Morris Ankrum

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Morris Ankrum
Morris in Rocketship X-M (1950)
Morris Nussbaum

(1896-08-28)August 28, 1896
DiedSeptember 2, 1964(1964-09-02) (aged 68)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Resting placeSpring Hill Cemetery, Danville, Illinois, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
  • Actor
  • lawyer
  • professor
Years active1933–1964
  • Gillian Gilbert,
Elizabeth Lawrence
(m. 1925, divorced)
(m. 1935)

Morris Ankrum (born Morris Nussbaum; August 28, 1896 – September 2, 1964) was an American radio, television, and film character actor.

Early life[edit]

Born in Danville in Vermilion County in eastern Illinois, Ankrum originally began a career in academics. After graduating from The University of Southern California 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.[1]

From 1923 to 1939 he acted in several Broadway stage productions, including Gods of the Lightning, The Big Blow, and Within the Gates.[2]

Film career[edit]

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.[3]

Ankrum was cast in supporting roles as stalwart authority figures, including scientists, military men (particularly army officers), judges, trail hands, bankers, and even psychiatrists in more than 270 films and television episodes. His parts included villainous roles in Paramount's Hopalong Cassidy film series. Ankrum was in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's production of Tennessee Johnson (1942), a biographical film about Andrew Johnson, the 17th U.S. president. As Sen. Jefferson Davis, Ankrum addresses the United States Senate upon his resignation to lead the Confederate States of America as that republic's first—and only—president. Ankrum's film career spanned 30 years. His credits were largely concentrated in the western and science-fiction genres.

Ankrum appeared in such westerns as Ride 'Em Cowboy in 1942, Vera Cruz opposite Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, Apache (1954), and Cattle Queen of Montana with Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan.

In the science fiction genre, he appeared in Rocketship X-M (1950); as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars (1951); in Red Planet Mars (1952), playing the United States Secretary of Defense; in the cult classic Invaders From Mars (1953), playing a United States Army general; and as another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956); as a psychiatrist in the cult classic Kronos (1957); and other military-officer roles in Beginning of the End (1957) and The Giant Claw (1957), and the Independent production, “Giant from the Unknown” released 1958.

Later years[edit]

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 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 contempt.

Ankrum made 22 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.

Ankrum appeared in western series such as The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Bronco, Maverick, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Cimarron City, Rawhide and The Rifleman.

Ankrum appeared in a number of ABC/Warner Brothers westerns. On October 15, 1957, he had a major part in the episode "Strange Land" of the series Sugarfoot, starring Will Hutchins. Ankrum played an embittered rancher named Cash Billings, who allows hired gunman Burr Fulton ( Rhodes Reason) to take over his spread, but Sugarfoot arrives to bring law and justice to the situation. Ankrum appeared again, as John Savage, in 1959 in the Sugarfoot episode "The Wild Bunch". The same year, he portrayed a zealot who abused his daughter, played by Sherry Jackson, in the episode "The Naked Gallows" of the western Maverick with Jack Kelly and Mike Connors. In 1961, he again played embittered, and this time paralyzed, rancher Cyrus Dawson in the episode "Incident at Dawson Flats" of the western series Cheyenne.

In the 1958–59 season Ankrum appeared 12 times in Richard Carlson's syndicated western series Mackenzie's Raiders. In the series set on the Rio Grande border, Carlson plays Col. Ranald Mackenzie, who faces troubles from assorted border outlaws.[4]

Ankrum was cast in an episode of the 1959 CBS sitcom Dennis the Menace. He also made occasional uncredited appearances in several Roger Corman films. While busy in films and television, Ankrum was still involved in live theatre and continued to direct plays at the Pasadena Playhouse.[1]

He and his second wife, Joan Wheeler (married aka Joan Ankrum),[5] had a child, David Ankrum, best known as Adam from Tabitha. David Ankrum eventually became a Hollywood agent. Joan Ankrum, of Joan Ankrum Galleries,[6] became a prominent Los Angeles art dealer[7] with a gallery on La Cienega Boulevard


On September 2, 1964, Ankrum died of trichinosis. At the time of his death, he was still involved with Raymond Burr's Perry Mason TV series.[1] His final appearance on Perry Mason, in the episode "The Case of the Sleepy Slayer", and his last feature film, Guns of Diablo, in which he was cast as Ray Macklin, were released in 1964 and 1965, respectively, following Ankrum's death.

Selected filmography[edit]

Television credits[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Morris Ankrum (Stephen Morris)". The Old Corral. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  2. ^ "Morris Ankrum". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  3. ^ "Morris Ankrum". Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  4. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 113
  5. ^ admin (December 24, 2001). "Joan Ankrum Obituary - Los Angeles, California".
  6. ^ "A Finding Aid to the Ankrum Gallery records, circa 1900-circa 1990s, bulk 1960-1990".
  7. ^ "Joan Wheeler Ankrum's Obituary on Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]