Friday, January 27, 2017

Notable Passings: Barbara Hale and Mike Connors

The sad passing of Mary Tyler Moore earlier this week was quickly followed by the news that two more TV icons left us yesterday, Barbara Hale and Mike Connors.

Hale, the widow of Bill Williams, was best known as TV's Della Street on PERRY MASON, opposite Raymond Burr. After playing the role from 1957 to 1966, she and Burr returned to their roles in a series of TV-movies beginning in 1985, with her son, William Katt, in the cast as Paul Drake Jr.

Katt announced that his mother passed away yesterday. She was 94.

Obituaries have been published by Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and the Los Angeles Times.

I paid tribute to Hale at length on her birthday in 2015, and I encourage readers to visit it to learn more about her career. Hale's work in Westerns gave me special pleasure.

My friend Caftan Woman wrote a tribute to Hale in 2010.

Connors, who starred as TV's MANNIX from 1967-1975, died at 91.

I was aware of the title MANNIX as a child but was too young to watch it; I decided I should rectify that and ordered Season 1 of the series today! Connors participated in numerous extras for the set including introducing episodes.

Later I knew Connors from MAVERICK reruns, where he appeared in the episodes "Point Blank" and "The Naked Gallows," and from a Season 1 episode of LAWMAN, "Lady in Question." He appeared in countless other TV guest roles before hitting it big himself.

In recent years I've been more aware of Connors from a couple of early film roles, where he was billed as "Touch" Connors, such as a small part in William Wellman's ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953). Other early films included SUDDEN FEAR (1952) and FIVE GUNS WEST (1955).

According to Variety, Connors was diagnosed with leukemia just days before his passing.

While sad these wonderful actors have left us, I'm very grateful for the work they leave behind.


Blogger Lee R said...

Mannix was of my all time favorite shows as a kid and still now I watch my DVDs of the series. It's also now on ME-TV at 2 am. But as a warning, the 1st season of Mannix was a great deal different (as in not as good) then the rest of the series. Starting in Season 2 Mannix was a private eye, worked in his own home/office and had his classic secretary Peggy (played by Gail Fisher). This is how I first saw the series as a kid, never did see season 1 till years later. At any rate the DVDs of Season 1 are worth getting for Connors intro.s into each episode. I only wish Paramount had had Connors continue his intro.s on all the rest of the seasons. But for a real sample of Mannix greatness you have to see any of seasons 2 thru 8, these were true Mannix episodes.

I always tried to comb my hair to look like Mannix, he had perfect hair and when I started work, I remember buying plaid jackets just cause they looked like Mannix jackets. Mannix was famous for his jackets that he wore (seasons 2-8), he was a great guy in person too, stayed married to his high school sweetheart for all his years. A personal hero of mine has died and I'm in a bit of shock about it. He was born the same year as my Dad too, but he lived longer, I salute the great Mike Connors.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Lee,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on Mike Connors and MANNIX. Really enjoyed it.

While doing some reading on the show today I learned about the format change after Season 1. I'll keep your comments in mind when I watch!

Best wishes,

11:29 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Yes, I am sad about the loss of these two good people too. They did however lead long, fulfilled lives.

I too liked Barbara Hale in westerns, Laura, and none better than "WEST OF THE PECOS", the film where she met her husband, Bill Williams.

My introduction to Mike Connors was in his first TV series, "TIGHTROPE" (1961), in which he played an undercover cop, never able to reveal his true self, ever walking the tightrope of danger. It was a good series but ran only one season as it was deemed too violent (what would they think today!?). He got a second chance with "MANNIX" which proved a winner luckily. That is one series I really need to get. Thanks for the useful tip, Lee R.

11:33 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Very sad to hear of Barbara's passing.
Barbara was a natural for Westerns and the perfect leading lady for icons Randolph Scott
and Joel McCrea.
It always amazes me that people that I consider nonentities get truckloads of press
coverage when they pass away yet genuine stars like Barbara get nary a mention-in the
UK at least.
BTW I did submit a much longer reply to your 2016 "discoveries" over at Brian's but after
several failed attempts had to try sending a shorter version which finally got through.
I often have great problems with this "moderation" process but totally understand
why it is necessary. I thought the films that you chose were amazing!

