This time, I decided to write about stars from Pennsylvania. Obviously, the discussion begins locally.
That means you have to start with Jack Palance.
This column is about television. Palance qualifies because he did a lot of TV in addition to his movies.
Of Ukrainian descent, Palance was born Volodymir Ivanovic Palahniuk on February 18, 1920, in Lattimer Mines, to Anna (nee Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk. His father, an anthracite miner, died of black lung disease. He would later rename himself Walter Jack Palance. He worked in the mines in his early years, but escaped thanks to athletics.
He was a football star for the Shippers of Hazle Twp. High School, and won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He subsequently dropped out to try his hand at professional boxing. Fighting under the name “Jack Brazzo”, he won his first 15 fights, 12 by knockout, before losing a fourth-round decision to future heavyweight contender Joe Baksi on December 17, 1940. Palance used the boxing background in both his movie and TV acting.
The outbreak of World War II ended his boxing career and began his military career. He served in the Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot. Wounded in combat and suffering severe injuries and burns, he received the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He resumed college studies as a journalist at Stanford University and became a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Blessed with a deep voice, he also worked for a radio station until the acting bug bit.
Palance made his stage debut in “The Big Two” in 1947 and immediately followed it understudying Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in the groundbreaking Broadway classic “A Streetcar Named Desire”, a role he eventually took over. Following more stage parts, Palance won a choice role in “Darkness of Noon” and a Theatre World Award for “promising new personality”. This recognition helped him secure a 20th Century-Fox contract. Reconstructive surgery from facial burns from the crash and burn of his WWII bomber plane actually worked to his advantage.
His movie heyday was in the 1950s. In between movies were a host of television roles, none better than his down-and-out boxer in “Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight”, a rare sympathetic role that earned him an Emmy.
Palance used his former boxing skills and war experience for the film “Halls of Montezuma” as a boxing Marine in Richard Widmark’s platoon. He followed this with the first of his back-to-back Oscar nods. In “Sudden Fear”, only his third film, he played rich-and-famous playwright Joan Crawford’s struggling actor husband who plots to murder her and run off with gorgeous Gloria Grahame. He followed this with arguably his finest villain of the decade, that of sadistic gunslinger Jack Wilson who becomes Alan Ladd’s biggest nightmare in the classic western “Shane”.
Overseas in the 1960s, Palance appeared in biblical and war epics and in “spaghetti Westerns”. On television, his looks made him perfect to play the bad guy to perfection, ranging from Dracula to Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Into his twilight years he showed a penchant for brash, quirky comedy capped by his Oscar-winning role in “City Slickers” in 1991, its sequel, and other films. He even played Ebenezer Scrooge in a TV-movie set in the Wild West.
Married twice, his three children — Holly, Brooke and Cody — all dabbled in acting and appeared with their father at one time or another. A man of few words off the set, he owned his own cattle ranch and displayed other creative sides as a exhibited painter and published poet. His last years were marred by failing health and the death of his son Cody from cancer in 1998. He died at age 86 at his daughter Holly’s home in Montecito, California.
Next on the list is Nick Adams, who starred for two seasons, 1959-61, as Johnny Yuma in the TV series “The Rebel”.
Adams was born in Nanticoke, July 10, 1931. Like Palance, Adams was of Ukranian descent. He was the son of Catherine (Kucewanicz/Kutz) and Peter Adamshock. Despite being broke, the family left town when Nick was five years old, after his uncle was killed in a mining accident, and wound up in Jersey City, N.J. He was raised in Garfield, N.J. He is a graduate of St. Peter’s College.
Adams was offered a playing position in minor league baseball as a high school teen with the St. Louis Cardinals but turned it down because of the low pay. He briefly worked as a bat boy for the Jersey City Giants, a local minor league team.
He joined the United States Coast Guard to avoid being drafted into the Army during the Korean War, and served three years, 1952-1955.
He gained early attention doing impressions of movie stars such as James Cagney and Marlon Brando.
