Earl Holliman

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Earl Holliman
Earl Holliman.jpg
Holliman in the 1950s
Henry Earl Holliman[1]

(1928-09-11) September 11, 1928 (age 90)
OccupationActor, Activist, Singer
Years active1952–2000

Henry Earl Holliman (born September 11, 1928) is an American actor known for his many character roles in films, mostly westerns and dramas, in the 1950s and 1960s. He won a Golden Globe Award for the film The Rainmaker (1956) and portrayed Sergeant Bill Crowley on the television police drama Police Woman throughout its 1974–1978 run.

Early life and education[edit]

Earl Holliman was born on September 11, 1928, in Delhi[1] in Richland Parish, northeastern Louisiana. Holliman's biological father died six months before he was born, and his biological mother, living in poverty with several other children,[2] gave him up for adoption at birth.[1] He was adopted a week after his birth[2] by Henry Holliman, an oil-field worker, and his wife, Velma, who then gave him the name of Henry Earl Holliman.[1] Holliman's early years were normal until his adoptive father died when he was 13.[3]

He saved money from his job ushering at a movie theater and left Shreveport, Louisiana, hitchhiking to Hollywood. Unsuccessful at finding work, he soon returned to Louisiana. Meanwhile, his adoptive mother had remarried, and Holliman disliked his new stepfather.[4] He lied about his age and enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II.[5] Assigned to a Navy communications school in Los Angeles, he spent his free time at the Hollywood Canteen, talking to stars who dropped by to support the servicemen and women. A year after he enlisted, the Navy discovered his real age and immediately discharged him.

Holliman returned home, worked in the oil fields in his spare time,[3] and finished his public education at Oil City High School in Oil City, Louisiana graduating with high honors[3] in 1946. After rejecting a scholarship to Louisiana State University,[3] he re-enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.[3] Interested in acting, he was cast as the lead in several Norfolk Navy Theatre productions.[5] When he left the Navy for good, Holliman studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse.[4] He also graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.[6] During his time studying acting at the Playhouse and UCLA, Holliman supplemented his income working as a file clerk for Blue Cross (later known as Blue Cross Blue Shield Association).[7]



Holliman first appeared, uncredited, in the 1952 Western Pony Soldier followed by five films released in 1953. His credits include: The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Big Combo (1955), I Died a Thousand Times (1955) Forbidden Planet (1956), Giant (1956), The Rainmaker (1956), being cast instead of Elvis Presley[8] for the role of Jim Curry and went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture,[9] Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), Visit to a Small Planet (1960), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), Anzio (1968) and Sharky's Machine (1981).

Earl Holliman at 2006 San Diego Comic Con - Photograph by Patty Mooney

Holliman played a doomed helicopter crewman in the William Holden war drama The Bridges at Toko-Ri and a gangster's double-crossed thug in The Big Combo. He co-starred with Jack Palance in the crime drama I Died a Thousand Times (1955), a remake of High Sierra. In his award-winning performance opposite Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster in The Rainmaker, he played a rancher's timid son who finally must defy his father to gain self-respect.

He was the soft-spoken son-in-law of a rancher (Rock Hudson) in the epic western saga Giant. Holliman would play many roles set in the American west. He was Wyatt Earp's deputy in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, co-starring Lancaster and Douglas, and a sniveling coward guilty of murdering and raping the wife of a lawman (Kirk Douglas) in Last Train from Gun Hill. He played a drunken deputy sheriff whose brother Richard Widmark returns to town in a modern-day western, The Trap (1959), and the brother of John Wayne and Dean Martin, out to avenge their murdered father, in a traditional western, The Sons of Katie Elder.

Holliman played a corrupt Atlanta politician in the 1981 crime drama, Sharky's Machine, directed by, and starring, Burt Reynolds.


