Anthony Eisley

Active - 1952 - 1991  |   Born - 1925 in Philadelphia, PA  |   Died - Jan 29, 2003 in Woodland Hills, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Horror, Comedy, Crime, Science Fiction

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Six-foot granite-jawed Anthony Eisley came into his own as a leading man on television in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before switching to more demanding and complex character and supporting roles. The son of a corporate executive, he was born Frederick Glendinning Eisley in Philadelphia, PA in 1925. He spent most of his childhood moving with his family as his father's various positions took them from city to city, every few years. He was bitten by the acting bug early in life, but had no serious was of pursuing a career in the field until he joined a stock company in Pennsylvania. He began getting theater roles after that and by the early 1950s had begun working in television and feature films, the latter usually uncredited, under the name Fred Eisley -- this also included his first series work, in Bonino (1953), starring Ezio Pinza and a young Van Dyke Parks. While his theater work included such prime fare as Mister Roberts and Picnic, when it came to movies and television he was in every kind of production there was, from independent, syndicated TV series such as Racket Squad to high-profile movies like The Young Philadelphians, and Eisley broke through to star billing in the Roger Corman-directed horror film The Wasp Woman (1960) (working opposite Susan Cabot in the title role). Around that same time he took the role of John Cassiano in Pete Kelly's Blues (1959), a short-lived TV series directed and produced by Jack Webb.

It was after being seen in a stage production of Who Was That Lady that Eisley was cast as Tracy Steele, the tough ex-cop turned private detective in the series Hawaiian Eye. It was also with that series that he became Anthony Eisley. Following the three-year run of that series, Eisley resumed work as a journeyman actor, but the array of roles that he took on improved exponentially -- in one episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, entitled "The Lady And The Tiger And The Lawyer", he guested as a seemingly affable, attractive new neighbor of the Petries who admits, in the end, that he has a problem with spousal abuse that prevents him from choosing either of the women they've aimed at him at a possible match; and in Samuel Fuller's groundbreaking film drama The Naked Kiss, he plays a hard-nosed cop who uncovers a sinister, deeply troubling side to his city's much-publicized children's hospital and the people behind it. Eisley appeared in dozens of television series and movies over the ensuing three decades, always giving 100% of himself even when the budget and the production were lacking (see The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters . . . .. But on the sets of television shows, especially, where the quality was there, his work was without peer -- that was one reason that Jack Webb, who had used him in Pete Kelly's Blues, made Eisley a part of his stock company, using him in six episodes of Dragnet in the 1960s. Those shows are especially fascinating to watch for the quiet intensity of his performances -- he mostly played morally-compromised character, including a man plotting the murder-for-hire of his wife, an affable but corrupt police lieutenant, and career criminal who thinks (incorrectly) that he has outsmarted the detectives who are questioning him. Eisley's credits, in keeping with his image from Hawaiian Eye, were heavily concentrated in series devoted to law enforcement. He continued working through the 1990s, and died of heart failure in 2003, at the age of 78.

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