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Film/TV News: Richard Anderson, Oscar Goldman in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ Dies at 91

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LOS ANGELES – We can’t rebuild him, but we can honor him. Richard Anderson, best known for portraying Oscar Goldman, the aide de camp of Steve Austin (Lee Majors) in “The Six Million Man,” died on August 31st, 2017 at age 91. The versatile character actor was one of the few remaining performers that came up through the old studio system, in this case the dream factory known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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Richard Anderson in Chicago, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Richard Anderson was born in New Jersey, and was an Army veteran of World War II. He started out in the mailroom at MGM shortly after the end of the war, and became a contract player for the studio after Cary Grant took an interest in his career. His major film debut was “The Magnificent Yankee” (1950), followed by “Scaramouche” (1952) and “Forbidden Planet” (1956). He made 24 films for MGM. His other notable early film appearances were in “The Long Hot Summer” (1958), “Compulsion” (1959), “Seven Days in May” (1964) and “Seconds” (1966). He had a pivotal role in a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, the classic war drama “Paths of Glory” (1957).

He transitioned to television in the 1960s, with roles on hot series like “Bus Stop,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Perry Mason” and “The Fugitive.” He landed the role of Oscar Goldman first in a series of TV movies that introduced “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and it became a regular series from 1974 through ’78. A spin-off show, “The Bionic Woman” (1976-78), also featured Anderson’s Oscar Goldman, and he became the first actor in TV history to play the same character concurrently on two TV shows. After both shows were canceled, there were three more TV movies over the next two decades, with “Bionic Showdown” (1989) featuring a young and super charged Sandra Bullock.

Anderson kept active as a character actor over the years, with distinctive roles on TV in “Dynasty” (1986), “Hoover vs. the Kennedys” (1987, as Lyndon B. Johnson) and the film “Gettysburg” (1993, as General George Meade). He was married twice, to Carol Lee Ladd (stepdaughter of actor Alan) and Katherine Thalberg (daughter of 1930s Hollywood royalty Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg), and is survived by three daughters.

HollywoodChicago.com interviewed Anderson twice, both times at “The Hollywood Show,” an autograph and memorabilia event that takes place in Chicago annually. The first part is a transcript reprint, and the second part – published as audio – the first interview with Richard Anderson in 2010.

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Richard Anderson in Chicago, 2012
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: When you were starting out in at Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, who was your mentor through those studio system days?

Richard Anderson: My mentor was Dore Schary [president of MGM], who was running the studio when I came in there. I was asked by his secretary to come in, because Schary had heard of me through the wife of Cary Grant, who at that time was Betsy Drake. I was on a TV show called ‘Lights, Camera, Action,’ which was a dancing show like they have today. I kept winning on that show, and Betsy Drake watched it and mentioned me to Cary. He was working at MGM at the time, and he told Schary about me.

That studio was amazing, they were technically amazing. When I joined it they were going down because of one word…’television.’ All of the time I was there, for six years, they were grooming me for a lead role, but everybody started leaving because it was breaking up.

HollywoodChicago.com: You had a significant role in ‘The Long Hot Summer’ and ‘Compulsion,’ which both were with Orson Welles. What do you remember about thoses, and what are your impressions about Orson Welles, having done those films with him in that era?

Anderson: He was on his way down. Here is the man who made the supposed greatest movie ever made, and famously said ‘I started at the top and have been working my way down ever since.’ He physically and mentally was not the same when I was working with him. On ‘Compulsion’ he had a lot of trouble getting through it, but [producer] Richard Zanuck loved him. It was the world that had lost him.

HollywoodChicago.com: What is different for you as an actor when you play a real person like Lyndon Johnson or General George Meade. Do you approach a real person character any differently?

Anderson: I like to get the accent first, especially in the case of Lyndon Johnson, and try to find a place when I can connect to him. In my case, it’s when he picked up the dog. Another was in a scene with J. Edgar Hoover, where I told him to get the hell out the office, that was a wonderful Lyndon Johnson moment.

HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, which of your films do you think will live on, and have an impact in subsequent generations of movie fans?

Anderson: ‘Paths of Glory,’ one of the greatest movies about war ever made. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick at the top of his game. I would say that will maintain it’s reputation, especially with any study of war on film. To see that movie is to realize the utter needlessness of war and generals, and the meaning of the men who had to do the actual fighting. I read an appropriate quote once from Douglas MacArthur, “The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and the unarmed. It’s his very existence for being.”

In the audio portion of the interview, Richard Anderson talks further about “Paths of Glory” and his work with John Frankenheimer and Rock Hudson in “Seconds.” The final question is an anecdote regarding the night he met his second wife, Katherine Thalberg.


Sources for this article came from Wikipedia, imdb and The Hollywood Reporter. Richard Anderson, 1926-2017.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Writer, Editorial Coordinator
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2017 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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