Holliman became known to television audiences through his role as Sundance in CBS's Hotel de Paree, with costar Jeanette Nolan, from 1959 to 1960, and in the title role of Mitch Guthrie with Andrew Prine in NBC's Wide Country, a drama about modern rodeo performers that aired for 28 episodes between 1962 and 1963. He also had the distinction of appearing in the debut episode of CBS's The Twilight Zone, titled "Where Is Everybody?" which aired on October 2, 1959, the same night as the premiere of Hotel de Paree.

In 1962, he and Claude Akins guest-starred as feuding brothers in "The Stubborn Stumbos" episode of Marilyn Maxwell's ABC drama series Bus Stop. In 1967, Holliman guest-starred on Wayne Maunder's short-lived ABC military–western series Custer. In 1970, Holliman starred in the TV movie Tribes as the antagonist Master Sergeant Frank DePayster, co-starring with Darren McGavin and Jan-Michael Vincent. In 1970 and 1971, Holliman made two appearances in the western comedy series Alias Smith and Jones starring Pete Duel (né Deuel) and Ben Murphy.

From 1974 to 1978, he portrayed Sergeant Bill Crowley opposite Angie Dickinson in the Police Woman series. He co-starred in all 91 episodes of the hit series, playing the police department superior of undercover officer Pepper Anderson. He took part in The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast comedy roast of co-star Dickinson on August 2, 1977.

Holliman continued to appear in television guest roles throughout the 1970s and 1990s. He shared a starring role in the CBS movie Country Gold, filmed on location in Nashville, Tennessee, which also featured Loni Anderson, Linda Hamilton and Cooper Huckabee. He was also a regular celebrity panelist on The Hollywood Squares, where he was recognized for his ability to trick the contestants with believable bluff answers. His most notable role during this period was in the hit miniseries The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. He also took part in the Gunsmoke reunion movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge in 1987 as Jake Flagg, having guest-starred on the Gunsmoke TV series with James Arness three times between 1969 and 1973. He was an occasional celebrity on the $25,000 and $100,000 Pyramid game shows between 1983 and 1991. In 1991 and 1994, Holliman had two guest-star roles on Murder, She Wrote, in the Season 7 episode "Who Killed JB Fletcher?" and the Season 10 episode, "Roadkill". In 1996, he was the guest voice of the character Milton in the Season 6 Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode, "Never the Twain Shall Meet".

Later in his career, Holliman starred in the 1997–99 television series Night Man as Frank Domino, a semiretired police officer and protagonist character's father.


From 1958 to 1963, Holliman found a brief, yet successful, career as a singer and had a record deal with such notable recording studios as Capitol Records, Prep, and HiFi. His songs included: A Teenager Sings The Blues, Nobody Knows How I Feel, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Sittin' And A Gabbin', If I Could See The World Through The Eyes Of A Child, La La La Lovable, Wanna Kiss You To-Night, I'm In The Mood For Love, We Found Love, Willingly, There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight, and Road To Nowhere.[10]


After Wide Country ended its run in April 1963, Holliman spent the next two months traveling the country in the acclaimed musical Oklahoma! appearing in the lead role of Curly McLain.[11] Later that same year, he appeared in the role of Mike Mitchell in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania summer tour of Sunday in New York.[11] Between September 4 and September 9, 1963, he starred in a production of The Tender Trap, opposite Anthony George, in the role of Charlie Y. Reader at the Westchester County Playhouse in Dobbs Ferry, New York.[12] From September 15 to October 14, 1981, he starred in a stage production of Mister Roberts at his Fiesta Dinner Playhouse in San Antonio, Texas.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Earl Holliman photographed at his home in June 2018

Holliman owned the Fiesta Dinner Playhouse in San Antonio, Texas. He occasionally performed at his theater when he was not working in Hollywood, including starring in Same Time, Next Year with Julie Sommars in 1983.[14] The facility closed after 1987. He also appeared in stage productions of the 1973 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire as Mitch[15] and the 1977 Santa Monica Civic production of A Chorus Line as Zach the Choreographer.[16][17] In the late 1970s, he served as the National Honorary Chairman for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.[18][19] He is also a vegetarian[20] and is against the use of exploiting animals by using their furs for clothing.[21]

He is also one of many in the entertainment industry who have been cited in the short saying There are five stages in the life of an actor by Hollywood columnist Mike Connolly (e.g. "Who's Earl Holliman? Get me Earl Holliman. Get me an Earl Holliman Type. Get me a young Earl Holliman. Who's Earl Holliman?").

