Vic Morrow

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Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow in Blackboard Jungle Trailer.jpg
Film debut in Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Born Victor Morrow
(1929-02-14)February 14, 1929
New York City, New York, USA
Died July 23, 1982(1982-07-23) (aged 53)
Indian Dunes, Ventura County, California
Cause of death
Accidental decapitation
Resting place
Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California
Other names Victor Morrow
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1955–1982
Spouse(s) Barbara Turner (1957–1964; divorced; two children)
Gale A. Lester (1975–1979; divorced)
Children Jennifer Jason Leigh
Carrie Morrow

Victor "Vic" Morrow (February 14, 1929 – July 23, 1982) was an American actor whose credits include a starring role in the 1960s television series Combat!, prominent roles in a handful of other television and film dramas, and numerous guest roles on television. Morrow and two children died when a stunt helicopter crashed on them during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Personal life[edit]

Morrow was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, to a middle class Jewish family,[1] the son of Jean (née Kress) and Harry Morrow, an electrical engineer.[2] When he was 17, Morrow dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Navy.

In 1958,[3] Morrow married actress and screenwriter Barbara Turner, with whom he had two daughters: Carrie Ann Morrow (b. 1958) and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (b. 1962). Morrow's marriage to Barbara lasted seven years and ended in divorce in 1964 or 1965. Morrow did not remarry until 1975, over a decade later, when he courted Gale Lester (currently Gale Morrow Butler). They were married for five years and were separated just prior to Morrow's death.

Morrow had a falling out with his daughter Jennifer Jason Leigh following his divorce from her mother; Leigh changed her last name as a teenager to avoid being publicly associated with Morrow. They remained estranged at the time of his death.[4]

Rick Jason, co-star of Combat!, wrote in his memoirs,

Vic Morrow had an absolute dislike of firearms. He used a Thompson submachine gun in our series, but that was work. In any other respect he'd have nothing to do with them. On one of the few days we got off early while there were still several hours of daylight left, I said to him, "I've got a couple of shotguns in the back of my station wagon. You want to shoot some skeet?"
Without so much as a pause he responded, "No, thanks. I can't stand to kill clay."
He knew he could always break me up and during our five years together he did it quite a bit. His sense of humor happened to tickle my funny bone and he knew he had my number."[5]

Career[edit]

Morrow's first movie role was in Blackboard Jungle (1955). In 1958, he starred alongside Elvis Presley in an all-star supporting cast in the movie King Creole, directed by Michael Curtiz.

Morrow's career then expanded after which he went into television. Later, he guest-starred on John Payne's NBC western series, The Restless Gun. On April 16, 1959, he appeared in the premiere of NBC's 1920s crime drama The Lawless Years in the episode "The Nick Joseph Story". Morrow then appeared from 1960–1961 as Joe Cannon in three episodes of NBC's The Outlaws with Barton MacLane. On October 6, 1961, he appeared in an episode of the ABC drama series Target: The Corruptors! with Stephen McNally and Robert Harland. He appeared in two episodes of both The Untouchables and Bonanza. He was cast in the early Bonanza episode "The Avenger" as a mysterious figure known only as 'Lassiter' - named after his town of origin - who arrives in Virginia City, and helps save Ben and Adam Cartwright from an unjust hanging, while eventually gunning down one sought-after man, revealing himself as a hunter of a lynch mob who killed his father; having so far killed about half the mob, he rides off into the night[6] (an episode that resembles the later Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter). Morrow later appeared in the third season Bonanza episode The Tin Badge.[7]

Combat![edit]

As Sgt. Saunders in Combat!

