Tucker in the title role of The Music Man (stage musical)
Forrest Meredith Tucker
February 12, 1919
Plainfield, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||October 25, 1986 67) (aged|
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California|
(m. 1940;div. 1950)
(m. 1951;died 1960)
(m. 1961;div. 1985)
(m. after 1986)
Forrest Meredith Tucker (February 12, 1919 – October 25, 1986) was an American actor in both movies and television who appeared in nearly a hundred films.Tucker worked as a vaudeville straight man at the age of only fifteen years old. A mentor provided funds and contacts for a trip to California, where party hostess Cobina Wright persuaded guest Wesley Ruggles to give Tucker a screen test because of Tucker's photogenic good looks, thick wavy hair and height of six feet, five inches. Tucker was a sight reader who needed only one take and his film career started well despite a perception in most Hollywood studios that blond men were not photogenic. He enlisted in the Army during World War II. After twenty years spent mainly in Westerns and action roles, he returned to his roots, showing versatility as a comedic and stage musical actor. In the television series F Troop , he became identified with the character of Cavalry Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke (a manipulative character quite similar to Phil Silvers' role as MSgt. Ernie Bilko). Tucker struggled with a drinking problem that began to affect his performances in the later years of his career.
Tucker described himself as a farm boy. He was born in Plainfield, Indiana, on February 12, 1919, a son of Forrest A. Tucker and his wife, Doris Heringlake.His mother has been described as an alcoholic. Tucker began his performing career at age 14 at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, pushing the big wicker tourist chairs by day and singing "Throw Money" at night. After his family moved to Washington, D.C., Tucker attracted the attention of Jimmy Lake, the owner of the Old Gaiety Burlesque Theater, by winning its Saturday night amateur contest on consecutive weeks. After his second win, Tucker was hired there at full time as Master of Ceremonies, but left when it was soon discovered that he was underage. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., in 1938, and, joining the United States Cavalry, was stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington County, Virginia, but discharged for, once again, being underage. He returned to work at the Old Gaiety after his 18th birthday.
When Lake's theatre closed for the summer in 1939, Tucker was helped by a wealthy mentor to travel to California and try to break into film acting. He made a successful screen test, and began auditioning for movie roles. In his own estimation, Tucker was in the mold of large "ugly guys" such as Wallace Beery, Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen, rather than a matinee idol.His debut was as a powerfully built farmer who clashes with the hero in The Westerner (1940), which starred Gary Cooper. Tucker stood out in a fight scene with Cooper. Tucker had a support role in The Great Awakening (1941) for United Artists. Overcoming a feeling in Hollywood that fair hair did not photograph well, he quickly attained leading man status, starring in PRC's Emergency Landing (1941). He signed a contract with Columbia Pictures.
At Columbia Tucker had a support role in one of their Lone Wolf pictures, Counter-Espionage (1942), followed by a Boston Blackie entry, Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942). He was borrowed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for Keeper of the Flame with Tracy and Hepburn.
Like many other movie actors at the time, Tucker enlisted in the United States Army during World War II; he earned a commission as a second lieutenant.
Tucker resumed his acting career at war's end. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer borrowed him for the classic film The Yearling (1946). Warners borrowed him to play Errol Flynn's love rival with Eleanor Parker in Never Say Goodbye the same year.
Back at Columbia Pictures, he was in Coroner Creek (1948) with Randolph Scott.
In 1948, Tucker left Columbia and signed with Republic Pictures. His first films for them were Hellfire (1949) and The Last Bandit (1949) with Wild Bill Elliott. He made Montana Belle for Republic with Jane Russell; it was sold to RKO.
Tucker had a role in Republic's Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), as PFC Thomas, a Marine with a score to settle with John Wayne's Sergeant Stryker. He went back to Columbia to support Scott again in The Nevadan (1950).
Tucker was promoted to star roles with California Passage (1950). He followed this with Rock Island Trail (1950).
Tucker was back to supporting actor for Hoodlum Empire (1952) then over at Paramount he co-starred with Sterling Hayden in Flaming Feather (1952) and supported Charlton Heston in Pony Express (1953).
Tucker went to England in support of British film star Margaret Lockwood in Laughing Anne (1953), a co-production with Republic.
