Michael Burns (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Michael Burns
Randy Boone Michael Burns It's a Man's World 1962.JPG
Randy Boone and Michael Burns (right) from the television show It's A Man's World (1962)
Michael Thornton Burns

(1947-12-30) December 30, 1947 (age 75)
Alma materCollege of William and Mary
University of California, Los Angeles
Yale University
child actor (retired)
history professor (retired)
Political partyDemocrat[1]
SpouseElizabeth Topham Kennan (m. 1986)
Barbara Stanwyck, Michael Burns, and Colleen Dewhurst in The Big Valley episode "A Day of Terror" (1966)

Michael Thornton Burns (born December 30, 1947) is an American professor emeritus of history at Mount Holyoke College,[2] and a published author and former television and film teen actor, most known for the television series Wagon Train.


Michael Thornton Burns was born in Mineola, New York, on Long Island, a village in Nassau County to director and producer Frank Xavier Burns (best known for the early television series, Martin Kane, Private Eye) and Mary Lou DeWeese. He has an older sister, Pamela.[citation needed]

In 1949, the family moved to Yonkers. In 1956, the family relocated to Beverly Hills, California, where he attended Beverly Hills High School. He attended for a year at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, before he transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, which he attended mostly after hours while still working as an actor during many days, and residing in Redondo Beach.[citation needed]

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He then obtained his Master of Arts in European history at the same institution. In 1977, he entered Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, from which he received his PhD in modern European history.[3]



Burns was discovered by Lee Wallace, the head of casting for 20th Century Fox,[citation needed] who arranged Burns' debut on the 1960 episode, "A Taste of Lobster" of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; Burns played a shrewd 13-year-old businessman, Chrissie Tyler, who owned a babysitting agency. He also guest-starred that first year (1960) in Wagon Train as the son of title character played by Leslie Nielsen in the episode "The Jeremy Dow Story".

He co-starred in a 19-episode NBC comedy/drama It's a Man's World (1962–63 season) as 14-year-old Howie Macauley.[3] Beginning in the fall of 1960, Burns made five guest appearances on Wagon Train during its third and fourth seasons. His sixth guest appearance on the final sixth-season episode in 1963 introduced his character, Barnaby West, a regular until the series' end in 1965.

Burns appeared with James Stewart in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, a 1962 film. In 1965, Burns auditioned for The Monkees and was one of the 14 finalists who completed screen tests. In 1966, he joined Audie Murphy in the Western film, 40 Guns to Apache Pass. He appeared as a guest star in over 35 series during the 1960s and 1970s, mostly Westerns, including Gunsmoke, The Virginian, The Road West, The Legend of Jesse James, and The Big Valley. In his 20s, he appeared in several films, including Journey to Shiloh (1968), The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968), That Cold Day in the Park (1969), Thumb Tripping (1972), and Santee (1973). He appeared as Blue Boy in "The LSD Story", the pilot episode of the relaunched Jack Webb police series Dragnet 1967.


In 1980, Burns became a professor of history at Mount Holyoke. In 1991, he authored, Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789–1945, a study of the Dreyfus affair in France during the 1890s. A reviewer of Burns' book writing in The New York Times called the work "a solidly written book about the man and his family, a book that emphasizes the elemental human drama of the captain's story."[4] Upon his retirement in 2002, Burns was honoured by Mount Holyoke with the designation professor emeritus.[5]

Later life[edit]

While on the faculty at Mount Holyoke College, Burns wed the college's then-president, Elizabeth Topham Kennan in June 1986. She has a son, Frank Alexander Kennan, from her previous marriage. Since 2002, the couple have resided in Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, where they have restored the Cambus-Kenneth Estate, a crop, cattle, and thoroughbred horse farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5]

He is a member of the Thoroughbred Club of America, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, and the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association.[citation needed]

A Democrat, Burns was a donor to then U.S. Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election and to Daniel Mongiardo, the party nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky that same year. Kerry and Mongiardo lost to incumbent Republicans George W. Bush and Jim Bunning, respectively.[1]



  • France and the Dreyfus Affair: A Documentary History (1998)[6]
  • Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789–1945 (1991)[4]
  • Rural Society and French Politics: Boulangism and the Dreyfus Affair, 1886–1900 (1984)[7]


Select filmography and television[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Michael Burns of Danville, Kentucky: $25,150 in Political Contributions for 2004". campaignmoney.com. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  2. ^ "Citations search: "Michael Burns" (Google Books)". Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  3. ^ a b "Michael Burns: A trial run led to Wagon Train". The Michael Burns Site from undated issue of TV News. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Why the Drefus Affair Rings Through History". The New York Times. October 11, 1991. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Three faculty members retire as emeriti". College Street Journal at Mount Holyoke College. May 24, 2002. Archived from the original on December 25, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  6. ^ Books, Used, New, and Out of Print Books - We Buy and Sell - Powell's. "France & the Dreyfus Affair A Brief Documentary History by Michael Burns". www.powells.com. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  7. ^ Burns, Michael. Rural Society and French Politics: Bouglangism and the Dreyfus Affair 1886-1900.

External links[edit]