August 27, 1896
Danville, Vermilion County
|Died||September 2, 1964
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville, Illinois|
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|Occupation||Actor, lawyer, professor|
|Spouse(s)||Joan Wheeler (1935–1964, his death)
Gillian Gilbert (? - ?)
Morris Ankrum (August 28, 1896 – September 2, 1964) was an American radio, television and film character actor.
Born Morris Nussbaum in Danville in Vermilion County in eastern Illinois, Ankrum originally began a career in academics. After graduating from USC with a law degree, he went on to an associate professorship in economics at the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley he became involved in the drama department and eventually began teaching drama and directing at the Pasadena Playhouse.
From 1923 to 1939, he acted in several Broadway stage productions, including The Big Blow and Within the Gates.
Before signing with Paramount Pictures in the 1930s, Nussbaum had already changed his last name to Ankrum. Upon signing with the studio, he chose to use the name "Stephen Morris" before changing it to Morris Ankrum in 1939.
Ankrum's stern visage and sharply defined features helped cast him in supporting roles as stalwart authority figures, including scientists, military men (particularly army officers), judges and even psychiatrists in more than seventy films, mostly B movies. His film career was extensive and spanned thirty years. His credits were largely concentrated in the western and science fiction genres.
In the sci-fi genre, he appeared in Rocketship X-M; Red Planet Mars, in which he provides support to the film's deity-seeking scientist, Peter Graves in another government role as the United States Secretary of Defense; the cult classic Invaders From Mars (1953), playing Colonel Fielding, a United States Army officer out to save Earth from the "Invaders"; and as an Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) alongside Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor. He played a psychiatrist in the cult sci-fi classic Kronos (1957). He also portrayed a military officer in Beginning of the End (1957).
By the end of 1958, Ankrum's film career had essentially ended, though he continued taking television roles. In the syndicated series, Stories of the Century, Ankrum played the outlaw Chris Evans, who with his young associate, John Sontag, played by John Smith, turned to crime to thwart the Southern Pacific Railroad, which Evans and Sontag held in the contempt consistent with the theme of Frank Norris's muckraking novel, The Octopus: A Story of California.
Ankrum made twenty-two appearances on CBS's Perry Mason as one of several judges who regularly presided over the murder trials of Mason's clients from the show's first season in 1957 until his death in 1964. The show ended two years later.
In the 1958-1959 season, Ankrum appeared twelve times in Richard Carlson's syndicated western series Mackenzie's Raiders, along with other cast "raiders" Brett King and Louis Jean Heydt. and the 1959 CBS sitcom Dennis the Menace. Ankrum made occasional uncredited appearances in several Roger Corman films.
On October 15, 1957, Ankrum had a major part in the episode "Strange Land" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western Sugarfoot, starring Will Hutchins. Ankrum played an embittered rancher named Cash Billings, who allows a hired gunman, Burr Fulton, portrayed by Rhodes Reason, to take over his spread, but Sugarfoot arrives to bring law and justice to the situation. Jan Chaney appears in the episode as Billings' daughter, Anne, who takes a liking to Sugarfoot. Ankrum appeared again, as John Savage in 1959, in the Sugarfoot episode "The Wild Bunch".
While involved in films and television, Ankrum was still involved in live theatre and continued to direct plays at the Pasadena Playhouse.
On September 2, 1964, Ankrum died of trichinosis. At the time of his death, he was still involved with Raymond Burr's Perry Mason series. His final appearance on Perry Mason, "The Case of the Sleepy Slayer," and his last film, Guns of Diablo, in which he was cast as Ray Macklin, were released in 1964 and 1965, respectively, after Ankrum's death.
Ankrum's is interred at Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville, Illinois.
- Morris Ankrum biography
- Morris Ankrum: Biography
- "Morris Ankrum". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- "Stories of the Century: "Sontag and Evans", February 8, 1955". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
- ""The Strange Land", October 15, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 24, 2012.