Back in the United States, he went back to work for Republic: San Antone (1953) with Rod Cameron; Flight Nurse (1953) and Jubilee Trail (1954) with Joan Leslie.
He returned to England to make another with Lockwood, Trouble in the Glen (1954), and stayed on to make Break in the Circle (1955) for Hammer Films.
Tucker made some films for Allied Artists, Paris Follies of 1956 (1955) and Finger Man (1955) in support of Frank Lovejoy, and then supported Randolph Scott once more in Rage at Dawn (1956).
Tucker had a two-year stint on television playing the well-received role of a charter-boat captain in Bermuda in the series Crunch and Des from 1955 to 1956 with Sandy Kenyon.
He was top billed in Fox's The Quiet Gun (1957) and supported Charlton Heston in Three Violent People (1957). Hammer Films in Britain asked him back to play the lead in The Abominable Snowman (1957). He stayed on in England for The Strange World of Planet X (1957), and The Trollenberg Terror (1958).
The year 1958 brought another turning point in his career, when he won the role of Beauregard Burnside, Mame's first husband in Auntie Mame , the highest grossing U.S. film of the year. Tucker showed a flair for light comedy under the direction of Morton DaCosta that had largely been unexplored in his roles in Westerns and science fiction films.
He supported Joel McCrea in Fort Massacre (1958) and had the lead in Counterplot (1959).
Tucker was cast as Professor Harold Hill in the national touring production of The Music Man in 1958 and played the role 2,008 times over the next five years, including a 56-week run at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago.
Following his Music Man run, Tucker starred in the Broadway production of Fair Game for Lovers (1964).
In 1961, Tucker appeared on NBC in Audie Murphy's short-lived western series Whispering Smith . Tucker played the outlaw Bob Dalton in the 1963 episode "Three Minutes to Eternity" of the syndicated Western series, Death Valley Days , a dramatization of the simultaneous bank robberies by the Dalton gang in Coffeyville, Kansas.. Tucker appeared in CBS's Appointment with Adventure in the 1956 series finale titled "Two Falls for Satan"; and ABC's Channing , a drama about college life that aired during the 1963–64 season.
Tucker turned to television for his most famous role, starring as frontier capitalist Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke in F Troop (1965–67). Though F Troop lasted only two seasons on ABC, the series has been in constant syndication since, reaching three generations of viewers. (Two of his Gunsmoke episodes feature Tucker in his cavalry uniform again, as the comic Sergeant Holly (1970), who in one scene "marries" and spends a hectic night with Miss Kitty.)
After the close of F Troop, Tucker returned to films in character roles like The Night They Raided Minsky's (1969), Barquero (1970), Chisum (1970), Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (1972), and Cancel My Reservation (1972). He had the lead in The Wild McCullochs (1975), and was a supporting actor in the television movie A Real American Hero (1978).
On television, Tucker was a frequent guest star, including a total of six appearances on Gunsmoke and the recurring role of Jarvis Castleberry, Flo's estranged father on the 1976-1985 TV series, Alice and its spinoff, Flo .
Tucker was a regular on three series after F Troop : Dusty's Trail (1973) with Bob Denver; The Ghost Busters (1975) which reunited him with F Troop co-star Larry Storch; guest star on The Bionic Woman as J.T. Conners and Filthy Rich playing the second Big Guy Beck. (1982–83). He continued to be active on stage as well, starring in the national productions of Plaza Suite , Show Boat and That Championship Season .
Tucker returned to the big screen, after an absence of several years, in the Cannon Films action film Thunder Run (1986), playing the hero, trucker Charlie Morrison. His final film appearance was Outtakes, a low-budget imitation of The Groove Tube .
At six feet five inches, Tucker tied Sterling Hayden as the tallest star in Hollywood.Co-star Marie Windsor recalled that she was delighted to play opposite someone her 'own size'.
Tucker married four times:
Tucker was a Republican.
Tucker, who had battled lung cancer for more than a year, as well as having a series of minor illnesses, collapsed and was hospitalized, for the second time in a week, on his way to the ceremony for his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 21, 1986.He died at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital on October 25, 1986, a few months after the theatrical release of Thunder Run and Outtakes. He was interred in Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.
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