Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yes, THAT is John Larch

John Larch (1914 - 2005) is not exactly a household name, not even in television and movie buff circles. I doubt he even comes up in trivia games. But his career spanned almost four decades, 166 titles, and hundreds of TV episodes...and I am certain you will instantly recognize his face. (That's why I put his pic at the bottom.) Even more interesting is that you will probably hear his voice in your head when you see his face.

He started out as a pro baseball player before he got the acting bug. In the early 1950's he worked in radio playing the lead in "Captain Starr of Space." With television still in its infancy, he soon found a home on the small screen. Let's start with his movies.

Larch's first appearance on the big screen was in Bitter Creek (1954) starring Wild Bill Elliott (1904 - 1965) in one of Elliott's last westerns. Through the rest of that decade, Larch appeared in quite a few movies, but most were typical 1950's fare and not spectacular blockbusters. The list of stars in those films was impressive, though. He got to work with Dan Duryea, Edward G. Robinson, Ginger Rogers, Brian Keith, Kim Novak, Joseph Cotton, and even Orson Welles.

Larch's distinctive looks, voice and demeanor were already getting him roles as detectives, lawmen, politicians, cowboys, and even chaplains. To me he always looks like he is sneering. (He has a big nose.) The nice thing is that he could play those roles in almost any genre, on the big or small screen.

In 1962 Larch appeared in How The West Was Won. It was not a very big role, but take a look at the cast list and you'll see how easy it was to get lost in that film. The next year Larch plays Gen. George S. Patton in Miracle of the White Stallions (1963), a Disney film about horses and Nazis. (And one I would like to see.)

Five years of television work go by before his next film, The Wrecking Crew (1968) starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer and Sharon Tate. And then he is in The Great Bank Robbery (1969) with Zero Mostel.

In 1971 Larch is in Play Misty for Me and Dirty Harry thanks to his good friend Clint Eastwood. It's nice to have friends. John plays a sergeant in Misty and the police chief in Harry.

Now let's take a quick look at his television career. Right out of the box Larch has multiple appearances in "Waterfront," "Space Patrol," "Dragnet," and "You Are There," all in the early 1950's. In the latter half of that decade you will see John in "The Walter Winchell File," "The Restless Gun" and "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color."

I noticed that Larch had single entries in many television series'. Could it have been that he was so well type cast that he would have been recognized if he appeared more than once or twice? He did manage multiple appearances on "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Zane Grey Theater" and "Gunsmoke."

In 1961 Larch is in one of the most memorable offerings on "Twilight Zone." He plays the father of Billy Mumy's (b. 1954) sadistic child character in a story called "It's a Good Life," trying to appease his son and retain his own sanity. He also appeared two more times in T. Z.

Here is a short list of other great series' Larch has appeared in:

  • Route 66
  • Wagon Train
  • Untouchables
  • Rawhide
  • Ben Casey
  • Naked City
  • Arrest and Trial (He appeared in all but one episode as a regular.)
  • The Fugitive
  • The Virginian

And into the 1970s in:

  • The FBI
  • Mission Impossible
  • Cannon
  • Medical Center
  • Ironside

If that list doesn't jog your memory, you aren't watching enough classic television! Without a doubt, you have seen John Larch, and more than once. He was one memorable Bit Actor.

He continued to work all through the 1980s, in "Hawaii Five-O," "Lou Grant," "Vega$," and he had major roles in "Dynasty" and "Dallas" before retiring. As promised, here are two pics:

Now do you remember him?