Adams played lead and supporting roles in many films of the 1950s, often cast in the same “troubled young man” mold as his good friend, James Dean. He became a close friend of Dean after playing a small role in “Rebel Without a Cause” in 1955, and reportedly was devastated after Dean was killed. Adams began behaving recklessly and was arrested for speeding nine times in one year. He was placed on probation. He is one of four actors typically named in connection with the “Rebel Without a Cause Curse”, a widely repeated urban legend.
He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in “Twilight of Honor” in 1963. After spending $8,500 on advertising to win the Oscar, he lost the award on Oscar night to Melvyn Douglas in “Hud”. Adams was reportedly devastated by the loss.
He died in 1968 at the age of 36 due to an overdose of drugs he was taking for a nervous disorder, and is buried in Berwick.
He was married to Carol Nugent for nine years. The couple had two children, Allyson Adams, born in 1960, and Jeb Stuart Adams, born in 1961.
Glenn Headly was born March 13, 1955 in New London, Conn., and was raised in New York City. But she spent summers with her grandmother in Lansford.
She was married twice, to actor John Malkovich, and Byron McCullough, with whom she had her only child, a son. She died June 8, 2017 from complications from a pulmonary embolism.
Headly had a career on the stage, television and in the movies.
She starred opposite David Hyde Pierce in the play, “The Guys”. David Hyde Pierce played a fire chief attempting to write the obituaries for his men lost in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Headly played his editor.
She also appeared in the films “Mr. Holland’s Opus” opposite Richard Dreyfuss, and “Mortal Thoughts” opposite Demi Moore,
On television, she had a recurring part on “ER” and “Monk” and was in the short-lived sit-com “Encore! Encore!” with Nathan Lane and Joan Plowright. She received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actress for “Bastard Out of Carolina”, directed by Anjelica Huston.
Other starts from PA
In the tradition of Palance, actor Charles Bronson, also of Ukranian descent, was born in Ehrenfeld, a small bituminous coal mining town in Cambria County. Born Charles Dennis Buchinsky, Bronson was one of 15 children, and worked in the mines early on before escaping for an acting career, like Palance.
Liike Headley, actor Jerry Orbach – best known as Detective Lennie Briscoe on the original “Law and Order” who became known for his sarcastic remarks – spent his summers in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton as a youth, because his mother, whose maiden name was Olexy, grew up in Wilkes-Barre.
A neighbor of Orbach’s, at least in the summer, were the Johnson brothers of Ashley. Russell Johnson was “The Professor”, the high school science teacher who was the brains helping the seven stranded travelers survive “Gilligan’s Island”. His brother Ken was also an actor.
Don’t forget playwright Jason Miller, who hails from Scranton. But one I’ll bet you don’t know is that actress Pat Crowley, who played the mother in the TV series “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” in the 1960s, hailed from Olyphant, near Scranton.
Perhaps the most famous actor to come from Pennsylvania, aside from Palance and Bronson, was Indiana, Pennsylvania’s Jimmy Stewart.
Jonathan Frakes, who gained fame as Commander William Riker on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, was born in Bellfonte, Centre County, and also lived in Bethlehem when his father taught English at Lehigh University.
Speaking of Bethlehem, actors born there include Daniel Dae Kim, from “Hawaii 5-0” from 2010-2017, and “Lost” from 2004-2010; Jonathan Taylor Thomas, one of the three sons of fictional “Tool Time” TV host Tim Taylor, comedian Tim Allen, on “Home Improvement” from 1991-1999, and Daniel Roebuck, who was a regular on “Matlock” with Andy Griffith and on “Nash Bridges” with Don Johnson.
Moving to another of the three cities that make up the Lehigh Valley, where it was all guys in Bethlehem, it’s all ladies in Allentown. Christine Taylor Stiller, who played Marcia Brady in “The Brady Bunch Movie” in 1995, also played opposite her husband, comic actor Ben Stiller, in “Dodgeball”, where her character was actually repulsed by Stiller’s character. The two have been married for 20 years, and have two kids together.
