Vic Morrow

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Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow in 1971.jpg
Morrow in 1971
Victor Morozoff[1]

(1929-02-14)February 14, 1929
DiedJuly 23, 1982(1982-07-23) (aged 53)
Cause of deathAccidental decapitation by helicopter rotor blades
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park
Culver City, California
Other namesVictor Morrow
Years active1955–1982
  • (m. 1958; div. 1964)
  • Gale A. Lester
    (m. 1975; div. 1979)
Children2, including Jennifer Jason Leigh

Victor Morrow (born Victor Morozoff; February 14, 1929 – July 23, 1982) was an American actor. He came to prominence as one of the leads of the ABC drama series Combat! (1962–1967), which earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series. Active on screen for over three decades, his film roles include Blackboard Jungle (1955), King Creole (1958), God's Little Acre (1958), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), and The Bad News Bears (1976). Morrow continued acting up to his death during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) when he and two child actors were killed by a helicopter crash during filming.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

Morrow was born in the Bronx, New York City, to a middle-class Jewish family.[4] He was a son of Harry Morozoff, an electrical engineer, and his wife Jean (Kress) Morozoff.[5] Morrow dropped out of high school when he was 17 and enlisted in the United States Navy.[6] Morrow and his family lived in Asbury Park, New Jersey for many years.[7]


Morrow attracted attention playing Stanley Kowalski in a touring production of A Streetcar Named Desire.[8] His first movie role was in Blackboard Jungle (1955), playing a thug student who torments teacher Glenn Ford.

It was made by MGM, who then put Morrow in Tribute to a Bad Man (1956). Morrow appeared on television, guest starring on shows like The Millionaire, Matinee Theatre, Climax!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Restless Gun, Trackdown, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, and Telephone Time.

Morrow had support roles in Men in War (1957), directed by Anthony Mann, and was third billed in Hell's Five Hours (1958). He starred alongside Elvis Presley and an all-star supporting cast including Walter Matthau and Carolyn Jones in the movie King Creole (1958), directed by Michael Curtiz. Mann asked him back for God's Little Acre (1958).

However Morrow remained mostly a television actor, appearing in Naked City, Wichita Town, The Rifleman, The Lineup, Johnny Ringo, The Brothers Brannagan, The Law and Mr. Jones, The Lawless Years, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, General Electric Theatre, Target: The Corruptors, The Tall Man, Outlaws, Bonanza, and The Untouchables.

He was cast in the early Bonanza episode "The Avenger" as a mysterious figure known only as "Lassiter" – named after his town of origin – who arrives in Virginia City, and helps save Ben and Adam Cartwright from an unjust hanging, while eventually gunning down one sought-after man, revealing himself as the hunter of a lynch mob who killed his father; having so far killed about half the mob, he rides off into the night, in an episode that resembles the later Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter. Morrow later appeared in the third season Bonanza episode "The Tin Badge".[citation needed]

Mann used Morrow a third time in Cimarron (1960), again tormenting Glenn Ford. He took on Audie Murphy in Posse from Hell (1961).

Morrow was cast as soldier-engineer Lt. Robert Benson in the 1962 episode, "A Matter of Honor", on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. The story focuses on Benson's fiancé, Indiana (Shirley Ballard), who tries to persuade him to boost their income by selling inside Army information to criminal real estate moguls like Joseph Hooker (Howard Petrie). Trevor Bardette and Meg Wyllie were cast in the roles of Captain and Mrs. Warner.[citation needed]

Morrow had his first leading role in Portrait of a Mobster (1961) playing Dutch Schultz.[9]

He continued as mostly a television actor, appearing in Death Valley Days, Alcoa Premiere, and Suspense.


As Sgt. Saunders in Combat!