Morrow was cast in the lead role of Sergeant "Chip" Saunders in ABC's Combat!, a World War II drama, which aired from 1962–1967. Pop culture scholar Gene Santoro has written, "TV's longest-running World War II drama (1962-67) was really a collection of complex 50-minute movies. Salted with battle sequences, they follow a squad's travails from D-Day on--a gritty ground-eye view of men trying to salvage their humanity and survive. Melodrama, comedy, and satire come into play as Lieutenant Hanley (Rick Jason) and Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) lead their men toward Paris... The relentlessness hollows antihero Saunders out: at times, you can see the tombstones in his eyes."[8]

His friend and fellow actor on Combat!, Rick Jason, described Morrow as "a master director" who directed "one of the greatest anti-war films I've ever seen." He was referring to the two-part episode of Combat! entitled Hills Are for Heroes, which was written by Gene L. Coon.[5]

"Chip" is obviously a nickname, seen in a letter written from his family, so his real first name remains, so far, unknown.

Other work[edit]

Morrow also worked as a television director. Together with Leonard Nimoy, he produced a 1966 version of Deathwatch, an English language film version of Jean Genet's play Haute Surveillance, adapted by Morrow and Barbara Turner, directed by Morrow, and starring Nimoy.

After Combat! ended, he worked in several films. Morrow appeared in two episodes of Australian-produced anthology series The Evil Touch (1973), one of which he also directed. He memorably played the wily local sheriff in director John Hough's road classic Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, as well as the homicidal sheriff, alongside Martin Sheen, in the 1974 TV film The California Kid, and had a key role, as aggressive, competitive baseball coach Roy Turner, in the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears. He also played Injun Joe in the 1973 telefilm Tom Sawyer, which was filmed in Upper Canada Village. A musical version was released in theaters that same year.

Morrow wrote and directed a 1970 Spaghetti Western, produced by Dino DeLaurentiis, titled A Man Called Sledge and starring James Garner, Dennis Weaver, and Claude Akins. After Deathwatch, it was Morrow's first and only big screen outing behind the camera. Sledge was filmed in Italy[9] with desert-like settings that were highly evocative of the Southwestern United States.

Morrow also appeared in Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, McCloud, and Sarge, among many other TV guest roles.

Twilight Zone: The Movie and death[edit]

Main article: Twilight Zone tragedy

In 1982, Morrow was cast in a feature role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, directed by John Landis. Morrow was playing the role of Bill Connor, a racist who is taken back in time and placed in various situations where he would be a persecuted victim: as a Jewish Holocaust victim, a black man about to be lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, and a Vietnamese man about to be killed by U.S. soldiers.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 1982, Morrow and two children, Myca Dinh Le (age seven), and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age six), were filming on location in Ventura County, California, between Santa Clarita and Piru. They were performing in a scene for the Vietnam sequence in which their characters attempt to escape from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter out of a deserted Vietnamese village. The helicopter was hovering at about 24 feet above them when pyrotechnic explosions damaged it and caused it to crash on top of them, killing all three instantly. Morrow and Dinh were decapitated by the helicopter rotor. Chen was crushed by a helicopter strut.[10][11]

Landis and four other defendants, including pilot Dorsey Wingo, were ultimately acquitted of involuntary manslaughter after a nearly nine-month trial. The parents of Le and Chen sued and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Morrow's children also sued and settled for an undisclosed amount.[11][12]

Morrow is interred in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.[13]

