Richard Crenna, portraying Luke McCoy in the television series The Real McCoys in 1961
Richard Donald Crenna
November 30, 1926
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||January 17, 2003 (aged 76)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer|
(m. 1950; div. 1955)
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1944–45|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards|| American Campaign Medal|
European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Crenna starred in such motion pictures as The Sand Pebbles, Wait Until Dark, Un Flic, Body Heat, the first three Rambo movies, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and The Flamingo Kid. Crenna's first success came on radio in 1948 as high school student "Walter Denton" co-starring with Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in the CBS network series Our Miss Brooks. Crenna continued with the long running comedy in its 1952 move into television. He also had a role as "Luke McCoy" in the ABC, and later CBS, television series, The Real McCoys (1957–63).
Crenna was born November 30, 1926, in Los Angeles, the only child of Edith J. (née Pollette), who was a hotel manager in Los Angeles, and Dominick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian descent. Crenna attended Virgil Junior High School, followed by Belmont High School in Los Angeles, from which he graduated in 1944.
World War II service
Following high school, Crenna served in the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in the infantry as a radioman, where he saw combat in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge (late 1944 – early 1945). He also briefly served in the Pacific Theater of World War II processing intercepted Japanese radio messages.
Crenna got his acting start on radio. In 1937, he had gained his first role, that of "the kid who did everything wrong" on Boy Scout Jamboree, a show on which he continued to appear occasionally in numerous roles until 1948. In the following year, he started playing Walter "Bronco" Thompson on The Great Gildersleeve, a role he played until 1954. He also originated the role of geeky Walter Denton on the Radio Comedy Our Miss Brooks alongside Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in 1948, and followed that role when the series moved to television in 1952. He remained in that role until 1957. He appeared as a delivery boy in My Favorite Husband (episode "Liz Cooks Dinner for 12"), was Oogie Pringle on A Date With Judy (episode "The Competitive Diet", among several other episodes of the show) and as a teenager on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (episode "Watching the Neighbor's Daughter".)
Early television years
As previously mentioned, Crenna played Walter Denton on radio's Our Miss Brooks, remaining with the cast when it moved into television in 1952. He remained with the show until it was canceled in 1957. He guest-starred on the I Love Lucy episode "The Young Fans", with Janet Waldo and on NBC's 1955–56 anthology series Frontier, in the lead role of the episode entitled "The Ten Days of John Leslie". In 1955, he was the guest star on The Millionaire in the episode "The Ralph McKnight Story".
Crenna appeared in 1956 on the television series Father Knows Best, in the episode "The Promising Young Man," as a young man named Woody. In 1957, he played a bank robber on the Cheyenne television series (season 2, episode 19).
When the Our Miss Brooks TV series was canceled in 1957, Crenna was searching for a new series to showcase his talent. Crenna then joined the cast of the comedy series The Real McCoys, as Luke McCoy – alongside veteran actor Walter Brennan, who played Grandpa Amos McCoy. Kathleen Nolan was cast as his young wife, Kate McCoy. Crenna ultimately became one of the series's four directors during its six-year run (1957–63).
Crenna portrayed California state senator James Slattery in the CBS-TV series, Slattery's People (1964–65). For his acting in this series, he was twice nominated for an Emmy Award with slightly different names: for "Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment" and for "Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series", both in 1965. Crenna was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best TV Star – Male" for this same role, again in 1965. In 1966, Crenna played beside Steve McQueen as an ill-fated captain of an American gunboat in 1920s China in The Sand Pebbles.
During the 1970s, Crenna continued acting in such Western dramas such as The Deserter, Catlow, The Man Called Noon, and Breakheart Pass. He made a notable performance in Jean-Pierre Melville's final film Un Flic in 1972. In 1976, Crenna returned to weekly network television in the Norman Lear CBS sit-com All's Fair, a political satire co-starring Bernadette Peters that lasted a single season. The 1978 NBC-TV miniseries, Centennial, based on James A. Michener's historical novel Centennial, saw Crenna in the role of deranged religious fanatic Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn, who ordered the 1864 massacre of Colorado American Indians.
Crenna won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television nomination for his performance in the title role of the 1985 film The Rape of Richard Beck.
Crenna then played John Rambo's ex-commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman, in the first three Rambo films, a role for which he was hired after Kirk Douglas left the production a day into filming. Trautman became the veteran actor's most famous role; his performance received wide critical praise. He also spoofed the character in Hot Shots! Part Deux in 1993.
Crenna portrayed New York City Police lieutenant of detectives Frank Janek in a series of seven popular made-for-television films, beginning in 1988 and ending in 1994. The character of Janek had originally appeared in a series of novels by William Bayer.
