Vic Morrow

Vic Morrow


Birth Place
Bronx, New York, USA
February 14, 1929
July 23, 1982
Cause of Death
Helicopter Accident


Brooding, intense character actor Vic Morrow played men of few words and definitive actions, most notably on the WWII action-drama series "Combat!" (ABC, 1962-67) and scores of television episodes and features from the late-1950s until his tragic death in 1982. His debut as a switchblade-wielding tough in 1955's "The Blackboard Jungle" marked him as a screen heavy, but he bristled at the...

Family & Companions

Barbara Turner
Screenwriter, actor. Married 1957, divorced 1965.


Brooding, intense character actor Vic Morrow played men of few words and definitive actions, most notably on the WWII action-drama series "Combat!" (ABC, 1962-67) and scores of television episodes and features from the late-1950s until his tragic death in 1982. His debut as a switchblade-wielding tough in 1955's "The Blackboard Jungle" marked him as a screen heavy, but he bristled at the typecasting. "Combat" turned him into a strong and silent action hero, but he was unable to capitalize on its fame and floundered for most of the 1970s on television, save for memorable turns in "The Bad News Bears" (1976) and "Roots" (ABC, 1977). "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983) should have been his comeback, but he was killed during a freak on-set accident that ultimately made him an industry martyr, ending a long and hard-fought career that won many fans but too few successes.

Born Feb. 14, 1929 in New York City, Victor Morrow was the son of electrical engineer Harry Morrow and his wife, Jean Kress. Their son felt stifled by his middle class upbringing, so joined the Navy at age 17. After his discharge, he earned his high school diploma through night school and enrolled as a pre-law student at Florida Southern College through the GI Bill. But after appearing in a production of "I Remember Mama," he abandoned his major and began to pursue an acting career. His first stop on that particular path was a curious one: Morrow studied the craft at Mexico City College, where he appeared in bilingual productions of classic plays. He then returned to New York City, where he appeared in plays and studied at the Actors Workshop under Paul Mann while driving a cab to make ends meet.

In 1955, he beat out such aspiring talents as Steve McQueen and John Cassavetes to play Artie West, a malevolent high school student who makes life miserable for new teacher Glenn Ford in the juvenile delinquent classic, "The Blackboard Jungle." Although 23 years old at the time, Morrow's performance was praised, but also typecast him as young punks for several years. He provided the voice of a bull terrier in the oddball comedy "It's a Dog's Life" (1956) but quickly settled into a routine of heavies and heels, most notably opposite Elvis Presley in "King Creole" (1958) and as a gang member in the Glenn Ford Western "Cimarron."

Morrow turned away from the business to focus on his marriage to actress-writer Barbara Turner and their two children, Jennifer Leigh - who later acted under the name Jennifer Jason Leigh - and her sister, Carrie Ann Morrow. He also began directing theater productions, but the financial pressures inherent to raising a family soon forced a return to screen acting. He hired a new press agent, Harry Bloom, who refashioned Morrow as a rough-hewn leading man in the vein of Aldo Ray or Richard Boone. Bloom also secured his client a screen test for a new war drama series about American soldiers in Europe during the Second World War. After initially landing the role of Lt. Gil Hanley, Morrow and Bloom successfully campaigned for and won the lead, that of hard-boiled but heroic Sgt. Chip Saunders on "Combat!"

The role was a transformative one for Morrow. Embodying both the physical toughness and the emotional fatigue endured by many soldiers, Morrow epitomized an action hero, and for his efforts, received an Emmy nominee in 1963 for a harrowing episode in which an injured Saunders was stranded behind enemy lines. Offscreen, Morrow worked hard to maintain the show's integrity, frequently battling with producers over its direction and quitting the show at one point. By 1964, he had assumed control of the show's scripts and claimed one of the most lucrative contracts in the business. That same year, he began directing episodes, many of which were praised for their innovative choices, and began work on his feature debut as a director with an adaptation of Jean Genet's "Deathwatch," which he worked on with Turner. For a while, it seemed as if Morrow was on his way to becoming a multi-hyphenate with a bright future in Hollywood.

