Richard Crenna


Actor
Richard Crenna

About

Also Known As
Richard Donald Crenna
Birth Place
Los Angeles, California, USA
Born
November 30, 1926
Died
January 17, 2003
Cause of Death
Pancreatic Cancer

Biography

An often underappreciated actor capable of playing the heroic leading man, the devious villain, or comedic foil with equal ability, Richard Crenna enjoyed an amazingly robust 50-year career in film and on television. After receiving his start in radio while in his preteens, Crenna first gained widespread notoriety on the early television classic "Our Miss Brooks" (CBS, 1952-56), as the k...

Family & Companions

Penny Smith
Wife
Married in 1950.

Biography

An often underappreciated actor capable of playing the heroic leading man, the devious villain, or comedic foil with equal ability, Richard Crenna enjoyed an amazingly robust 50-year career in film and on television. After receiving his start in radio while in his preteens, Crenna first gained widespread notoriety on the early television classic "Our Miss Brooks" (CBS, 1952-56), as the klutzy, nasally-voiced Walter Denton. He made small early appearances in several films, in addition to his work on the ongoing series, followed by a lengthy run on yet another successful sitcom "The Real McCoys" (ABC/CBS, 1957-1963). Crenna later redefined his career with two strong performances as deeply flawed characters in the feature films "The Sand Pebbles" (1966) and "Wait Until Dark" (1967), leaving his comedic television persona far behind. After more than a decade of less memorable movie work, combined with more fruitful endeavors on TV, he landed his most recognizable role, that of Colonel Trautman in the Sylvester Stallone action vehicle "First Blood" (1982). Crenna would reprise the role of Trautman two more times in the film's sequels, even going so far as to lampoon the role in the Jim Abrahams-directed parody "Hot Shots! Part Deux" (1993). The epitome of the working actor, Crenna remained a familiar and welcome presence on screens both big and small up until his passing in 2003 at the age of 76.

Born Richard Donald Crenna in Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 1926, he was the son of Edith, a hotel manager, and Dominick, a pharmacist. He began taking drama classes while attending Virgil Junior High School, and when an announcement was made that producers were looking for children to perform on a radio program, Crenna tried out. That first audition landed him his professional debut role on the radio serial "Boy Scout Jamboree," one of several programs he would work on over the next decade. Other radio work included stints on "Dear John" and "Burns and Allen," which he managed to squeeze into his schedule after classes at Belmont High School, and later at the University of Southern California, prior to serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. It was as the love-sick, adenoidal high school student Walter Denton on the Eve Arden radio comedy "Our Miss Brooks" that would gain Crenna his widest recognition as a voice actor. When the program made the switch to the small screen - "Our Miss Brooks" (CBS, 1952-56) - Crenna, despite being well into his 20s, made the transition as well.

The same year "Our Miss Brooks" made its TV premiere, Crenna made his feature film debut in several projects, including the fire-fighting adventure "Red Skies of Montana" (1952) and the baseball biopic "The Pride of St. Louis" (1952). Not surprisingly, he reprised the role of the eternally dorky Denton for the big screen adaptation of "Our Miss Brooks" (1956), which coincided with the beloved series' final season on TV. Crenna joined the cast of another successful show as the eldest son Luke on "The Real McCoys" (ABC/CBS, 1957-1963), a sitcom co-starring Walter Brennan as the patriarch of a hillbilly clan transplanted to the San Fernando Valley from the mountains of West Virginia. With the show well into its fourth season, a restless Crenna began directing episodes of the series, a second career he would frequently indulge in over the next several decades. Following the cancellation of "Real McCoys," Crenna landed a leading role alongside Shirley MacLaine and Peter Ustinov in the Cold War comedy "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!" (1965). Unfortunately, the film did not perform well upon release. Nor did his next television project, the political drama "Slattery's People" (CBS, 1964-65), which lasted a mere one season.

