Thursday, January 16, 2014

Russell Johnson & Dave Madden

Today was a sad day for us children of television because we lost to actors that we grew up watching. I would see these guys everyday after school.

Russell Johnson died today from kidney failure at his home in Bainbridge Island, Washington. He was best known for playing the handsome Professor Roy Hinkley (usually referred to as "The Professor"), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on the island, but, as Johnson himself pointed out, could not fix the hole in the boat. Gilligan's Island aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns continuously ever since.

Johnson was born on November 10, 1924, in Ashley, in Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania. After high school, in the midst of World War II, Johnson joined the United States Army Air Force as an aviation cadet and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers. While flying as a navigator in a B-25 with the 100th Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force, his plane and two other B-25s were shot down in the Philippines in March 1945 during a low level bombing and strafing run against Japanese targets. The planes were hit by intense flak and had to ditch in the waters off the port of Zamboanga. During the ditching, he broke both his ankles and the radioman next to him was killed. Johnson earned a Purple Heart for this mission. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of first lieutenant on November 22, 1945. He then joined the Army Reserve and used the GI Bill to fund his acting studies at the Actors Lab in Hollywood.

He became a close friend of Audie Murphy and later appeared with him in three of his films, Column South and Tumbleweed in 1953 and Ride Clear of Diablo in 1954. Johnson's Hollywood career began in 1952, with the college fraternity hazing exposé For Men Only, and with Loan Shark, also released in 1952 and starring George Raft. His early roles were primarily in westerns such as Law and Order (opposite Ronald Reagan), and science fiction such as It Came from Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956), and The Space Children (1958). He also appeared in a Ma and Pa Kettle vehicle, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki (1955).
During the 1950s, he guest starred on Rod Cameron's syndicated crime drama City Detective. He played the head of a gang of crooks in episode 17 of season 1 of The Adventures of Superman (originally broadcast in January, 1953, filmed in 1951). He was cast on the religion anthology series Crossroads. He also played "The Sundown Kid" in an episode of the 1958 NBC western series Jefferson Drum and guest starred in another NBC western series, The Californians.

Late in 1958, Johnson and Joe Flynn were cast in the episode "The Bells of Fear" of the syndicated adventure series, Rescue 8, starring Jim Davis and Lang Jeffries. In the story line, an elderly clockmaker trying to repair the chimes in a church clock is trapped inside the instrument on Christmas Eve.
Johnson was cast in the role of Darius in the 1959 episode "The Unwilling" of the NBC western series Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. In the story line, businessman Dan Simpson, played by Eddie Albert, attempts to open a general store in the American West despite a raid from Mississippi River pirates who stole $20,000 in merchandise from him. Debra Paget played Lela Russell.
Johnson appeared three times on the syndicated military drama The Silent Service, based on actual stories of the submarine section of the United States Navy. Johnson was cast as Hugh Grafton and as Tom Richards in two 1960 episodes, "Intermission" and "The Desperate Challenge", both with June Allyson on her CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Johnson was cast as John T. Metcalf in the 1962 episode "Mile-Long Shot to Kill" of CBS's anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. In 1963, he was cast in an episode of the short-lived ABC/Warner Brothers western series The Dakota. Later in that same year, he was cast in the series premiere of the ABC medical drama Breaking Point, starring Paul Richards and Eduard Franz.

We also lost Dave Madden today in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was receiving hospice care for complications of myelodysplastic syndrome.

Madden was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada At age 13, a serious bicycle accident left him immobilized. Madden spent months recuperating, a time during which he took an interest in magic. He later worked magic into his comedy act, which he performed around Terre Haute. Madden spent one semester at Indiana State Teachers College, and in 1951 dropped out to enlist in the United States Air Force. Assigned to Special Services, he was sent to Tripoli, Libya, where he was a hit as an entertainer in camp shows and native theater, even performing before Idris of Libya, ruler at the time. After the Air Force, Madden attended the University of Miami, where he graduated with a degree in communications in 1959. Madden had a successful opening night at a Beverly Hills nightclub led to a 10-week retention, and a recommendation by patron Frank Sinatra to Ed Sullivan, who signed Madden for three nights on the Ed Sullivan Show. These appearances led to his first real acting gig, a spot on Camp Runamuck, in 1965.

Madden first gained national notice as a milk-drinking, confetti-throwing sad sack on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968–69. However, he became better known worldwide for his role as Reuben Kincaid, the harried manager/agent for The Partridge Family (1970–74). Partridge co-star Danny Bonaduce has said that he owes a lot to Madden, who took him into his home during his family's domestic strife. Madden also made guest appearances on other TV series such as Bewitched, Happy Days, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. He had a recurring role on Alice as one of the customers of Mel's Diner and Tommy's basketball coach Earl Hicks. His last guest appearance was on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch where he played Dr. Egglehoffer. Madden began voicing several characters on Focus on the Family's radio drama Adventures in Odyssey in the late 1980s. In 1990, he received his own regular character in the curmudgeonly window-washer Bernard Walton. In 1995, Madden appeared on the sitcom Boy Meets World in the episode "Rave On".

Good Night Professor Hinkley and Mr. Kincaid

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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