfaction he felt related to his treatment by NBC standards & practices.

In his later years he appeared in several stage productions. In 1988, he portrayed Ernest Hemingway in the play PAPA, which played a number of cities including Boise, Idaho; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Francisco. Peppard financed it, and played in it. Most notably a 1992 tour of The Lion in Winter in which he played Henry II to Susan Clark's Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Dynasty[edit]

In 1980, Peppard was offered, and accepted, the role of Blake Carrington in the TV series Dynasty. During the filming of the pilot episode, which also featured Linda Evans and Bo Hopkins, Peppard repeatedly clashed with the show's producers, Richard and Esther Shapiro; among other things, he felt that his role was too similar to that of J. R. Ewing in the series Dallas. Three weeks later, before filming was to begin on additional episodes, Peppard was fired and the part was offered to John Forsythe; the scenes with Peppard were re-shot and Forsythe became the permanent star of the show.[9]

The A-Team[edit]

In 1982, George Peppard auditioned for and won the role of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in the TV action adventure series The A-Team, acting alongside Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz. In the series, the A-Team was a team of renegade commandos on the run from the military for "a crime they did not commit" while serving in the Vietnam war. The A-Team members made their collective living as soldiers of fortune, but they helped only people who came to them with justified grievances.

As Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, Peppard played the leader of the A-Team, distinguished by his cigar smoking, confident smirk, black leather gloves, disguises, and distinctive catch phrase, "I love it when a plan comes together." The show ran five seasons on NBC from 1983–1987. It made Peppard known to a whole new generation and is arguably his best-known role. It has been reported that the role was originally written with James Coburn in mind, but Coburn declined and thus it went to Peppard. Peppard was reportedly annoyed by Mr. T upstaging him in his public image, and at one point in their relationship refused to speak directly to Mr. T. Instead, he sent messages through intermediaries (including at times fellow cast members) and for this Peppard was occasionally portrayed by the press as not a team player.[10]

Man Against the Mob[edit]

Peppard's last series was an intended occasional series of television movie features entitled Man Against the Mob set in the 1940s. In these TV detective films, Peppard played Los Angeles Police Detective Sgt. Frank Doakey. The second film Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders was broadcast in December 1989. A third film in this series was planned, but Peppard died before it was filmed.

Personal life[edit]

Peppard was married five times, and was the father of three children.

Death[edit]

Peppard overcame a serious alcohol problem in 1978, and subsequently became heavily involved in helping other alcoholics. He had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life until he quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992. His illness never forced his retirement from acting. Peppard had completed a pilot for a new series in 1994 called The P.I., a Matlock spin-off intended to become a new television series, with co-star Tracy Nelson shortly before his death. Peppard died on May 8, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. Although still being treated for lung cancer, Peppard's direct cause of death was pneumonia.[1] Peppard was buried alongside his parents George, Senior, and Vernelle in Northview Cemetery, Dearborn, Michigan.[11]

Critical appraisal[edit]

David Shipman published this appraisal of Peppard in 1972:

George Peppard's screen presence has some agreeable anomalies. He is tough, assured and insolent - in a way that recalls late Dick Powell rather than early Bogart; but his bright blue eyes and blond hair, his boyish face suggest the all-American athlete, perhaps going to seed. The sophistication is surface deep: you can imagine him in Times Square on a Saturday night, sulky, defiant, out of his depth, not quite certain how he wants to spend the evening.[12]

