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Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors 1974.JPG
Born April 10, 1921
Died November 10, 1992(1992-11-10) (aged 71)
Nationality American
Occupation actor / sports

Kevin Joseph Aloysius “Chuck” Connors (April 10, 1921 – November 10, 1992) was an American actor, writer and professional basketball and baseball player. He is one of only 12 athletes in the history of American professional sports to have played both Major League Baseball and in the National Basketball Association. With a 40-year film and television career, he is best known for his five-year role as Lucas McCain in the highly rated ABC series The Rifleman (1958–63).

Sports

In his early years he was a basketball and baseball player, playing for teams such as the Boston Celtics. Then he was a baseball player, where he started playing in the minor leagues. In 1949, he debuted at the Los Angeles Dodgers, playing only one match for them. On the Chicago Cubs, he playing 66 games at first base.

Connors was a devoted, avid fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers despite their losing record during the 1930s, and he hoped to join the team one day. A gifted athlete, he earned a scholarship to the Adelphi Academy, a preparatory school in Brooklyn, where he graduated in 1939. He received additional offers for athletic scholarships from more than two dozen colleges and universities.

Chuck Connors Brooklyn Dodgers
Chuck Connors Brooklyn Dodgers

From those offers he chose to attend Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. There he played both basketball and baseball for the school, and it was there too where he changed his name. Since childhood Connors had disliked his first name Kevin, and he had sought another one. He tried using "Lefty" and "Stretch" before finally settling on "Chuck". The name derived from his time as a player on Seton Hall's baseball team. He would repeatedly yell to the pitcher from his position on first base, "Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!" The rest of his teammates and spectators at the university's games soon caught on, and the nickname stuck.

Connors, though, left Seton Hall after two years to accept a contract to play professional baseball with the New York Yankees. That opportunity lasted only one season, for he joined the United States Army following America's entrance into World War II. During most of the war, he served as a tank-warfare instructor at Fort Campbell, located on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and later at West Point in New York.

Connors was listed as 6 foot 5 inches when he played baseball, and 6 foot 6 inches when he played basketball. He was drafted into American Football by the NFL's Chicago Bears, but never suited up for the team.

Actor career

Chuck Connors did both low-budget movies and big Hollywood productions. These included South Sea Woman (1953), with Burt Lancaster, and directed by Arthur Lubin, and William Wyler's western, The Big Country (1958), with Gregory Peck.

Among his best performances is the Indian warrior Geronimo, in Geronimo (1962). Other classic movies he was in are Flipper (1963), Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969), Soylent Green (1973), with Charlton Heston, and directed by Richard Fleischer.

Television

Chuck Connors The Rifleman 1962
Publicity still of Connors for The Rifleman, 1962

His television career was very successful. he is remembered for playing the role of a widower Lucas McCain, in the ABC series The Rifleman (1958-1962). The Rifleman told the story of a widower and his son who live on a ranch in the Wild West. Connors played the role of Lucas McCain in 168 episodes of the series.

Chuck Connors The Rifleman 1959
Rifle and Rifleman

There were three rifles made for the show. Two identical 44–40 Winchester model 1892 rifles, one that was used on the show and one for backup, and a Spanish version called an El Tigre used in the saddle holster. The rifle levers were modified from the round type to a more "D" shaped in later episodes.

The popularity of the show led to tie-in products, such as toy models of the Rifleman's rifle, with the twirl-around-the-trigger lever-action that made the customized rifle a match for any six-shooter hand-gun used by villains. Also a Milton Bradley board game, called The Rifleman Game.

Another of his successes was the western TV series Branded (1965-1966). He played Jason McCord, an army official being falsely accused of cowardice.

He also starred in a crime series Arrest and Trial (1962-1964), as attorney John Egan, and the adventure series Cowboy in Africa (1967-1968).

In 1991, Connors was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Chuck Connors Branded 1965
Connors in Branded, 1965

Charity

Connors hosted the annual Chuck Connors Charitable Invitational Golf Tournament, through the Chuck Connors Charitable Foundation, at the Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs, California. Proceeds went directly to the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation and over $400,000.00 was raised.