Holliman is a Republican and supported the re-election of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1956 presidential election.[22]

He is of the Baptist faith.[23]

Holliman is also known for his work as an animal-rights activist, including more than 25 years as president of Actors and Others for Animals.[24] He currently resides in Studio City, California, and grants occasional interviews.

Awards and nominations[edit]

In addition to his Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for The Rainmaker, Holliman also earned a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Television Series" for his performance alongside Delta Burke in the short-lived 1992 sitcom Delta.[9]

For his contribution to the television industry, Holliman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6901 Hollywood Blvd.[25]


Conflation with Anthony Earl Numkena[edit]

For several years, various sources erroneously stated that Earl Holliman's original name was Anthony Earl Numkena.[26][27][28] In fact, Numkena was a child actor, born in 1942, who appeared with Holliman in the films Pony Soldier (1952) and Destination Gobi (1954).


  1. ^ a b c d Leszczak, Bob (2015). From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 157. ISBN 9781442242746. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b Mahan, Bill (October 31, 1971). "Outside Hollywood: Earl Holliman". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. The Register and Tribune Syndicate. p. 139. Retrieved August 16, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ a b c d e Martin, Bob (March 4, 1973). "Earl Holliman: actor with desire for variety". Independent Press-Telegram. California, Long Beach. p. Tele Vues 1. Retrieved August 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ a b Holleran, Scott: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-02-22. Box Office Mojo, March 8, 2006 - Close-Up: Actor Earl Holliman interview
  5. ^ a b Yahoo! Movies - Earl Holliman Archived 2011-06-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Erickson, Hal: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-26. Retrieved 2009-02-17. Answers.com; Earl Holliman
  7. ^ Interview,Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood - Earl Holliman, August 22, 2000
  8. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (2015). Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. p. 35. ISBN 9780813159287. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Earl Holliman". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 20 January 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Earl Holliman Discography - USA - 45cat". www.45cat.com.
  11. ^ a b Earl's Ledger - The Official Earl Holliman Fan Club Magazine, page 3, Audrey's Letter Shop, Los Angeles, CA, Vol. 1, August 1963
  12. ^ "'Tender Trap' Playing At Dobbs Ferry" (PDF). North Westchester Times New Castle Tribune. Nwe York, Mount Kisco. September 5, 1963. p. 12. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  13. ^ Communications, Emmis (1 September 1981). "Texas Monthly". Emmis Communications – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Gilliam, Steve. "Steve Gilliam (resume)". Trinity.edu. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  15. ^ Kolin, Philip C. (2000). Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire. Cambridge University Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780521626101. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Chatter". People. Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ Nelson, Miriam (2009). My Life Dancing With The Stars. BearManor Media. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Marine Toys for Tots Foundation". www.toysfortots.org.
  19. ^ "Theater asks toys". San Antonio Express. Texas, San Antonio. December 16, 1977. p. 3-W. Retrieved August 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  20. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 January 1988). "Vegetarian Times". Active Interest Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (1 January 1989). "Vegetarian Times". Active Interest Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
  22. ^ Motion Picture Magazine, Issue 549, November 1956, Brewster Publications, Inc., Page. 27
  23. ^ Interview, Billy Graham Ministries, I Believe...The Religious Faiths of 29 Stars, 1960
  24. ^ Fraser, Nora: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2009-02-17. The Pet Press, October 2002 - Actors & Others’ Head Honcho Has A Huge Heart for Animals
  25. ^ "Earl Holliman". Los Angeles Times Hollywood Star Walk. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 14 February 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2017-01-14. Yahoo Movies - Earl Holliman
  27. ^ [1] New York Times Movies & TV - Anthony Earl Numkena
  28. ^ "Earl Holliman". Filmbug. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2018.

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