Awards[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1956 The United States Steel Hour Piney Woods TV: Bang the Drum Slowly
1956 - 57 Kraft Television Theatre TV: The Long Flight
Flying Object at Three O'Clock High
1957 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Lynch TV: A Real Fine Cutting Edge
1957 Studio One TV: A Walk in the Forest
1957 The Alcoa Hour Eddie Pierce TV: The Big Build-Up
1957 The Strange One Cadet Robert Marquales
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Evan Wallace TV: The Diplomatic Corpse
1957 - 58 Matinee Theatre TV: End of the Rope, Part 1
End of the Rope, Part 2
Aftermath
1958 Suspicion Lee TV: The Eye of Truth
1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame Dennis Walsh TV: Little Moon of Alban
1959 Pork Chop Hill Cpl. Chuck Fedderson
1960 Home from the Hill Raphael "Rafe" Copley
1960 Startime Pat Lawrence TV: Incident at a Corner
1960 The Subterraneans Leo Percepied
1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's Paul Varjak
1962 How the West Was Won Zeb Rawlings
1963 The Victors Cpl. Chase
1964 The Carpetbaggers Jonas Cord
1964 Theatre of Stars Buddy Wren TV: The Game with Glass Pieces
1965 Operation Crossbow Lt. John Curtis
1965 The Third Day Steve Mallory
1966 The Blue Max Lt. Bruno Stachel
1967 Tobruk Capt. Kurt Bergman
1967 Rough Night in Jericho Dolan
1968 P.J. P.J. Detweiler
1968 What's So Bad About Feeling Good? Pete
1968 House of Cards Reno Davis
1969 Pendulum (fr) Capt. Frank Matthews
1970 The Executioner John Shay
1970 Cannon for Cordoba Capt. Red Douglas
1971 One More Train to Rob Harker Fleet
1972 The Bravos Major John David Harkness TV movie
1972 The Groundstar Conspiracy Tuxan
1972 - 74 Banacek Thomas Banacek TV series
1974 Newman's Law Vince Newman
1975 The Week of Fear Dr. Jake Goodwin TV movie
1975 Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case Dr. Samuel Sheppard TV movie
1975 - 76 Doctors' Hospital Dr. Jake Goodwin
1977 Damnation Alley Maj. Eugene Denton
1979 Five Days from Home T.M. Pryor also director and producer
1979 Crisis in Mid-Air Nick Culver TV movie
1979 From Hell to Victory Brett Rosson
1979 Torn Between Two Lovers Paul Rasmussen TV movie
1980 Battle Beyond the Stars Cowboy
1981 Race for the Yankee Zephyr Theo Brown
1981 Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid Jim Daley
1982 Twilight Theatre TV movie
1982 Jugando con la muerte McFadden
1983 - 87 The A-Team Col. John "Hannibal" Smith TV series
1984 Tales of the Unexpected Sgt. Guedo TV: The Dirty Detail
1988 Man Against the Mob Frank Doakey TV movie
1989 Zwei Frauen Mr. Martin
1989 Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders Frank Doakey TV movie
1990 Night of the Fox Col. Harry Martineau/Max Vogel TV movie
1992 The Tigress Sid Slaughter
1994 Matlock Max Morgan TV: The P.I.

Select theatre credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Collins, Glenn (1994-05-10). "George Peppard Dies; Stage and Screen Actor, 65". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  2. ^ Collins, Glenn (May 10, 1994). "George Peppard Dies; Stage and Screen Actor, 65". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Wise, James Edward; Rehill, Anne Collier (1 November 1999). Anne Collier Rehill, ed. Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines 2. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 159–166. ISBN 978-1-55750-949-9. Retrieved 2010-08-14. "Like its predecessor, Stars in the Corps is a valuable resource for scholars and aficionados of motion picture films, military buffs and historians, and students of American popular culture. This volume is the equal to and in several ways surpasses its earlier companion and is itself a valuable reference. Structurally, the volume contains a preface and introduction, two parts comprising 28 short biographies, four appendices, and 101 black-and-white images. A very useful Bibliography lists 92 books and periodicals, thirteen reference works, twelve interviews or correspondence, five major official records or archives, and five other sources. A six-page double column index lists, in the main, proper nouns and is an appropriate finding aid." 
  4. ^ "George Peppard Is Starring In Movie Now At Lyric". Ludington Daily News (Ludington, Michigan). May 20, 1971. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh In Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 152. ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  6. ^ "A Pfalz Friend". Air Progress. October 1979. 
  7. ^ Dorothy Manners (29 May 1966). "George Peppard retains his image as a loner". The News and Courier. 
  8. ^ a b David Shipman "Obituary: George Peppard", The Independent, 10 May 1994, accessed 19 May 2012
  9. ^ Mike Pingel. "Bo Hopkins Remembers Dynasty!". hollywoodfyi.com. Archived from the original on 2005-08-06. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  10. ^ Steve Pratt, "Not really a team player",. Northern Echo, 19 May 2006, p. 15.
  11. ^ "Find a Grave". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  12. ^ David Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, Angus and Robertson, 1972 p 409

External links[edit]