Death

Connors had started smoking in 1940. For many years, he smoked three packs of Camel cigarettes a day until he quit the habit in the mid-1970s, though he occasionally resumed smoking afterwards. He died on November 10, 1992 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 71 of pneumonia stemming from lung cancer. He was interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1952 Pat and Mike Police Captain
1953 Trouble Along the Way Stan Schwegler
1953 Code Two Deputy Sheriff Uncredited
1953 South Sea Woman Pvt. Davey White
1954 Dragonfly Squadron Captain Warnowski
1954 The Human Jungle Earl Swados
1954 Naked Alibi Capt. Owen Kincaide
1955 Target Zero Pvt. Moose
1955 Three Stripes in the Sun Idaho Johnson
1955 Good Morning, Miss Dove Bill Holloway
1956 Walk the Dark Street Frank Garrick
1956 Hot Rod Girl Det. Ben Merrill
1956 Hold Back the Night Sgt. Ekland
1957 Tomahawk Trail Sgt. Wade McCoy
1957 Designing Woman Johnnie O
1957 Death in Small Doses Mink Reynolds
1957 The Hired Gun Judd Farrow
1957 Old Yeller Burn Sanderson
1958 The Lady Takes a Flyer Phil Donahoe
1958 The Big Country Buck Hannassey
1962 Geronimo Geronimo
1963 Flipper Porter Ricks
1963 Move Over, Darling Adam
1965 Synanon Ben
1966 Ride Beyond Vengeance Jonas Trapp
1968 Kill Them All and Come Back Alone Clyde McKay
1969 Captain Nemo and the Underwater City Senator Robert Fraser
1971 The Deserter Chaplain Reynolds
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter Swifty Morgan Uncredited
1972 Embassy Kesten
1972 The Proud and Damned Will Hansen
1972 Pancho Villa Col. Wilcox
1972 The Mad Bomber William Dorn
1973 Soylent Green Tab Fielding
1974 99 and 44/100% Dead Marvin "Claw" Zuckerman
1975 Legend of the Sea Wolf Wolf Larsen
1979 Tourist Trap Mr. Slausen
1979 Day of the Assassin Fleming
1980 Virus Captain McCloud
1981 Bordello Jonathan
1982 Hit Man Sam Fisher
1982 Airplane II: The Sequel The Sarge
1983 The Vals Trish's Father
1983 Balboa Alabama Dern
1983 Afghanistan pourquoi? Soviet Colonel
1987 Hell's Heroes Senator Morris
1987 Sakura Killers The Colonel
1987 Summer Camp Nightmare Mr. Warren
1987 Maniac Killer Professor Roger Osborne
1987 Terror Squad Chief Rawlings
1988 Once Upon A Texas Train Nash Crawford
1989 Trained to Kill Ed Cooper
1989 Skinheads Mr. Huston
1990 Last Flight to Hell Red Farley
1990 Face the Edge Buddy
1991 Salmonberries Bingo Chuck
1992 Three Days to a Kill Capt. Damian