Also, actress Amanda Seyfried was born in Allentown. She started off in soap operas before graduating to TV and movies.
Moving a little further south to Reading, we have Michael Constantine, who played the principal in “Room 222” as well as a number of tough-guy characters; Forrest Compton, who played the commander of Camp Henderson on “Gomer Pyle, USMC” as well as a number of guest appearances on other TV shows, like “Hogan’s Heroes”; and Meg Foster, who did a lot of TV in the ’70s and ’80s who was known for her light blue eyes.
Dallastown, York County can boast TV vet Cameron Mitchell, who was a regular in the western series “The High Chapparal” in the ’60s whose career spanned from the ’50s to the 90s.
Harrisburg-born Audrie Neenan played judges Marilyn Haynes and Barbara Kaplan in the original from 1998 to 2001, and in 22 SVU episodes in 2001-11 as Judge Haynes and Judge Lois Preston. Neenan was a local, Ray Perkins, who was one of the people Sondra Locke’s character murdered because she participated in a party in which Locke’s character and her sister were attacked by a group of men. The part was just about the complete opposite of a judge, so if you missed it, it is understandable.
“TV’s Greatest Hits” can also be found at accessnepa.com, then go to “featured content” and “screen time”.
QUESTION: Was Jack Palance ever in his own TV series?
Q. What movie franchise was Charles Bronson known best for?
Q. What war movie made Bronson famous?
Q. What famous actors were in “The Dirty Dozen” with Bronson?
Q. Who are Ben Stiller’s parents?
Q. What famous actress is Jonathan Frakes married to?
Q. Do you remember another, short-lived TV series Jerry Orbach was in?
Q. What TV show made David Hyde Pierce a star?
TRIVIA FROM LAST TIME
QUESTION: Who shot J.R.?
ANSWER: J.R. was shot on the season-ending episode March 21, 1980, but fans had to wait over six months to find out the answer. On Nov. 21, 350 million people around the world tuned in to learn it was Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, who shot him in a fit of anger. The actress who played the part was Mary Crosby, daughter of legendary actor and singer Bing Crosby. It is one of television’s most famous cliffhangers.
Q. Actor Martin Milner appeared in “Peyton Place”. What other TV series did Milner star in?
A. Although Milner was known better as Officer Pete Malloy in “Adam-12”, he was also Tod Stiles, who along with Buz Murdock, played by actor George Maharis, were the two wandering young guys in “Route 66”.
Q. What well-known actor got his start in “Valley of the Dolls”?
A. Richard Dreyfuss played a producer banging on a door near the end of the film.
Q. What other TV series did Garry Walberg appear in?
A. He must have been good buddies with Jack Klugman, because Walberg was also “Speed”, the card-playing nut from “The Odd Couple”.
Q. What actress is Lee Grant’s daughter?
A. Dinah Manoff, the lovely redhead daughter of Dr. Harry Weston, played by Richard Mulligan, Carol Weston, in “Empty Nest”.
Q. Who were the other Weston sisters?
A. Kristy McNichol was Barbara Weston, the police officer sister who gained fame as Buddy in the late ’70s series “Family”, and Lisa Rieffel, who played Emily Weston in about a dozen episodes in 1993.
Q. What other sitcom did Mulligan star in?
A. Mulligan was Burt Campbell in “Soap” from 1977-1981.
Q. Who is Judy Landers married to?
A. Former Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Tom Niedenfuer. They have two daughters who are also actresses, Lindsay and Kristy.
Q. What other series is Kevin Dobson known for?
A. He was Det. Bobby Crockett in the Manhattan South detective squad with Det. Lt. Theo Kojak, portrayed by actor Telly Savalas, was in charge of from 1973-78 on “Kojak”.
Q. What other series did Ronne Troup star in?
A. She was Mrs. Chip Douglass on “My Three Sons”.
Q. Who is Lisa Hartman married to?
A. Country music superstar Clint Black. They have a daughter together, Lily Pearl Black, who is 19 years old.
Jim Dino is the business writer for The Standard-Speaker, Hazleton. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.