Crenna rebounded nicely, however, when he returned to film as an ineffectual gunboat captain in the critically-acclaimed wartime epic "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), opposite Steve McQueen and Candice Bergin. The following year he returned with a solid performance as a calculating con man in the classic thriller "Wait Until Dark" (1967), alongside Audrey Hepburn as the blind woman he and his criminal partners prey upon. Not so fondly remembered would be the hugely disappointing Julie Andrews vehicle, "Star!" (1968), helmed by Robert Wise, who had directed Crenna in "The Sand Pebbles" just two years prior. He impressed greatly as the self-sacrificing commander of a doomed spacecraft in the John Sturges-directed adventure "Marooned" (1969), opposite Gene Hackman and Gregory Peck. Working outside the Hollywood system, Crenna played a nightclub owner and master criminal in revered French New Wave director Jean-Pierre Melville's final film, "Un Flic" (1972), co-starring Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve. As the 1970s progressed, Crenna soon found himself headlining in lesser feature films such as the revenge Western "The Man Called Noon" (1973), or in made-for-TV fare like the tepid remake of "Double Indemnity" (ABC, 1973).

Crenna picked up a supporting role as a corrupt governor in the Charles Bronson railway mystery, "Breakheart Pass" (1975), prior to making another run at a weekly show with the sitcom "All's Fair" (CBS, 1976-77), another politically-themed series just as short-lived as his earlier "Slattery's People." The following year, he took part in the laughable supernatural thriller "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell" (CBS, 1978), but quickly redeemed himself with the epic historical miniseries based on James A. Michener's bestseller "Centennial" (NBC, 1978-79), as the hate-filled Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn. Less notable was the gory high seas ghost story "Death Ship" (1980), in which Crenna and a group of shipwreck survivors find themselves aboard a haunted, derelict Nazi torture vessel. However, the dawn of the next decade presented Crenna with two of his strongest roles to date. First, he played femme fatale Kathleen Turner's overbearing alpha male husband in writer-director Lawrence Kasdan's steamy noir homage "Body Heat" (1981), starring William Hurt as an ethically-challenged Florida attorney. Next came what would arguably be the most recognizable role of Crenna's career - that of Colonel Trautman, the sympathetic former mentor to John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), an angry, highly-trained Vietnam veteran antagonized by a local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) in "First Blood" (1982).

It seemed, however, that another run on a long-running television series was just not in the cards for Crenna, when yet another sitcom "It Takes Two" (ABC, 1982-83), co-starring Patty Duke, Helen Hunt and Anthony Edwards failed to connect with audiences. Sporting a stronger hand was Garry Marshall's ode to the 1950s, "The Flamingo Kid" (1984), which cast Crenna as the reigning gin rummy champ at a posh country club who takes Brooklyn boy Matt Dillon under his wing. He then reprised the role of Col. Trautman in the even bloodier, higher-grossing hit sequel "Rambo: First Blood Part II" (1985), this time springing Rambo from prison only to send him back to Vietnam on a covert mission to locate POWs. That same year, Crenna won an Emmy for his fine performance in the well-intentioned "The Rape of Richard Beck" (ABC, 1985) as a macho, sexist cop who must reevaluate his ideas about rape victims after becoming one himself. Tough cops became a staple for Crenna, epitomized by Lt. Frank Janek, the protagonist he played in a series of TV movies for more a decade, beginning with "Doubletake" (CBS, 1985).

Continuing to work steadily on the small screen, Crenna played a crusading attorney going head-to-head with the Boston Police Department in the drama "A Case of Deadly Force" (CBS, 1986), and embodied future presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in the fact-based action adventure "On Wings of Eagles" (NBC, 1986). Proving the old axiom that old soldiers never die, he signed on as Trautman for a third time and followed Stallone's one-man army to Afghanistan for the second sequel "Rambo III" (1988), then returned to the big screen the following year for the deep-sea monster movie "Leviathan" (1989). His best roles, however, were still on television in projects that included a convincing turn as the detective who doggedly tracked down two of L.A.'s most infamous serial killers in the based-on-fact "The Case of the Hillside Stranglers" (NBC, 1989). Crenna teamed with James Earl Jones for another short-lived series, the crime drama "Pros & Cons" (ABC, 1991-92), prior to showing off his comedic aptitude by spoofing his iconic Trautman role in the slapstick parody sequel "Hot Shots! Part Deux" (1993).