Morrow was cast in the lead role of Sergeant "Chip" Saunders in ABC's Combat!, a World War II drama, which aired from 1962 to 1967.[10] Pop culture scholar Gene Santoro has written:

TV's longest-running World War II drama (1962–1967) was really a collection of complex 50-minute movies. Salted with battle sequences, they follow a squad's travails from D-Day on – a gritty ground-eye view of men trying to salvage their humanity and survive. Melodrama, comedy, and satire come into play as top-billed Lieutenant Hanley (Rick Jason) and Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) lead their men toward Paris ... The relentlessness hollows antihero Saunders out: at times, you can see the tombstones in his eyes."[11]

His friend and fellow actor on Combat!, Rick Jason, described Morrow as "a master director" who directed "one of the greatest anti-war films I've ever seen". He was referring to the two-part episode of Combat! entitled Hills Are for Heroes, which was written by Gene L. Coon.[12]

Deathwatch and A Man Called Sledge[edit]

Morrow also worked as a television director. Together with Leonard Nimoy, he produced the 1965 film Deathwatch, an English-language film version of Jean Genet's play Deathwatch (title in French: Haute Surveillance), adapted by Morrow and Barbara Turner, directed by Morrow, and starring Nimoy.[13]

After Combat! ended, Morrow played the lead in Target: Harry (1969), the pilot for a proposed series that was not picked up; Roger Corman directed.

In 1969 he set up his own company, Carleigh.[14]

Morrow wrote and directed a Spaghetti Western, produced by Dino DeLaurentiis, titled A Man Called Sledge (1970) and starring James Garner, Dennis Weaver and Claude Akins. After Deathwatch, it was Morrow's first and only big screen outing behind the camera. Sledge was filmed in Italy[citation needed] with desert-like settings that were highly evocative of the Southwestern United States.

Morrow guest starred in The Immortal, Dan August, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Sarge, McCloud, and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law.

TV movies[edit]

In the 1970s Morrow starred in some television movies including A Step Out of Line (1971), Travis Logan, D.A. (1971) (playing the title role), River of Mystery (1971), The Glass House (1972), The Weekend Nun, Tom Sawyer (1973), Nightmare (1974).

He guest starred in Ironside, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Mission: Impossible, The FBI, Love Story, The Streets of San Francisco, and Police Story.

Morrow appeared in two episodes of Australian-produced anthology series The Evil Touch (1973), one of which he also directed.

He played the wily local sheriff in director John Hough's road classic Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, as well as the homicidal sheriff, alongside Martin Sheen, in the television film The California Kid (1974), and The Take (1974).

Morrow had the lead in Funeral for an Assassin (1975). He had key roles in Death Stalk (1975), Wanted: Babysitter ( also called Scar Tissue; 1975), The Night That Panicked America (1975), Treasure of Matecumbe (1976) and had a key role as aggressive, competitive baseball coach Roy Turner, in the comedy The Bad News Bears (1976).

In the late 1970s Morrow worked increasingly in miniseries such as Captains and the Kings (1977), Roots and The Last Convertible (1979), as well as guest starring on shows like Bronc, Hunter, The Littlest Hobo and Charlie's Angels.

He returned to directing, helming episodes of Quincy, M.E. as well as Lucan and Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.

Final roles[edit]

Morrow had the lead in The Ghost of Cypress Swamp (1977), the Japanese film Message from Space (1978) and The Evictors (1979). He was in TV movies The Man with the Power (1977), The Hostage Heart (1977), Curse of the Black Widow (1977), Wild and Wooly (1978), Stone (1979), Paris (1980)

Morrow made Humanoids from the Deep (1980) for Roger Corman and The Last Shark (1981) and had a regular role in the series, B.A.D. Cats (1980).

Morrow's last roles included guest roles in Charlie's Angels, Magnum, P.I. and the films 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1981) and Abenko Green Berets (1982).

Personal life[edit]

In 1958,[4] Morrow married actress and screenwriter Barbara Turner. They had two daughters, Carrie Ann Morrow (1958–2016) and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (born 1962). Morrow's marriage to Turner ended in divorce after seven years. He married Gale Lester in 1975, but they separated just prior to Morrow's death in July 1982.

