Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Richard Carlson

I just wrote about Richard Denning (1914 - 1998) who was in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).  Another star in that movie was Richard Carlson (1912 - 1977).  The pair made one other movie together, West Point Widow in 1941, also starring Anne Shirley (1918 - 1993) who started acting at age 4 and made 66 movies, retiring at age 26.

Back to Carlson.  He has 103 titles listed on IMDb, in film and on TV, starting in 1938 and all the way to 1975.  In 1941 he was in The Little Foxes with Bette Davis (1908 - 1989), and the next year he was in White Cargo with Hedy Lamarr (1914 - 2000). 

Carlson is best remembered for his parts in sci-fi classics like Creature, but he didn't start making those films until well into his acting career...even after starting on TV.  His first real sci-fi was The Magnetic Monster in 1953. 

Up until then he was in many movies in quite a range of genres.  In 1948 he was in The Amazing Mr. X, a detective story (more or less), starring Turhan Bey (b. 1922), and then in 1950 an action film, King Solomon's Mines, starring Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007) and Stewart Granger (1913 - 1993).  In 1952 he made two Korean War pics, Retreat, Hell! and Flat Top

The truth is that of his 103 titles, he only made four of the sci-fi movies on which his reputation is based.  Magnetic Monster, It Came from Outer Space (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954) and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Those movies and that time frame, the early 1950s, were all it took to start a new generation of baby boomers on the path to a lifetime of "Star Trek," Star Wars and other sci-fi movies and TV shows.

I remember Carlson in three educational films made by Frank Capra (1897 - 1991), "Hemo the Magnificent" and "The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays" in 1957 and then "The Unchained Goddess" in 1958.  These were made for TV, but when I was in elementary school, they were shown as 16mm prints to the school.  They starred Frank Baxter (1896 - 1982) who played Dr. Research, and Carlson was along for the ride, with a bunch of animated characters as well.  They were great!

Carlson's later work included the TV series "Mackenzie's Raiders" where he was the star, and then he was basically a guest star on TV shows, like  "Rawhide" and "Bonanza."  His last film was Change of Habit in 1969 starring Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) which was also Presley's last film.

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