TV Ac­tor from ’80s ac­tion movies made mark in ‘Amer­i­can Ninja’

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Rich Helden­fels Tri­bune News Service

You have ques­tions. I have some an­swers — and a lot of flash­backs.

Q: I saw a movie called “Amer­i­can Ninja.” It starred an ac­tor named Michael Dudikoff. What can you tell me about him?Is he still alive?

A: For con­nois­seurs of 1980s ac­tion movies, Dudikoff was a big name, par­tic­u­larly for star­ring in the first, sec­ond and fourth of five “Amer­i­can Ninja” movies. Not long ago, the El Rey Net­work had an “Amer­i­can Ninja” marathon. Dudikoff also worked in fea­tures other than ac­tion, such as “Bach­e­lor Party” and the orig­i­nal “Tron,” and his TV work be­gan with a guest role on “Happy Days.” Now 62, the for­mer model still acts and makes public ap­pear­ances.

Q: Are Robert Craw­ford Jr. from “Laramie” and Johnny Craw­ford in “The Ri­fle­man” broth­ers? Did they do any act­ing be­sides those shows?

A: Robert Jr. (some­times billed as Bobby) is the older brother of Johnny (and they fol­lowed their older sis­ter, Nance, into act­ing). Both broth­ers worked of­ten out­side the shows you re­mem­ber. Bobby later be­came a pro­ducer, while Johnny leads a dance or­ches­tra spe­cial­iz­ing in vin­tage tunes.

Their fa­ther, Robert Craw­ford Sr., was a film and TV edi­tor. When he died in 2016 at age 95, the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter noted that the year 1959 found Robert Sr., Bobby and Johnny all nom­i­nated for Em­mys: Dad for his work on “The Bob Cum­mings Show,” Johnny as best sup­port­ing ac­tor in drama for “The Ri­fle­man” and Bobby for “best sin­gle per­for­mance by an ac­tor” for a role on “Play­house 90.”

Q: Could you let us know what years “The Vir­ginian” with James Drury and Doug Mc­Clure ran on TV? Also, are they still alive?

A: “The Vir­ginian” pre­miered on NBC in Septem­ber 1962; its fi­nal sea­son, when it was re­named “The Men from Shiloh,” ended in Septem­ber 1971. The se­ries was note­wor­thy, in part, be­cause, ac­cord­ing to “The Com­plete Di­rec­tory to Prime Time Net­work and Ca­ble TV Show,” it was the first West­ern with 90-minute weekly episodes. (The long-run­ning “Wagon Train” tried that for­mat for a sin­gle sea­son, 1963-64, and “Ci­mar­ron Strip” was 90 min­utes long dur­ing its one sea­son, 1967-68.)

James Drury, who played the Vir­ginian, is still with us at age 83. Doug Mc­Clure, who played Tram­pas, died in 1995.

Q: I am a great fan of Lee Van Cleef. Is he still alive, and what can you tell me about him? He had such a unique look.

A: Van Cleef had one of the most mem­o­rable faces in movies, and one that of­ten lent it­self to vil­lain­ous roles. Born in New Jersey in 1925, he served in the Navy and worked as ac­coun­tant be­fore tak­ing up act­ing. (Can you imag­ine this guy telling you your books don’t bal­ance?) He co-starred in many spaghetti Westerns, most fa­mously with Clint Eastwood in “For A Few Dol­lars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” His Amer­i­can movie ca­reer in­cluded sup­port­ing roles in a cou­ple of West­ern clas­sics: “The Man Who Shot Lib­erty Valance” and “High Noon.” On TV, he starred in “The Mas­ter,” an ac­tion se­ries for NBC in 1984. He was mar­ried three times, fa­ther­ing three chil­dren in his first mar­riage. He died in 1989, re­port­edly of a heart at­tack. Do you have a ques­tion or com­ment about en­ter­tain­ment past, present and fu­ture? Write to Rich Helden­fels, P.O. Box 417, Mo­gadore, OH 44260, or Let­ters may be edited. In­di­vid­ual replies are not guar­an­teed.

CAN­NON/GETTY 1985

For­mer model Michael Dudikoff starred in the first, sec­ond and fourth of the five “Amer­i­can Ninja” movies.

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