Richard Crenna

Active - 1952 - 2005  |   Born - Nov 30, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, United States  |   Died - Jan 17, 2003   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, History

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actor Richard Crenna started out as a radio performer at age 11, demonstrating an astonishing range for one so young. The momentum of his career was unaffected by an army hitch and time spent earning an English degree at the University of Southern California. But even though he was by then in his twenties, Crenna found himself still playing adolescents, notably squeaky-voiced high schooler Walter Denton on the radio comedy Our Miss Brooks. That he was able to play characters of virtually any age was overlooked by movie and TV casting directors, who could see Crenna only in callow-juvenile roles. After making an excellent impression as ballplayer Daffy Dean in the 1953 film Pride of St. Louis, for example, Crenna wasn't cast in another film until the 1955 movie version of Our Miss Brooks--in which, at 29, he was Walter Denton once more. The following year, Crenna decided "to sorta let Walter Denton die," and took a decidedly mature role in the sleazy exploitation film Over-Exposed (1956). It was a fully grown Crenna who took on the role of Luke McCoy on the Walter Brennan TV series The Real McCoys, which ran from 1957 through 1963 and which gave Crenna his first opportunities as a director. After McCoys, Crenna found himself facing potential career standstill again, since it seemed that now he was typed as the rubeish Luke McCoy. This time, however, the actor had impressed enough producers with his dogged work ethic and the range displayed in guest-star appearances. In 1964, Crenna was cast in a prestigious TV drama For the People as assistant DA David Koster, and though the program lasted only one season, Crenna was firmly established as a compelling dramatic actor. Still, and despite solid Richard Crenna film performances in The Sand Pebbles (1966), Body Heat (1981) and The Flamingo Kid (1985), the actor has never completely escaped the spectre of Walter Denton. Crenna was able to conjure up the old adenoidal Denton voice on talk shows of the 1980s and 1990s, and in the action-film spoof Hot Shots: Part Deux, the actor, with an absolute straight face, portrayed Colonel Denton Walters!

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