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1955 Blackboard Jungle Artie West
1956 The Millionaire Joey Diamond TV, 1 episode
Tribute to a Bad Man Lars Peterson
Climax! Ted TV, 1 episode
1957 Men in War Corporal James Zwickley
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Benny Mungo TV, 1 episode
1958 King Creole Shark
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Joe Rovi "The Ed Church Case" (CBS-TV)
God's Little Acre Shaw Walden
The Rifleman Johnny Cotton ABC-TV, 1 episode, "The Angry Gun"
1959 Naked City David Greco ABC-TV, 1 episode
The Rifleman Brett Stocker TV, 1 episode, "The Letter of the Law"
Johnny Ringo Bill Stoner CBS-TV, 1 episode, "Kid With a Gun"
1960 Bonanza Lassiter TV, 1 episode, "The Avenger" (3/1960, episode 26)
The Barbara Stanwyck Show Leroy Benson NBC-TV, 1 episode
Cimarron Wes Jennings
The Brothers Brannagan Locke Syndicated TV, series premiere, "Tune in for Murder"
1961 Portrait of a Mobster Dutch Schultz
The Tall Man Skip Farrell NBC-TV, 1 episode, "Time of Foreshadowing"
The Law and Mr. Jones Dr. Bigelow ABC-TV, 1 episode, "A Very Special Citizen"
1962 The New Breed Belman ABC-TV, 1 episode
1962–1967 Combat! Sergeant Chip Saunders ABC-TV, 152 episodes
1969 Target: Harry Harry Black Alternative titles: What's In it For Harry?, How to Make It
1970 The Immortal Sheriff Dan W. Wheeler TV, 1 episode
Dan August Steve Harrison ABC-TV, 1 episode
1971 Hawaii Five-O Edward Heron CBS-TV, 1 episode, "Two Doves and Mr. Heron"
Mannix Eric Latimer CBS-TV, 1 episode
Sarge Lt. Ross Edmonds TV, 1 episode
1972 McCloud Richard NBC-TV, 1 episode
Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Andy Capaso ABC-TV, 1 episode
Mission: Impossible Joseph Collins CBS-TV, 1 episode
1973 Love Story Dave Walters NBC-TV, 1 episode, "The Cardboard House"
1973–1974 Police Story Sergeant Joe LaFrieda NBC-TV, 3 episodes
The Evil Touch Purvis Greene TV, 2 episodes
The Streets of San Francisco Vic Tolliman ABC-TV, 1 episode
1974 Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Cpt. Franklin
1974 The California Kid Roy Childress
1975 The Night That Panicked America Hank Muldoon Television movie
1976 Captains and the Kings Tom Hennessey Miniseries
The Bad News Bears Coach Roy Turner
Treasure of Matecumbe Spangler Disney movie
1977 Hunter CBS-TV, 1 episode, "The K Group (Part One)"
Roots Ames ABC-TV miniseries
1978 Wild and Wooly Warden Willis Television movie
Message from Space (Ucyuu karano messeiji) General Garuda Japanese (Toei) movie
1978–1980 Charlie's Angels Lt. Harry Stearns ABC-TV, 2 episodes
1979 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Arioch TV, 1 episode
The Evictors Jake Rudd
The Seekers Leland Pell Television movie
1980 Humanoids from the Deep Hank Slattery Alternative titles: Humanoids of the Deep, Monster
B.A.D. Cats Capt. Eugene Nathan TV, 9 episodes
Great White Ron Hamer Alternative titles: The Last Shark
1981 Magnum, P.I. Police Sergeant Jordan CBS-TV, 1 episode
1982 Fantasy Island Douglas Picard ABC-TV, 1 episode
1990: The Bronx Warriors Hammer Penultimate movie
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie Bill Connor Died in an on-set accident during filming; death scene deleted from film

Award nominations[edit]

Year Result Award Category Film or series
1963 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) Combat!

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About Vic Morrow". Jodavidsmeyer. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  2. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 504. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5. 
  3. ^ "About Vic Morrow". Jodavidsmeyer. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  4. ^ Wallace, David. "For Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fast Times Are Slowed by Personal Tragedy". People. October 18, 1982. Vol. 18, No. 16.
  5. ^ a b Jason, Rick (July 2000). "Vic Morrow". "Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood Autobiography by Rick Jason". www.scrapbooksofmymind.com. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Avenger". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Tin Badge". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ Santoro, Gene (March–April 2011). "Infantrymen on the Small Screen". World War II (Leesburg, Virginia: Weider History Group) 25 (6): 69. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ "A Man Called Sledge (1970): Filming Locations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Twilight Zone Accident". 
  11. ^ a b Farber, Stephen and Green, Marc (1988). Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego and the Twilight Zone Case. Arbor House (Morrow). 
  12. ^ Noe, Denise. "The Twilight Zone Tragedy: Funerals and Blame" www.trutv.com
  13. ^ "Vic Morrow". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 

External links[edit]