Kevin Conway, ‘Red Ry­der’ and ‘Ele­phant Man’ ac­tor, dead at 77


NEW YORK — Kevin Conway, who brought in­ten­sity to roles large and small on the screen and the stage, in­clud­ing mem­o­rable turns in the 1970s in the plays “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ry­der?” and “The Ele­phant Man,” died Wednesday in Man­hat­tan. He was 77.

Geral­dine New­man, his long­time part­ner, said the cause was a heart at­tack.

Conway got a late start on his act­ing ca­reer, but by 1969 he was mak­ing his Broad­way de­but in Arthur Ko­pit’s “In­di­ans.” His first sig­nif­i­cant film role was in “Slaugh­ter­house-Five,” Ge­orge Roy Hill’s adap­ta­tion of Kurt Von­negut’s novel, in 1972.

Early on, he of­ten played ex­plo­sive char­ac­ters and tough guys. In 1978 he worked op­po­site Sylvester Stal­lone in both “F.I.S.T.,” a tale of or­ga­nized la­bor and or­ga­nized crime, and “Par­adise Al­ley,” in which he played a hood­lum in the mean streets of 1940s New York. Stal­lone, he said, had sug­gested that he get a tat­too of an ea­gle on his fore­head to make the char­ac­ter more mem­o­rable.

“I told him I wasn’t crazy about the idea,” Conway told People magazine. “A thing like that could cut down your em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Conway was also seen on TV in nu­mer­ous series and minis­eries. In 2007 alone he ap­peared in the short-lived NBC series “The Black Don­nellys,” about Ir­ish brothers caught up in or­ga­nized crime in New York, and the minis­eries “The Bronx Is Burn­ing,” about the 1970s New York Yan­kees, in which he por­trayed team ex­ec­u­tive Gabe Paul.

He made good use of his com­pelling, slightly raspy voice as well, pro­vid­ing nar­ra­tion for tele­vi­sion shows and com­mer­cials. He warned New York sub­way rid­ers to say some­thing if they saw some­thing. He was the voice of Mark Twain in a 2001 Ken Burns doc­u­men­tary. At about the same time, he was the creepy Con­trol Voice for a re­make of the sci­ence-fic­tion an­thol­ogy series “The Outer Lim­its.”

“There is noth­ing wrong with your tele­vi­sion,” he ad­vised view­ers as eerie static ma­te­ri­al­ized. “Do not at­tempt to ad­just the pic­ture.”

Kevin John Conway was born on May 29, 1942, in Har­lem to James and Mar­garet (San­ders) Conway. His fa­ther was a me­chanic, and his mother worked for the tele­phone com­pany.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Bishop Lough­lin High School in Brook­lyn in 1959, he spent time in the Navy and then took a job at IBM, start­ing in the mail­room and work­ing his way up to sales. On a whim he en­rolled in night­time act­ing classes. Even­tu­ally, he said, he asked IBM to fire him so that he could col­lect un­em­ploy­ment while pur­su­ing an act­ing ca­reer.

He be­gan get­ting stage roles and de­liv­er­ing charged, at­ten­tion-get­ting per­for­mances.

In the early 1970s he was in a long-run­ning off-Broad­way re­vival of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Dale Wasser­man’s adap­ta­tion of Ken Ke­sey’s novel about an asy­lum, play­ing the wildly dis­rup­tive McMur­phy, the role played by Kirk Dou­glas in 1963 on Broad­way and by Jack Ni­chol­son in the 1975 film.

In 1973 he had an­other off-Broad­way success in Mark Med­off’s “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ry­der?,” play­ing an amped-up man with a gun who dis­rupts a diner.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.