5:33 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Was very sad to read both these headlines. PERRY MASON is one of my Dad's favorite shows, and I've long enjoyed Barbara Hale's work in other roles as well. Liked what Barbara had to say about Della in another obituary:

“I liked that she was not married. My husband didn’t have to see me every week married to another man, and our children didn’t have to see me mothering other children. When [my son] Billy was in the first grade, we went to school for the first parent meeting, and on his desk were little projects he’d made — pictures of Daddy and Mommy and his sister and his animals. And underneath my picture . . . he’d written in inch-high block letters, ‘This is my mom. I love her. She is a secretary.’ ”

According to Barbara, she had seen Bill Williams several times on the studio lot and decided she wanted to meet him, but he never noticed her. When they were both working on WEST OF THE PECOS, the director (who was in on her secret) arranged that Williams shot his two scenes at both the beginning and end of filming (rather than back to back) so he'd be around for the whole shoot. The plan worked, and he finally noticed her!

Jerry, I've very recently become a fan of Mike Connors from watching TIGHTROPE, and I agree, an excellent series. It's tough and suspenseful, with often snappy dialogue, and Connors does a good job playing both the hero and his assumed criminal personas. (I had actually watched two episodes of the show right before I read the news of his passing.) I was even considering the wild idea of trying to send Connors copies of all the TIGHTROPE episodes I now have (only missing two) on the chance that he might not have any himself and be interested in seeing it again...

1:50 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Maricatrin!
Glad to find another "TIGHTROPE" fan. I thought I was the only person who remembered it! Kinda sunk without trace LOL.
Loved your detail about the Hale/Williams romance on the set of "WEST OF THE PECOS" BTW.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Lee R said...

An interesting note also, did you know that both Mike Connors and Barbara Hale were the co-stars on several Perry Mason episodes? It happened when Raymond Burr had to have an operation and was out of commission for a couple months. Different stars came in to fill his place one of them being Mike Connors, so you can see Mike and Della together in these few Perry episodes (no Raymond though). My grandmother LOVED Perry Mason and I remember her always watching the series late at night as repeats and anytime it was on. THanks to those exposures to the series it is now one of my favorite series too. Another program I still watch once a week on CBS's excellent commercial DVD releases, UNCUT and restored, beautiful picture and no missing segments like when they're shown on TV.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I love WEST OF THE PECOS. Hale was good in a number of fondly recalled Westerns titles. :) You and Maricatrin have me intrigued about TIGHTROPE. Not being very familiar with Connors, it's been wonderful to read very positive things about his offscreen life in the last few days.

I agree, John, she was a perfect leading lady! (So sorry to hear your longer comment disappeared!)

Maricatrin, the anecdote about Bill Katt as a child writing "This is my mom. I love her. She is a secretary" is one of the cutest things ever! (And shows maybe she was smart not to further confuse her kids by having an onscreen family!) One of the fun things about the WEST OF THE PECOS shoot is that the location where they got to know each other was Lone Pine, which I visit once or twice a year.

Lee, that's great trivia about Connors and Hale on PERRY MASON, I had no idea. Want you to know that thanks to your comments I went back and ordered Season 2 of MANNIX as well. Maybe I'll watch the first two seasons simultaneously or something LOL.

My husband often catches PERRY MASON reruns on late-night TV but seems like I'm usually blogging about a movie when he's watching LOL. Given how much I admire the cast (not to mention producer Gail Patrick Jackson), I suspect this is a show I need to catch up with...on DVD so as to see it uncut.

The complete Perry Mason series is currently pricey, though it's 72 discs! And it's a much better deal buying the full set than buying it season by season, especially as they were split up. I'll follow it on the Camel Camel Camel price tracker. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Best wishes,

6:18 PM  

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