Illness and death
Crenna developed pancreatic cancer and died of heart failure at age 76 on January 17, 2003, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife, Penni, and his three adult children by his side, according to his daughter, Seana Crenna. His remains were cremated.
|1950||Let's Dance||Bit Part||Uncredited|
|1951||Starlift||Movie Theater Usher||Uncredited|
|1952||Red Skies of Montana||Noxon||Uncredited|
|1952||The Pride of St. Louis||Paul Dean|
|1952||It Grows on Trees||Ralph Bowen|
|1956||Our Miss Brooks||Walter Denton|
|1965||John Goldfarb, Please Come Home||John Goldfarb|
|1966||Made in Paris||Herb Stone|
|1966||The Sand Pebbles||Captain Collins|
|1967||Wait Until Dark||Mike Talman|
|1969||Midas Run||Mike Warden|
|1971||Doctors' Wives||Dr. Peter Brennan|
|1971||The Deserter||Maj. Wade Brown|
|1971||Red Sky at Morning||Frank Arnold|
|1971||Catlow||Marshal Ben Cowan|
|1973||The Man Called Noon||Noon|
|1973||Jonathan Livingston Seagull||Father (voice)|
|1975||Breakheart Pass||Gov. Richard Fairchild|
|1978||The Evil||C.J. Arnold|
|1979||Stone Cold Dead||Sgt. Boyd|
|1979||Wild Horse Hank||Pace Bradford|
|1980||Death Ship||Trevor Marshall|
|1980||Joshua's World||Dr. Joshua Torrance|
|1981||Body Heat||Edmund Walker|
|1982||First Blood||Colonel Samuel "Sam" R. Trautman|
|1983||Table for Five||Mitchell|
|1984||The Flamingo Kid||Phil Brody||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture|
|1985||Rambo: First Blood Part II||Colonel Samuel "Sam" R. Trautman|
|1985||Summer Rental||Al Pellet|
|1988||Rambo III||Colonel Samuel "Sam" R. Trautman|
|1989||Leviathan||Dr. Glen 'Doc' Thompson|
|1993||Hot Shots! Part Deux||Col. Denton Walters|
|1995||A Pyromaniac's Love Story||Tom Lumpke||Uncredited|
|1995||Jade||Governor Lew Edwards|
|1998||Wrongfully Accused||Lieutenant Fergus Falls|
|2008||Rambo||Colonel Samuel "Sam" R. Trautman||Archive footage / Uncredited|
|2019||Rambo: Last Blood||Colonel Samuel "Sam" R. Trautman||Archive footage / Uncredited|
|1952||I Love Lucy||Arthur Morton||Episode: "The Young Fans"|
|1952–1955||Our Miss Brooks||Walter Denton||94 episodes|
|1955||The Millionaire||Ralph McKnight||Episode: "The Ralph McKnight Story"|
|1956||Frontier||John Leslie||Episode: "The 10 Days of John Leslie"|
|1956||Medic||Donny||Episode: "Don't Count the Stars"|
|1956||Father Knows Best||Elwood Seastrom||Episode: "The Promising Young Man"|
|1956–1958||Matinee Theatre||Sgt. James||3 episodes|
|1957||The Silent Service||Lt. Cmdr. 'Jeff' L. L. Davis||Episode: "The U.S.S. Pampanito Story"|
|1957||Cheyenne||Curley Galway||Episode: "Hard Bargain"|
|1957–1963||The Real McCoys||Luke McCoy||225 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1959)
|1960||The Deputy||Andy Willis||Episode: "A Time to Sow"|
|1963||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Edward Smalley||Episode: "The Long, Lost Life of Edward Smalley"|
|1964–1965||Slattery's People||James Slattery||36 episodes|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (1965)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment (1965)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1966)
|1971||Thief||Neal Wilkinson||Television film|
|1971–1972||Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In||Guest Performer||3 episodes|
|1972||Footsteps||Paddy O'Connor||Television film|
|1973||Double Indemnity||Walter Neff||Television film|
|1974||Nightmare||Howard Faloon||Television film|
|1974||Shootout in a One-Dog Town||Zack Wells||Television film|
|1974||Double Solitaire||Television film|
|1974||Honky Tonk||'Candy' Johnson||Television film|
|1975||A Girl Named Sooner||R.J. "Mac" McHenry||Television film|
|1976–1977||All's Fair||Richard C. Barrington||24 episodes|
|1977||The War Between the Tates||Professor Brian Tate||Television film|
|1978||Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell||Mike Barry||Television film|
|1978||First, You Cry||David Towers||Television film|
|1978||A Fire in the Sky||Jason Voight||Television film|
|1978–1979||Centennial||Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn||Television miniseries|
|1979||Mayflower: The Pilgrims' Adventure||William Brewster||Television film|
|1979||Better Late Then Never||Director||Television film|
|1980||Fugitive Family||Brian Roberts / Matthews||Television film|
|1981||The Ordeal of Bill Carney||Mason Rose||Television film|
|1981||Daniel Boone||(voice)||Television film|
|1981||Look at Us|
|1982||The Day the Bubble Burst||Jesse Livermore||Television film|
|1982–1983||It Takes Two||Dr. Sam Quinn||22 episodes|
|1984||Squaring the Circle||The Narrator||Television film|
|1984||London and Davis in New York||John Greyson||Television film|
|1984||Passions||Richard Kennerly||Television film|
|1985||The Rape of Richard Beck||Richard Beck||Television film|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
|1985||Doubletake||Frank Janek||Television miniseries|
|1986||A Case of Deadly Force||Lawrence O'Donnell Sr.||Television film|
|1986||On Wings of Eagles||H. Ross Perot||Television miniseries|
|1986||The High Price of Passion||Williams Douglas||Television film|
|1987||Police Story: The Freeway Killings||Deputy Chief Bob Devers||Television film|
