May 21, 1923
New York City, U.S.
October 16, 2000 (aged 77)|
Moorpark, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by gunshot|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Alma mater||American Academy of Dramatic Arts|
Aria Allen (1950–1962; divorced)|
Shirley Johnston (1962–1962; divorced)
Jutta Parr (1962–1964; divorced)
Cindy Jason (1983–2000; his death)
|Service/||United States Army Air Force|
|Years of service||1943–1945|
|Battles/wars||World war II|
After the War, Jason attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on the G.I. Bill, as well as holding a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. While in attendance at a New York City play, he was spotted by Hume Cronyn, who then cast him in Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. The role earned Jason a Theater World Award and a Hollywood contract with Columbia Pictures. Later, MGM was searching for an actor to replace Fernando Lamas in the 1953 movie Sombrero and gave the role to Jason, who was earlier released from Columbia Pictures. This led to Jason being cast in The Saracen Blade (1954) and This Is My Love (1954).
Fox signed him for the male lead role in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956) and later signed for a multi-picture contract. His first project was an adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Wayward Bus (1957) with Jayne Mansfield and Joan Collins, which earned him critical acclaim. A string of good performances, both in films and on television, then followed. In 1956, Jason played the lead in The Fountain of Youth, a half-hour unsold pilot written and directed by Orson Welles which won the Peabody Award in 1958.
Soon after, Jason received offers for television series. He guest-starred on ABC's anthology series, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse. In 1954, he played Joaquin Murietta, the notorious Mexican bandit of the California Gold Rush, in an episode of Jim Davis's syndicated western series Stories of the Century, the story of a railroad detective investigating crime in the American West. He appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood, in the Rawhide episodes "Incident of the Coyote Weed" and "Incident of the Valley in Shadow", and co-starred in 1969 in The Monk.
In 1960, he starred as insurance investigator Robin Scott in The Case of the Dangerous Robin, a series that lasted only one season. It was not renewed due to Jason's health issues, including back problems. But in 1962, he began starring in the television series Combat! as Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Gil Hanley, probably his most memorable role. In this series he shared the starring role in an alternating episode rotation, with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Chip Saunders, though in a few episodes they both appeared. The show was a hit that lasted for 152 episodes in five seasons.
After Combat!, Rick returned to stage acting. He made films in Japan and Israel, as well as films such as Color Me Dead (1969), The Day of the Wolves (1971), The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976), Love and the Midnight Auto Supply (1977), Partners (1982) and Illegally Yours (1988). In 1970, he took the lead in the pilot for Prudence and the Chief. His TV career went well in the 1970s and 1980s, when he appeared in shows like Matt Houston, Police Woman, Murder, She Wrote, Moonlighting, Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, Airwolf and Dallas, and played Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1989 miniseries Around the World in 80 Days. In 1973, he was a frequent character on The Young and the Restless.
After retiring from screen appearances, Jason kept busy by doing voice-overs for commercials and wrote his autobiography, Scrapbooks of My Mind. In 2000, he attended a Combat! reunion in Las Vegas with fellow cast members.
Jason died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound one week after the Combat! reunion, on October 16, 2000, in Moorpark, California, where he lived. He left no note. Authorities said the actor was "despondent" over "unspecified personal matters."
- Jason, Rick. Scrapbooks of My Mind : A Hollywood Autobiography; Strange New Worlds; 1st edition 29 July 2000; ISBN 978-0970162403
- "Actor Rick Jason Found Dead", Los Angeles Times, 17 October 2000
- Obituary in Variety; 9 November 2000