Richard An­der­son

Ac­tor best known for his role as Os­car Gold­man in ‘The Six Mil­lion Dol­lar Man’

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Deaths and Obiituaries -

RICHARD An­der­son, who died last month, aged 91, was best known for play­ing Os­car Gold­man, di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions at the Of­fice of Sci­en­tific In­tel­li­gence (OSI), a se­cret US gov­ern­ment agency, in The Six Mil­lion Dol­lar Man and its spin-off, The Bionic Woman.

The char­ac­ter had been cre­ated by Martin Caidin in his 1972 novel Cy­borg and is the snap­pily-dressed su­pe­rior to the bionic he­roes, Colonel Steve Austin (played by Lee Ma­jors) and Jaime Som­mers (Lind­say Wag­ner).

The con­ceit of The Six Mil­lion Dol­lar Man is that Austin had been the pi­lot of an ex­per­i­men­tal air­craft that had crashed, leav­ing him barely alive. He would be “re­built” with state-of-the-art elec­tronic pros­the­ses in surgery cost­ing $6m (about $34m to­day) and would have strength, speed and vi­sion far be­yond hu­man norms. An­der­son’s res­o­nant tones were heard over the open­ing cred­its say­ing: “Gentle­men, we can re­build him. We have the tech­nol­ogy…”

The fran­chise started with three TV movies in 1973, although in the first, Killer Wind, the Gold­man of the books was re­placed by Oliver Spencer (played by Dar­ren McGavin).No ex­pla­na­tion was given for why Gold­man took over in Wine, Women and War and The Solid Gold Kid­nap­ping. How­ever, the char­ac­ter re­mained when the TV se­ries be­gan the fol­low­ing year.

“They didn’t even ask me to read or au­di­tion,” he re­called. His char­ac­ter, who was tall (An­der­son stood 6 ft 4 in), good-look­ing and so­phis­ti­cated, be­came well known for re­mov­ing his glasses for dra­matic em­pha­sis while speak­ing, a ges­ture known in fan cir­cles as “the move”.

He claimed that the ad­di­tion of a fe­male char­ac­ter to the se­ries was his idea. Jaime Som­mers, a for­mer ten­nis player, has ac­quired her in­juries in a parachut­ing ac­ci­dent. Her body ini­tially re­jects the bionic hard­ware but she is saved by an ex­per­i­men­tal pro­ce­dure, lead­ing to her own se­ries, The Bionic Woman, in 1976. Both se­ries ran un­til 1978.

When The Bionic Woman moved from ABC to NBC for its fi­nal sea­son, An­der­son was in the un­usual po­si­tion of play­ing the same char­ac­ter si­mul­ta­ne­ously on ri­val tele­vi­sion net­works.

Richard Nor­man An­der­son was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on Au­gust 8, 1926, and grew up in New York, where he would watch films at the week­end, be­fore the fam­ily moved to Los Angeles. He re­called be­ing im­pressed by a par­tic­u­lar tac­i­turn star. “I want to be an ac­tor like him,” An­der­son told his brother. Later he learnt that the ac­tor was Gary Cooper.

Years later, An­der­son asked Cooper the se­cret of his suc­cess. “Don’t say too much,” replied Cooper. Spencer Tracy, on the other hand, ad­vised An­der­son that the trick to act­ing was “Learn the lyrics and don’t bump into the fur­ni­ture.”

He ap­peared in school plays, served in the US Army, stud­ied at the Ac­tors’ Lab­o­ra­tory in Los Angeles and be­gan tak­ing bit parts on the ra­dio.

His first screen role was as a wounded air­man in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), star­ring Gre­gory Peck. He was spot­ted by Betsy Drake, Cary Grant’s wife, on Lights, Cam­era, Ac­tion!, a tele­vi­sion com­edy show, and was then in­tro­duced to MGM, where his first job was in the mail room.

An­der­son spent five years with the stu­dio, mak­ing 28 films in­clud­ing the sci-fi clas­sic For­bid­den Planet (1956), in which he played Quinn, the chief en­gi­neer. He ap­peared in Stan­ley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957), the work that “changed my whole ca­reer”, and John Franken­heimer’s Seven Days in May (1964). By the 1960s he was grad­u­at­ing to­wards tele­vi­sion, in­clud­ing Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff, and sev­eral episodes of Perry Ma­son and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

He reprised Gold­man in a trio of tele­vi­sion film se­quels in the late 1980s, cul­mi­nat­ing in Bionic Ever Af­ter? (1994), in which he is best man at the wed­ding of Austin and the Bionic Woman.

Long af­ter the bionic man and woman had been laid to rest, An­der­son would good­na­turedly charm a new gen­er­a­tion of fans at screen-hero con­ven­tions. He kept a large col­lec­tion of vin­tage cars, in­clud­ing a 1936 Ford Phaeton.

In 1955 An­der­son mar­ried Carol Lee Ladd, daugh­ter of Alan Ladd, but the marriage was dis­solved the fol­low­ing year. In 1961 he mar­ried Katharine Thal­berg, daugh­ter of Norma Shearer and the pro­ducer Irv­ing Thal­berg. They were di­vorced in 1973, and he is sur­vived by their three daugh­ters.

DI­REC­TOR: Richard An­der­son

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