Then came his 1965 divorce from Turner. She revealed to Morrow that she had been having an affair with Robert Altman, then a director on "Combat," and sought a divorce. Two years later, "Combat" was cancelled, which effectively brought his career to a standstill. Morrow attempted to keep himself in the public eye, but found himself unable to land more than guest shots as tough cops and villains on episodic television. He attempted to re-launch his directorial career with "A Man Called Sledge" (1970), a violent Western made in Italy with James Garner and John Marley, but the film saw only a limited release. There were occasional successes, like his aggressive Little League coach in "The Bad News Bears" (1976) and high profile guest shots in "Roots" (ABC, 1977) as the vicious overseer, and "Captains and the Kings" (NBC, 1976), but by the end of the decade, he was working in low-budget exploitation like "Humanoids from the Deep" (1979) and "The Evictors" (1979). His personal life was in turmoil as well; he was crushed when his daughter changed her name from Jennifer Leigh Morrow to Jennifer Jason Leigh (to pay homage to family friend Jason Robards). While he proceeded to drink heavily, his second marriage, this time to Gale Lester, collapsed in 1980, and he supported himself by appearing in foreign-made trash like "Great White" (1981), a blatant "Jaws" (1975) rip-off that drew a lawsuit from Universal.

In 1982, Morrow was tapped by director John Landis to star in a segment of "Twilight Zone: The Movie." The episode, "Time Out," cast him as a middle-aged racist who learned the pain of discrimination by finding himself in the shoes of Jewish Holocaust victims, blacks during the civil rights movement and Vietnamese during the American offensive. Morrow was excited about the project, which he viewed as a possible comeback after decades of obscurity. In July of that year, Morrow was on location in Indian Dunes, CA with two young Asian actors, ages six and seven - later found out to be illegally employed by the filmmakers - playing Vietnamese children whom his character was to rescue during a vicious firefight. While cameras rolled at night, Morrow waded across a makeshift river with both children under his arms while a military helicopter hovered overhead. A pair of colossal firebombs went off during the sequence, which damaged the chopper, sending it plummeting to the ground. The rotor blades decapitated Morrow and one of the two children; the helicopter slamming into the ground crushed the other child. All were killed instantly.

In the wake of the tragic film shoot, scores of lawsuits, including ones by Morrow's daughters, were filed against the movie's producers, including Steven Spielberg, director Landis and Warner Bros. Many of these were settled out of court for unspecified sums, but Landis and his associates did go to trial, all of whom were charged with involuntary manslaughter. The case was unprecedented. Landis was the first Hollywood director ever indicted on criminal charges in connection with a fatality during filming. All were eventually found not guilty in 1987, but the accident hobbled Landis' once bright career for decades and came to epitomize the tragic results of Hollywood's misguided pursuit of bigger and more violent special effects. For Morrow's family, the pain of his death and the frustrations of his life carried on long after his funeral. His million-dollar estate was left to daughter Carrie, while Leigh received just $100. His Screen Actors Guild insurance was given to an unnamed female friend.



Director (Feature Film)

Deathwatch (1966)

Cast (Feature Film)

Twilight Zone--The Movie (1983)
1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
L' Ultimo Squalo (1982)
Ron Hammer
Humanoids From The Deep (1980)
Stone (1979)
The Evictors (1979)
Jake Rudd; Todd Monroe
Message From Space (1978)
Wild and Wooly (1978)
Warden Willis
The Man with the Power (1977)
Curse of the Black Widow (1977)
The Hostage Heart (1977)
Steve Rockewicz
Treasure of Matecumbe (1976)
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Baby Sitter - Un maledetto pasticcio (1975)
Killer--Stunt Man
Death Stalk (1975)
The Night That Panicked America (1975)
The California Kid (1974)
Sheriff Roy Childress
Nightmare (1974)
The Take (1974)
Tom Sawyer (1973)
The Police Story (1973)
The Weekend Nun (1972)
Chuck Jardine
The Glass House (1972)
Hugo Slocum
Travis Logan, D.A. (1971)
River of Mystery (1971)
Phil Munger
How To Make It (1969)
Harry Black
Portrait of a Mobster (1961)
"Dutch" Schultz
Posse From Hell (1961)
Cimarron (1960)
Wes Jennings
Hell's Five Hours (1958)
Burt Nash
God's Little Acre (1958)
Shaw Walden
King Creole (1958)
Men in War (1957)
Cpl. Zwickley
Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)
Lars Peterson
It's a Dog's Life (1955)
Voice of Wildfire
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Artie West