|1987||Kids Like These||Bob Goodman||Television film|
|1987||Plaza Suite||Roy Hubley||Television film|
|1988||Internal Affairs||Frank Janek||Television film|
|1989||The Case of the Hillside Stranglers||Sgt. Bob Grogan||Television film|
|1989||Stuck with Each Other||Bert Medwick||Television film|
|1990||Murder in Black and White||Frank Janek||Television film|
|1990||Montana||Hoyce Guthrie||Television film|
|1990||Last Flight Out||Dan Hood||Television film|
|1990||Murder Times Seven||Frank Janek||Television film|
|1991||And the Sea Will Tell||Vincent Bugliosi||Television film|
|1991–1992||Pros and Cons||Mitch O'Hannon||12 episodes|
|1992||Intruders||Dr. Neil Chase||Television miniseries|
|1992||Terror on Track 9||Det. Frank Janek||Television film|
|1993||A Place to Be Loved||George Russ||Television film|
|1994||The Forget-Me-Not Murders||Frank Janek||Television film|
|1994||Jonathan Stone: Threat of Innocence||Jonathan Stone||Television film|
|1994||Janek: The Silent Betrayal||Lt. Frank Janek||Television film|
|1995||In the Name of Love: A Texas Tragedy||Lucas Constable, Sr.||Television film|
|1995–1998||JAG||Lt. Harmon Rabb, Sr.||4 episodes|
|1996||Race Against Time: The Search for Sarah||John Porter||Television film|
|1996||Texas Graces||Virgil Grace||Television film|
|1997||20,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Professor Aronnax||Television film|
|1997||Deep Family Secrets||Clay Chadway||Television film|
|1997||Heart Full of Rain||Arliss Dockett||Television film|
|1997||Cold Case||Host||Television film|
|1999||To Serve and Protect||Howard Carr||Television miniseries|
|1999||The Man Who Makes Things Happen: David L. Wolper||Narrator||Television film|
|1999||Chicago Hope||Dr. Martin Rockwell||Episode: "Teacher's Pet"|
|2000||Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For||Warren Pierce||Television film|
|2000||By Dawn's Early Light||Ben Maxwell||Television film|
|2000–2002||Judging Amy||Jared Duff||13 episodes|
|2001||The Day Reagan Was Shot||Ronald Reagan||Television film|
|2003||Out of the Ashes||Jake Smith||Television film|
|2014||Rambo: The Video Game||Col. Samuel "Sam" Trautman||Character Likeness / Uncredited|
Awards and nominations
|1959||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||The Real McCoys||Nominated|
|1965||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1965||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1966||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series||Slattery's People||Nominated|
|1984||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture||The Flamingo Kid||Nominated|
|1985||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film||The Rape of Richard Beck||Nominated|
|1985||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie||The Rape of Richard Beck||Won|
- "The Real McCoys". The Gettysburg Times. February 24, 1962. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
- "Crenna, Richard Donald, Cpl". Together We Served. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
- "Richard Crenna". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
- Kilgannon, Corey (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna, Veteran Actor, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
- Martone, Eric (2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-61069-994-5.
- "Prominent Alumni". Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Lentz III, Harris M. (2004). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 92. ISBN 0-7864-1756-0.
- McLellan, Dennis (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna, 75; Actor Made Transition From Comedy to Drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- "Slattery's People". Television Academy. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Greenspun, Roger (October 21, 1971). "Catlow' Pits Crenna Against Brynner". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Weiler, A. H. (September 25, 1973). "The Screen: Double Bill:' The Man Called Noon' and 'Triple Irons' The Casts". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- "The Rape of Richard Beck". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
- Maslin, Janet (October 22, 1982). "FIRST BLOOD". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Drawing First Blood. First Blood DVD: Artisan. 2002.
- McKerrow, Steve (May 21, 1993). "'Hot Shots! Part Deux': Laughter's better the second time around". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Johnson, Malcolm (May 21, 1993). "Sheen Turns Rambo in 'Hot Shots!'". Hartford Courant. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Clark, Kenneth R. (November 6, 1988). "Crenna's Janek Is Back, But Not In A Series – Yet". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Sandler, Adam (March 28, 1994). "The Forget Me Not Murders". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- McLellan, Dennis (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna – Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- "Crenna dies at 76". Variety. January 19, 2003. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
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