Morrow fell out with his daughter Jennifer after his divorce from her mother. She changed her last name to Leigh and they were still estranged at the time of his death.[15]

Rick Jason, co-star of Combat!, wrote in his memoirs that Morrow "had an absolute dislike of firearms. He used a Thompson submachine gun in our series, but that was work. In any other respect he'd have nothing to do with them."[12]


In 1982, Morrow was cast in a feature role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, in a segment directed by John Landis. Morrow was playing the role of Bill Connor, a racist who is taken back in time and placed in various situations where he would be a persecuted victim: as a Jewish man in Vichy France, a black man about to be lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, and a Vietnamese man about to be killed by U.S. soldiers.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 1982, Morrow and two child actors, seven-year-old Myca Dinh Le and six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were filming on location in California, in an area that was known as Indian Dunes, near Santa Clarita. They were performing in a scene for the Vietnam sequence, in which their characters attempt to escape out of a deserted Vietnamese village from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter.[2] The helicopter was hovering at approximately 24 feet (7.3 m) above them when the heat from special effect pyrotechnic explosions reportedly delaminated the rotor blades[16] and caused the helicopter to plummet and crash on top of them, killing all three instantly. Morrow and Le were decapitated and mutilated by the helicopter rotor blades, while Chen was crushed by a helicopter skid.[17]

Landis and four other defendants, including the helicopter pilot Dorsey Wingo, were ultimately acquitted of involuntary manslaughter after a nearly nine-month trial. The parents of Le and Chen sued and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Both of Morrow's daughters, notably Jennifer Jason Leigh, also sued and settled for an undisclosed amount.[17][18]

Morrow's remains are interred in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.[19]


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Blackboard Jungle Artie West
It's a Dog's Life Wildfire the dog Voice, Uncredited
1956 Tribute to a Bad Man Lars Peterson
The Millionaire Joey Diamond Episode: "The Joey Diamond Story"
Climax! Ted Episode: "Strange Hostage"
1957 Men in War Corporal James Zwickley
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Benny Mungo Episode "A Little Sleep"
1958 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Joe Rovi Episode: "The Ed Church Case"
Hell's Five Hours Burt Nash
King Creole Shark
God's Little Acre Shaw Walden
1958-1959 The Rifleman Johnny Cotton ABC-TV, 2 episodes
1959 Naked City David Greco ABC-TV, Episode: "The Shield"
Johnny Ringo Bill Stoner CBS-TV, Episode: "Kid With a Gun"
The Lawless Years Nick Joseph NBC-TV, Episode: "The Nick Joseph Story (pilot)"
1960 The Brothers Brannagan Locke Syndicated TV, series premiere, Episode: "Tune in for Murder"
The Barbara Stanwyck Show Leroy Benson NBC-TV, Episode: "The Key to the Killer"
Cimarron Wes Jennings
1960-1961 Bonanza Lassiter / Ab Brock 2 episodes
1960-1962 The Untouchables Vince Shirer / Collier 2 episodes
1961 Posse from Hell Crip
The Law and Mr. Jones Dr. Bigelow ABC-TV, Episode: "A Very Special Citizen"
Portrait of a Mobster Dutch Schultz
The Tall Man Skip Farrell NBC-TV, Episode: "Time of Foreshadowing"
1962 The New Breed Belman ABC-TV, Episode: "To Sell Another Human Being"
1962–1967 Combat! Sergeant Chip Saunders ABC-TV, 152 episodes
1969 Target: Harry Harry Black Alternative titles: What's In it For Harry?, How to Make It
1970 A Man Called Sledge Gold Guard Scout Uncredited
The Immortal Sheriff Dan W. Wheeler Episode: "The Rainbow Butcher"
Dan August Steve Harrison ABC-TV, Episode: "The Union Forever"
1971 Hawaii Five-O Edward Heron CBS-TV, Episode: "Two Doves and Mr. Heron"
Mannix Eric Latimer CBS-TV, Episode: "Days Beyond Recall"
The F.B.I. Porter Bent Episode: "The Stalking Horse"
Sarge Lt. Ross Edmonds TV, Episode: "A Push Over the Edge"
1972 McCloud Richard NBC-TV, Episode: "A Little Plot at Tranquil Valley"
Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Andy Capaso ABC-TV, Episode: "Eight Cents Worth of Protection"
The Glass House Hugo Slocum TV movie
Mission: Impossible Joseph Collins CBS-TV, Episode: "Five Days in the Death of Sgt. Brown"
1973 Love Story Dave Walters NBC-TV, Episode: "The Cardboard House"
The F.B.I. John Omar Stahl Episode: "Desperate Journey"
The Streets of San Francisco Vic Tolliman ABC-TV, Episode: "The Twenty-Four Karat Plague"
1973–1974 Police Story Sergeant Joe LaFrieda NBC-TV, 3 episodes
The Evil Touch Purvis Greene TV, 2 episodes
1974 Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Captain Franklin
The Take Manso
The California Kid Roy Childress TV movie
Funeral for an Assassin Michael Cardiff
1975 Wanted: Babysitter Vic, the kidnapper
The Night That Panicked America Hank Muldoon TV movie
1976 Captains and the Kings Tom Hennessey 3 episodes
The Bad News Bears Coach Roy Turner
Treasure of Matecumbe Spangler Disney movie
1977 Roots Ames ABC-TV miniseries, 2 episodes
Hunter CBS-TV, 2 episodes
The Hostage Heart Steve Rockewicz TV movie
1978 Wild and Wooly Warden Willis TV movie
Message from Space (Ucyuu karano messeiji) General Garuda Japanese (Toei) movie
1978–1980 Charlie's Angels Lt. Harry Stearns ABC-TV, "Angel In Hiding" 2 episodes, fifth-season premiere
1979 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Arioch TV, Episode: "Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar"
The Evictors Jake Rudd
The Seekers Leland Pell TV movie
1980 Humanoids from the Deep Hank Slattery Alternative titles: Humanoids of the Deep, Monster
B.A.D. Cats Captain Eugene Nathan TV, 9 episodes
1981 The Last Shark Ron Hamer Alternative titles: Great White
Magnum, P.I. Police Sergeant Jordan CBS-TV, Episode: "Wave Goodbye"
1982 Fantasy Island Douglas Picard ABC-TV, Episode: "The Challenge/A Genie Named Joe"
1990: The Bronx Warriors Hammer Penultimate movie
Abenko gongsu gundan South Korean war movie. Directed by Im Kwon-taek
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie Bill Connor Died in an on-set accident during filming
(final film role)