Writer (Feature Film)

Deathwatch (1966)

Producer (Feature Film)

Deathwatch (1966)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Seekers (1979)
The Last Convertible (1979)
Roots (1977)
Captains and the Kings (1976)
Captains and the Kings Part 5 & 6 (1976)

Life Events


Film debut, "The Blackboard Jungle"


TV debut, "The Barbara Stanwyck Theater" (NBC)


First starring role, Dutch Schultz in "Portrait of a Mobster"


Series debut, "Combat" (also directed some episodes)


Directoral and screenwriting debut, "Deathwatch"


TV-movie debut, "A Step Out of Line" (CBS)


Final screen appearance, "Twilight Zone - The Movie"; Morrow was killed in helicopter accident during filming


Movie Clip

It's A Dog's Life (1955) -- (Movie Clip) Dog Eat Dog On The Waterfront Humans quite irrelevant in the opening, apart from the narration by Vic Morrow, the inner-monologue of the the Bull Terrier who will be named Wildfire (MGM used two visually identical dogs for the shoot), in It’s A Dog’s Life, 1955, from a story by the trendsetting journalist and Theodore Roosevelt supporter Richard Harding Davis.
It's A Dog's Life (1955) -- (Movie Clip) The Original Dog Lottery First business with people involved, Vic Morrow narrates as the so-far nameless bull terrier on the Bowery ca. 1900, entering the bar where Corbin (J.M. Kerrigan) presides and Patch McGill (Jeff Richards) is a gung-ho customer, in MGM’s It’s A Dog’s Life, 1955.
It's A Dog's Life (1955) -- (Movie Clip) Well Deserving Of Your Support Owner Patch (Jeff Richards) brings “Wildfire” to his first fight in turn-of-the-century New York, Vic Morrow continuing his narration in the dog’s voice, as we discover MGM’s approach to shooting the action, and meet philosophical Jeremiah (Edmund Gwenn), in It’s A Dog’s Life, 1955.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Them Hollywood TV Shows Vic Morrow is Franklin the only cool guy in the sheriff's office run by Donahue (Kenneth Tobey) so they clash over techniques as we join bandits Larry and Deke (Peter Fonda, Adam Roarke) and their new sidekick Mary (Susan George), in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, 1974.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) -- (Movie Clip) Cubic Money Evading the police dragnet in central California, thieves and aspiring NASCAR drivers Larry (Peter Fonda) and Deke (Adam Roarke) grumble with their hitcher Mary (Susan George), while grouchy deputy Franklin (Vic Morrow, his first scene) takes the case, early in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, 1974.
Blackboard Jungle (1955) -- (Movie Clip) Action Of The Tiger Teaching-job applicant Dadier (Glenn Ford) arriving at North Manual High School, citing Shakespeare with principal Warnecke (John Hoyt) and getting the job, early in Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle, 1955.
Blackboard Jungle (1955) -- (Movie Clip) We Want Morales! Racism becomes the subject as Dadier (Glenn Ford) officiates and the class (Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Paul Mazursky et al) chooses Morales (Rafael Campos) to make a recording in Blackboard Jungle, 1955.
God's Little Acre -- (Movie Clip) Why In The Pluperfect Hell? It's not made clear why Ty-Ty (Robert Ryan) has sons Buck (Jack Lord) and Shaw (Vic Morrow) digging holes on their Georgia dirt farm, visited by Griselda (Tina Louise), early in Anthony Mann's God's Little Acre, 1958.
God's Little Acre -- (Movie Clip) Ain't No Sin To Think Buck (Jack Lord) and Shaw (Vic Morrow) are digging for gold father Ty-Ty (Robert Ryan) believes in, but brother-in-law Will (Aldo Ray) is interested in Buck's wife Griselda (Tina Louise) in Anthony Mann's God's Little Acre 1958.
King Creole -- (Movie Clip) Lover Doll Elvis (as Danny Fisher) provides diversion performing "Lover Doll" by Sid Wayne and Abner Silver while his pals rob a dime-store and Danny meets the dreamy Nellie (Dolores Hart) in King Creole, 1958.



Carrie Morrow
Drug counselor. Born 1958.
Jennifer Leigh Morrow
Actor. Born February 5, 1962.


Barbara Turner
Screenwriter, actor. Married 1957, divorced 1965.