Although "Hot Shots!" may not have been his most prestigious picture, Crenna surely must have wished he had avoided the critical and box office debacle that was director William Friedkin's "Jade" (1995), in which he played a Governor involved in blackmail and prostitution. Shortly thereafter, he appeared on network television as Professor Aronnax in the ill-equipped remake of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (CBS, 1997), opposite Ben Cross as Captain Nemo. On cable, Crenna played "The Gipper" in the historical drama "The Day Reagan Was Shot" (Showtime, 2001), alongside Richard Dreyfuss as the former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. Beginning in 2000, the veteran actor took on the recurring character of Jared Duff on the popular drama "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005) for two seasons prior to his 2003 death at age 76 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. Crenna appeared posthumously with his final performance as an INS investigator looking into the past of an Auschwitz survivor (Christine Lahti) in the fact-based drama "Out of the Ashes" (Showtime, 2003).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Better Late Than Never (1979)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Out of the Ashes (2003)
The Day Reagan Was Shot (2002)
Ronald Reagan
By Dawn's Early Light (2001)
Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For (2000)
Wrongfully Accused (1998)
Heart Full of Rain (1997)
Arliss Dockett
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997)
Deep Family Secrets (1997)
Clay Chadway
Race Against Time: The Search For Sarah (1996)
Sabrina (1995)
In the Name of Love: A Texas Tragedy (1995)
Lucas Constable Sr
Jade (1995)
Jonathan Stone: Threat of Innocence (1994)
Jonathan Stone
A Silent Betrayal (1994)
The Forget-Me-Not Murders (1994)
A Place to Be Loved (1993)
Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
Terror on Track 9 (1992)
Murder in Black & White (1990)
Murder Times Seven (1990)
Lieutenant Frank Janek
Last Flight Out (1990)
Montana (1990)
Hoyce Guthrie
Stuck with Each Other (1989)
The Case of the Hillside Strangler (1989)
Detective Bob Grogan
Leviathan (1989)
Rambo III (1988)
Plaza Suite (1987)
Police Story: The Freeway Killings (1987)
Kids Like These (1987)
A Case of Deadly Force (1986)
50 Years of Action! (1986)
Narrator
The High Price of Passion (1986)
Williams Douglas
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Summer Rental (1985)
Al Pellet
The Rape Of Richard Beck (1985)
Richard Beck
The Flamingo Kid (1984)
Passions (1984)
Richard Kennerly
Table for Five (1983)
The Day the Bubble Burst (1982)
First Blood (1982)
Body Heat (1981)
Edmund Walker
The Ordeal of Bill Carney (1981)
Death Ship (1980)
Captain Trevor Marshall
Fugitive Family (1980)
Brian Roberts
Stone Cold Dead (1979)
Sergeant Boyd
Hard Ride to Rantan (1979)
Mayflower: The Pilgrim's Adventure (1979)
Wild Horse Hank (1979)
Bradford, Pace
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)
A Fire In The Sky (1978)
First You Cry (1978)
David Towers
The Evil (1978)
The War Between the Tates (1977)
Brian Tate
A Girl Named Sooner (1975)
R J "Mac" Mchenry
Breakheart Pass (1975)
Richard Fairchild
Nightmare (1974)
Honky Tonk (1974)
Shootout In A One Dog Town (1973)
Zack Wells
Double Indemnity (1973)
Walter Neff
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
Voice
The Man Called Noon (1973)
Noon
Footsteps (1972)
Un flic (1972)
Simon
Catlow (1971)
[Marshal Ben] Cowan
Doctors' Wives (1971)
[Dr.] Pete Brennan
Red Sky at Morning (1971)
Frank Arnold
The Deserter (1971)
Col. Wade Brown
Thief (1971)
Neal Wilkinson
La Spina Dorsale del Diavola (1971)
Midas Run (1969)
Mike Warden
Marooned (1969)
Jim Pruett
Star! (1968)
Richard Aldrich
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Mike Talman
Made in Paris (1966)
Herb Stone
The Sand Pebbles (1966)
Captain Collins
John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)
John Goldfarb
Our Miss Brooks (1956)
Walter Denton
Over-Exposed (1956)
Russell Bassett
It Grows on Trees (1952)
Ralph Bowen
Red Skies of Montana (1952)
Charles Noxon
The Pride of St. Louis (1952)
Paul "Daffy" Dean

Director (Special)

Allison Sidney Harrison (1983)
Director
The Hoyt Axton Show (1981)
Director
The Cheerleaders (1976)
Director
Cap'n Ahab (1965)
Director

Cast (Special)