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) Combat! Nominated


  1. ^ "Victor Morozoff in the 1940 Census | Ancestry®".
  2. ^ a b "TV actor Vic Morrow killed". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. July 23, 1982. p. 1A.
  3. ^ "Actor, two children die during filming". Lodi News-Sentinel, California. UPI. July 24, 1982. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b "About Vic Morrow". Jodavidsmeyer. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  5. ^ Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 504. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5.
  6. ^ "Morrow, Victor Harry, S1c". Together We Served. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  7. ^ "Jersey Shore Native Vic Morrow Remembered 40 Years After Tragic Death". Micromedia Publications. July 22, 2022. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  8. ^ Schallert, E. (November 17, 1954). "Moss Hart to write duchin story; video man plans features". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ MacMINN, A. (January 13, 1963). "Camera angles". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Humphrey, Hal (September 20, 1964). "Combat' Star Finds It's Hard to Sleep on the Set". Los Angeles Times. p. B22.
  11. ^ Santoro, Gene (March–April 2011). "Infantrymen on the Small Screen". World War II. Leesburg, Virginia: Weider History Group. 25 (6): 69. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Jason, Rick (July 2000). "Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood Autobiography". Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  13. ^ DRAMA BY GENET WILL BE FILMED. (November 27, 1962). New York Times
  14. ^ Martin, B. (October 25, 1969). "Carleigh productions buys two properties". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 156298595.
  15. ^ Wallace, David. "For Jennifer Jason Leigh, Fast Times Are Slowed by Personal Tragedy". People. October 18, 1982. Vol. 18, No. 16.
  16. ^ "NTSB Accident Report" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. Washington, D.C. July 23, 1982. Archived from the original on March 5, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ a b Farber, Stephen; Green, Marc (1988). Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego and the Twilight Zone Case. Arbor House/Morrow. p. 394. ISBN 9780877959489. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  18. ^ Noe, Denise. "The Twilight Zone Tragedy: Funerals and Blame". Crime Library. TruTV. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013.
  19. ^ "Calisphere: Funeral for Vic Morrow". Archived from the original on September 28, 2018.

External links[edit]