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General information  

  • Real name : Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors
  • Place of birth : Brooklyn
  • Date of birth : 10/04/1921
  • Place of death : Los Angeles
  • Date of death : 10/11/1992

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Alias  

  • Chuck Conners
  • Connors Chuck

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Chuck Connors (1921)

Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors

Type :  

  Summary  

Chuck Connors (April 10, 1921 – November 10, 1992) was an American actor, writer, and professional basketball and baseball player. His best known role from his forty-year film career was Lucas McCain in the 1960s ABC hit Western series The Rifleman.

  Biography  

 early life
Connors was born Kevin Joseph Connors in Brooklyn, New York, second of two children and only son of Allan and Marcella Connors, emigrants from the Dominion of Newfoundland. He was raised Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

His sister found out Connors didn't like his first name and was looking at a number of possible first-name changes: he tried out "Lefty" and "Stretch" before settling on "Chuck", because while playing first base, he would always yell, "Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!" to the pitcher. The rest of his teammates and fans soon caught on and the name stuck. He loved the Dodgers despite their losing record during the 1930s. Connors knew that he too would be a Dodger, like: Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Billy Cox, Ralph Branca, Preacher Roe and Carl Erskine, the participants of the great championship team that Connors was part of, the Brooklyn Dodgers of 1949.

Connors's athletic abilities earned him a scholarship to both the elite Adelphi Academy and Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He left college after two years. During World War II he enlisted in the Army at Fort Knox. He spent most of the war as a tank-warfare instructor, stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, and later at West Point, New York.

 acting career
 Television roles
Connors realized that he would not make a career in professional sports, so he decided to pursue an acting career. Playing baseball near Hollywood proved to be fortunate, as he was spotted by an MGM casting director and subsequently signed for the 1952 Tracy-Hepburn film Pat and Mike. In 1953, he starred opposite Burt Lancaster as a rebellious Marine private in the film South Sea Woman. Connors also starred in 1957's Old Yeller as Burn Sanderson. That same year, he co-starred in The Hired Gun.

 Character actor
Connors was in feature films, such as The Big Country, Move Over Darling with Doris Day and James Garner and Soylent Green, with Charlton Heston. He also became a lovable character actor, guest-starring in dozens of shows. His first guest-starring debut was on an episode of Dear Phoebe. He also appeared on television in roles in Hey, Jeannie!, The Loretta Young Show, Schlitz Playhouse, Adventures of Superman, Screen Directors Playhouse, Four Star Playhouse, Matinee Theatre, Cavalcade of America, Gunsmoke, Crossroads, The Gale Storm Show, West Point, The Millionaire, Tales of Wells Fargo , General Electric True Theater, Wagon Train, The Restless Gun, Murder, She Wrote, Date with the Angels, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, The Virginian, Night Gallery, and many others.

 The Rifleman
Connors beat out 40 actors for the lead on The Rifleman, portraying Lucas McCain, a widowed rancher known for his skill with a customized Winchester rifle. This ABC, Western series was also the first show ever to feature a widowed father raising a young child. Connors said in a 1959 interview with TV Guide that the producers of Four Star Television must have been looking at 40-50 thirty-something males." The reason why he was the producers' first choice for the role of McCain was because he was a good actor who had performed some roles the producers liked. At the time, the producers offered a certain amount of money to do 39 episodes for the 1958-59 season. The offer turned out to be less than Connors was making doing freelance acting, so he appropriately turned it down. A few days later, the producers of The Rifleman took their own children to watch Old Yeller in which Connors played a strong father-figure role. After the producers watched him in the movie, they decided they should cast Connors in the role of Lucas McCain and make him a better offer, including a 5% ownership of the show.

The Rifleman was an immediate hit, ranking #4 in the Nielsen ratings in 1958-59, behind three other Westerns: Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and Have Gun - Will Travel.

The producers were looking for an unfamiliar child actor, to play Mark McCain. Johnny Crawford, a former Mousketeer, baseball fan, and Western buff, who loved Connors' movies, beat out 40 young stars to play the role. Crawford remained on the series from 1958 until its cancellation in 1963.

The Rifleman was an audience/family favorite show for 4 seasons, where it landed in the Nielsen ratings until the last year in the 1962-63 season when ratings began to drop. The show was cancelled in 1963 after 5 seasons and 168 episodes, although ABC would have been happy to ask Connors to renew his contract for the sixth season. Connors, however, wanted to move on to other projects, as did Crawford.

Johnny Crawford said of his relationship with Connors: "I was very fond of Chuck, and we were very good friends right from the start. I admired him tremendously." Crawford also said about the same sport that Connors had played: "I was a big baseball fan when we started the show, and when I found out that Chuck had been a professional baseball player, I was especially in awe of him. I would bring my baseball and a bat and a couple of gloves whenever we went on location, and at lunchtime I would get a baseball game going, hoping that Chuck would join us. And he did, but after he came to bat, we would always have trouble finding the ball. It would be out in the brush somewhere or in a ravine, and so that would end the game."

Crawford stayed in touch with Connors until his death in 1992. "We remained friends throughout the rest of his life. He was always interested in what I was doing and ready with advice, and anxious to help in any way that he could . . . He was a great guy, a lot of fun, great sense of humor, bigger than life, and he absolutely loved people. He was very gregarious and friendly, and not at all bashful . . . I learned a great deal from him about acting, and he was a tremendous influence on me. He was just my hero." He and Connors reprised their roles as the McCains on a TV Western movie, The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.

 Typecasting/other TV roles
In 1963, Connors appeared in the film Flipper. He also appeared opposite James Garner and Doris Day in the outrageous comedy, Move Over, Darling.

As Connors was strongly typecasted for playing the firearmed rancher turned single father, he then starred in several short-lived series, such as: ABC's Arrest and Trial, featuring two young actors Ben Gazzara and Don Galloway, NBC's post-Civil War-era series Branded (1965–1966) and the 1967-1968 ABC series Cowboy in Africa, alongside British actor Ronald Howard and Tom Nardini. In 1973 and 1974 he hosted a television series called Thrill Seekers. He had a key role against type as a slaveowner in the 1977 miniseries Roots.

The actor achieved notoriety for an incident on an NBC prime-time baseball telecast in the 1970s. The network regularly invited a celebrity commentator to join the regular play-by-play crew in the broadcast booth. Connors accidentally said "fuck" during the live national telecast, stunning both the announcers and the audience.

Connors hosted a number of episodes of Family Theater on the Mutual Radio Network. This series was aimed at promoting prayer as a path to world peace and stronger families, with the motto, "The family which prays together stays together."

In 1983, Connors joined Sam Elliott and Cybill Shepherd in the short-lived NBC series The Yellow Rose, about a modern Texas ranching family. In 1985, he guest starred as "King Powers" in the ABC TV series Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich. In 1987, he co-starred in the Fox series Werewolf, as drifter Janos Skorzeny. In 1988, he guest starred as "Gideon" in the TV series Paradise, starring Lee Horsley.

In 1991, Connors was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Chuck Connors", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.