American Veteran Awards (2001)
NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT (2001)
I Love Lucy -- 50th Anniversary Special (2001)
NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT (1999)
The Seedy Side of Plants (1999)
Narration
Steve McQueen: The E! True Hollywood Story (1998)
Cold Case (1997)
Atlantis: In Search of a Lost Continent (1996)
Las Vegas (1996)
Narrator
Chasing India's Monsoon (1994)
Narrator
The Bermuda Triangle: Secrets Revealed (1994)
Hearts of Hot Shots! Part Deux - A Filmmaker's Apology (1993)
The Wild West (1993)
Voice
Beautiful Killers (1991)
Narrator
Citizen Carter (1991)
Host
The Keepers of Eden (1990)
Narration
Fifteenth Annual Circus of the Stars (1990)
47th Annual Golden Globes (1989)
Performer
Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition (1989)
Narrator
The 12th Annual People's Choice Awards (1986)
Performer
World Of Audubon: Woodstork (1984)
Narration
World Of Audubon: Woodstork (1984)
Host
London and Davis in New York (1984)
Musical Comedy Tonight (1981)
Joshua's World (1980)
CBS: On the Air (1978)
The Lily Tomlin Show (1973)

Cast (Short)

From Paris - Your Reporter Richard Crenna (1966)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Desilu Story: The Rags to Riches Success of the Desilu Empire (2003)
To Serve and Protect (1999)
Intruders (1992)
And the Sea Will Tell (1991)
Vincent Bugliosi
Internal Affairs (1988)
On Wings Of Eagles (1986)
Doubletake (To Be Deleted) (1985)
Daniel Boone (1981)
Voice

Life Events

1952

Screen acting debut, "Pride of St. Louis"

1952

TV series acting debut, as problem student Walter Denton on "Our Miss Brooks" (he later played in the 1956 film based on the series)

1964

Played the title role in his first feature film in eight years, "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home", co-starring Shirley Maclaine

1966

Appeared opposite Steve McQueen in "The Sand Pebbles"

1966

Founded Pendick Enterprises

1967

Appeared as a burglar terrorizing blind Audrey Hepburn in the thriller "Wait Until Dark"

1967

Co-starred in the romantic comedy "Made in Paris"

1968

Starred opposite Julie Andrews in the musical biopic "Star!"

1969

Starred as part of the team of stranded astronauts in the space adventure "Marooned"

1969

Starred in the crime caper comedy "A Run on Gold"

1970

Starred in the medical drama "Doctors' Wives" opposite Dyan Cannon, Gene Hackman and Carroll O'Connor

1971

Appeared with Yul Brenner and Leonard Nimoy in the Louis L'Amour Western "Catlow"

1973

Starred in the Western "A Man Called Noon"

1973

Provided a voice for the film adapatation of Richard Bach's popular novel "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"

1973

Played the Fred MacMurray role in ABC telepic remake of "Double Indemnity"

1975

Appeared with Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in the Western "Breakheart Pass"

1977

Starred the the supernatural horror film "The Evil"

1978

Headlined NBC's meteor disaster thriller "A Fire in the Sky"

1979

Appeared in the she-Western "Wild Horse Hank"

1979

Starred in the action film "Stone Cold Dead"

1979

TV movie directing debut, "Better Late Than Never"

1979

Appeared in the thriller "Death Ship"

1981

Appeared as Kathleen Turner's doomed husband in writer-director LAwrence Kasdan's "Body Heat"

1981

Provided the voice of the title character for the animated children's adventure special, "Daniel Boone"

1982

Co-starred opposite Sylvester Stallone's Rambo character as Col. Trautman in "First Blood"

1983

Co-starred with Jon Voight in the drama "Table for Five"

1984

Had an acclaimed turn as the slick gin rummy country club champ Phil Brody opposite Matt Dillon in "The Flamingo Kid"

1985

Portrayed a sexually assaulted police officer in the ABC telepic "The Rape of Richard Beck"; later earned an Emmy as best actor in a TV movie

1985

Reprised Trautman for "Rambo: First Blood Part II"

1985

Appeared with John Candy in the comedy "Summer Rental"

1986

Narrated the feature documentary, "50 Years of Action!", Made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Directors Guild of America

1986

Played H. Ross Perot in NBC's mini-series adaptation of Ken Follet's best-seller "On Wings of Eagles," documenting Perot's funding of a mission to rescue two of his employees trapped in Iran in 1979

1987

Appeared in ABC's TV adaptation of Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" opposite Carol Burnett

1988

Began lucrative side career as a host and narrator for television specials, including "Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition" (1989), "Circus of the Stars" (1990), "The Bermuda Triangle" (1994), A&E's "Las Vegas" (1996), "Cold Case" (1997), "The I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special" (2001)