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1953 Your Jeweler's Showcase Episode: "Three and One Half Musketeers"
1954 Dear Phoebe Rocky Episode: "Billy Gets a Job"
1954 Big Town Episode: "Semper Fi"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Mervyn/Stan Two episodes
1954-1957 General Electric Theater Soldier/Long Jack Two episodes
1955 Letter to Loretta Jess Hayes Episode: "The Girl Who Knew"
1955 City Detective Sam Episode: "Trouble in Toyland"
1955 TV Reader's Digest Charlie Masters Episode: "The Manufactured Clue"
1955 Private Secretary Mr. Neanderthal Episode: "Mr. Neanderthal"
1955 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Stanley O'Connor Episode: "O'Connor and the Blue-Eyed Felon"
1955 Adventures of Superman Sylvester J. Superman Episode: "Flight to the North"
1955 Screen Directors Playhouse Art Shirley Episode: "The Brush Roper"
1955-1956 The Star and the Story Three episodes
1955 Matinee Theatre Episode: "O'Toole from Moscow"
1955 Cavalcade of America Harry Episode: "Barbed Wire Christmas"
1956 Fireside Theatre Officer Handley Episode: "The Thread"
1956 Frontier Thorpe Henderson Episode: "The Assassin"
1956 Gunsmoke Sam Keeler Episode: "The Preacher"
1956 Climax! Episode: "Fear is the Hunter"
1956 The Joseph Cotten Show Andy Episode: "The Nevada Nightingale"
1956 Crossroads Lou Brissie Episode: "The Comeback"
1956 The West Point Story Maj. Nielson Two episodes
1956 The Gale Storm Show Ooma Episode: "The Witch Doctor"
1957 The Millionaire Hub Grimes Episode: "The Hub Grimes Story"
1957 Tales of Wells Fargo Sam Bass/Button Smith Two episodes
1957 The Silent Service Lt. Jim Liddell Episode: "The Story of the U.S.S. Flier"
1957 Wagon Train Private John Sumter Episode: "The Charles Avery Story"
1957 The Restless Gun Toby Yeager Episode: "Silver Threads"
1958 Hey, Jeannie! Buck Matthews Episode: "The Bet"
1958 Date with the Angels Stacey L. Stacey Episode: "Double Trouble"
1958 Love That Jill Cliff Episode: "They Went Thataway"
1958 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre Lucas McCain Episode: "The Sharpshooter"
1958 The Adventures of Jim Bowie Cephas K. Ham Two episodes
1958-1963 The Rifleman Lucas McCain Lead role
168 episodes
1960 The DuPont Show with June Allyson George Aswell Episode: "Trial by Fear"
1963-1964 Arrest and Trial John Egan Lead role
30 episodes
1965-1966 Branded Jason McCord Lead role
48 episodes
1967-1968 Cowboy in Africa Jim Sinclair Lead role
26 episodes
1971 The Virginian Gustaveson Episode: "The Animal"
1971 The Name of the Game Governor Brill Episode: "The Broken Puzzle"
1971 The Birdmen Colonel Morgan Crawford TV movie
1972 Night of Terror Brian DiPaulo TV movie
1972 Night Gallery Roderick Blanco Episode: "The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes"
1973 Set This Town on Fire Buddy Bates TV movie
1973 The Horror at 37,000 Feet Captain Ernie Slade TV movie
1973 Here's Lucy Himself Episode: "Lucy and Chuck Connors Have a Surprise Slumber Party"
1973-1976 Police Story Various Four episodes
1975 The Six Million Dollar Man Niles Lingstrom Episode: "The Price of Liberty"
1976 Banjo Hackett: Roamin' Free Sam Ivory TV movie
1976 Nightmare in Badham County Sherriff Slim Danen TV movie
1977 Roots Tom Moore Miniseries
1977 The Night They Took Miss Beautiful Mike O'Toole TV movie
1978 Standing Tall Major Roland Hartline TV movie
1980 Stone Tom Lettleman Episode: "Case Number HM-89428, Homicide"
1981 Walking Tall Theo Brewster Episode: "Kidnapped"
1982 Best of the West Episode: "Frog's First Gunfight"
1982 The Capture of Grizzly Adams Frank Briggs TV movie
1982 Fantasy Island Frank Barton Episode: "Sitting Duck/Sweet Suzi Swann"
1983 Lone Star Jake Farrell TV movie
1983 Kelsey's Son Boone Kelsey TV movie
1983 The Love Boat Roy Episode: "Bricker's Boy/Lotions of Love/The Hustlers"
1983 Matt Houston Castanos Episode: "Get Houston"
1983-1984 The Yellow Rose Jeb Hollister Main cast
21 episodes
1985 Spenser: For Hire King Powers Two episodes
1985-1989 Murder, She Wrote Fred Keller/Tyler Morgan Two episodes
1985 The All-American Cowboy TV movie
1987 Werewolf Captain Janos Skorzeny Recurring role
Five episodes
1988 Once Upon a Texas Train Nash Crawford TV movie
1988 Wolf Episode: "Pilot"
1989 High Desert Kill Stan Brown TV movie
1989-1990 Paradise Gideon McKay Three episodes
1991 The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Lucas McCain TV movie

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