Morris Ankrum

Active - 1934 - 1964  |   Born - Aug 28, 1897 in Danville, IL  |   Died - Sep 2, 1964 in Pasadena, CA  |   Genres - Western, Drama, Action, Mystery, Comedy

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American actor Morris Ankrum graduated from the University of Southern California with a law degree, then went on to an associate professorship in economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Here he founded a collegiate little theatre, eventually turning his hobby into a vocation as a teacher and director at the Pasadena Playhouse. (He was much admired by his students, including such future luminaries as Robert Preston and Raymond Burr.) Having already changed his name from Nussbaum to Ankrum for professional reasons, Ankrum was compelled to undergo another name change when he signed a Paramount Pictures contract in the 1930s; in his first films, he was billing as Stephen Morris. Reverting to Morris Ankrum in 1939, the sharp-featured, heavily eyebrowed actor flourished in strong character roles, usually of a villainous nature, throughout the 1940s. By the 1950s, Ankrum had more or less settled into "authority" roles in science-fiction films and TV programs. Among his best known credits in this genre were Rocketship X-M (1950), Red Planet Mars (1952), Flight to Mars (1952), Invaders From Mars (1953) (do we detect a subtle pattern here?), Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and From the Earth to the Moon (1958). The fact that Morris Ankrum played innumerable Army generals was fondly invoked in director Joe Dante's 1993 comedy Matinee: the military officer played by Kevin McCarthy in the film-within-a-film Mant is named General Ankrum.

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