1988

Last outing as Trautman for "Rambo III"

1989

Starred as Det. Bob Grogan in NBC's detective drama "The Case of the Hillside Strangler"

1989

Appeared in the horror thriller "Leviathan"

1993

Parodied his "Rambo" role Col. Trautman in "Hot Shots! Part Deux" opposite Charlie Sheen

1995

Appeared in the thriller "Jade"

1995

Appeared in director Sydney Pollack's remake of "Sabrina"

1996

Starred in CBS's telepic "Race Against Time: The Search for Sarah" opposite Patty Duke"

1997

Underwent thyroid surgery

1997

Played Professor Aronnax in CBS's TV adaptation of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

1997

Starred in the CBS telepic "Heart Full of Rain"

1997

Starred in the CBS TV drama "Deep Family Secrets"

1998

Played the pursuing federal marshall in "Wrongfully Accused," a "Fugitive" parody starring Leslie Neilsen

2000

Had recurring role as Tyne Daly's love interest on the CBS drama "Judging Amy"

2001

Played a gruff cowboy grandfather in Showtime's "By Dawn's Early Light"

2001

Cast as Ronald Reagan in the Showtime drama "The Day Reagan Was Shot"

Photo Collections

Marooned - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Marooned (1969), starring Gregory Peck, David Janssen, and Gene Hackman. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wait Until Dark (1967) - Atmosphere Of Mistrust Con men Carlino (Jack Weston) and Talman (Richard Crenna) realize their ex-partner could not have invited them into this Greenwich Village apartment, just as Roat (Alan Arkin), hunting for a missing doll stuffed with drugs, appears, early in Wait Until Dark, 1967, starring Audrey Hepburn.
Marooned (1969) - This Is Launch Control An impressive start, with NASA cooperation, though seen by some as accurate to a fault, the launch of astronauts James Franciscus, Gene Hackman and Richard Crenna in the fictional Ironman spacecraft, John Sturges directing, from Marooned, 1969, starring Gregory Peck.
Marooned (1969) - A Serious Decline John Sturges directs a transition from astronauts Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman and James Franciscus, giddy with their first spacewalk, to months later, mission control chief David Jansen and NASA administrator (Gregory Peck as “Keith,”), electing to terminate the mission, early in Marooned, 1969.
Wait Until Dark (1967) - I Know You're There! Roat (Alan Arkin) was busy coercing Talman and Carlino (Jack Weston, Richard Crenna) to help him get back the drugs hidden in this Greenwich Village apartment when blind occupant Susie (Audrey Hepburn) arrives, not noticing the body in the closet, her first scene in Wait Until Dark, 1967.
Un Flic (1972) - Three For Paris Fleeing after a bank robbery with one man (Riccardo Cucciolla) shot, thieves Simon, Costa and Albouis (Richard Crenna, Michael Conrad, Andre Pousse) perform an elaborate feint at a Normandy train station, in noir artist Jean-Pierre Melville's final film Un Flic, 1972.
Un Flic (1972) - While The City Slept Stormy shooting right where the movie purports to happen, Saint-Jean-de-Monts on the French Atlantic coast near Nantes, Jean-Pierre Melville opens his last film, Richard Crenna leading the robbers, Alain Delon the cop back in Paris, in Un Flic, 1972.
Un Flic (1972) - Bloody Heist In Saint-Jean-De-Monts From an evening's work in Paris, cop Coleman (Alain Delon) enters a night club near the Champs Elysees, director Jean-Pierre Melville introduces Catherine Deneuve (as "Cathy") and the club owner Simon (Richard Crenna), whom we know just robbed a bank, arrives, in Un Flic, 1972.
Un Flic (1972) - We Have Our Orders Cop Coleman (Alain Delon) is at the shooting range as gangsters Simon, Louis and Marc (Americans Richard Crenna and Michael Conrad, French Andre Pousse) send Cathy (Catherine Deneuve) in disguise to finish off their injured colleague, in Jean-Pierre Melville's Un Flic, 1972.

Trailer

Family

Seana Crenna
Daughter
Born in 1952.
Richard Crenna Jr
Son
Cameraman. Born on June 29, 1959; formerly engaged to actress Salma Hayek.
Maria Crenna
Daughter
Born on September 2, 1965.

Companions

Penny Smith
Wife
Married in 1950.

Bibliography