Vic Morrow

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Vic Morrow
Vic Morrow in 1971.jpg
Morrow in 1971
Victor Morozoff [1]

(1929-02-14)February 14, 1929
DiedJuly 23, 1982(1982-07-23) (aged 53)
Cause of deathAccidental decapitation by helicopter rotor blades
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California
Other namesVictor Morrow
Occupation Actor, director
Years active1955–1982
  • Barbara Turner
    (m. 1957;div. 1964)
  • Gale A. Lester
    (m. 1975;div. 1979)
Children2, including Jennifer Jason Leigh

Victor Morrow (born Victor Morozoff, February 14, 1929 – July 23, 1982) was an American actor and director whose credits include a starring role in the 1960s ABC television series Combat! , prominent roles in a handful of other television and film dramas, and numerous guest roles on television. Morrow also gained notice for his roles in movies Blackboard Jungle (1955), King Creole (1958), God's Little Acre (1958), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), and The Bad News Bears (1976).


Morrow and two child actors were killed in 1982 by a stunt helicopter crash during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie .



Morrow was born in the New York City borough of the Bronx, to a middle-class Jewish family. [2] He was a son of Harry Morozoff, an electrical engineer, and his wife Jean (Kress) Morozoff. [3]

Morrow dropped out of high school when he was 17 and enlisted in the United States Navy.

Early roles

Morrow attracted attention playing Stanley Kowalski in a touring production of A Streetcar Named Desire . [4] His first movie role was in Blackboard Jungle (1955), playing a thug student who torments teacher Glenn Ford.

It was made by MGM, who then put Morrow in Tribute to a Bad Man (1956). Morrow appeared in TV, guest starring on shows like The Millionaire , Matinee Theatre , Climax! , Alfred Hitchcock Presents , The Restless Gun , Trackdown , Richard Diamond, Private Detective , and Telephone Time .

Morrow had support roles in Men in War (1957), directed by Anthony Mann, and he was third billed in Hell's Five Hours (1958). He starred alongside Elvis Presley and an all-star supporting cast including Walter Matthau and Carolyn Jones in the movie King Creole (1958), directed by Michael Curtiz. Mann asked him back for God's Little Acre (1958).

However Morrow remained mostly a TV actor, appearing in Naked City , Wichita Town , The Rifleman , The Lineup , Johnny Ringo , The Brothers Brannagan , The Law and Mr. Jones , The Lawless Years , The Barbara Stanwyck Show , General Electric Theatre , Target: The Corruptors , The Tall Man , Outlaws , Bonanza and The Untouchables .

He was cast in the early Bonanza episode "The Avenger" as a mysterious figure known only as "Lassiter" – named after his town of origin – who arrives in Virginia City, and helps save Ben and Adam Cartwright from an unjust hanging, while eventually gunning down one sought-after man, revealing himself as a hunter of a lynch mob who killed his father; having so far killed about half the mob, he rides off into the night, [5] in an episode that resembles the later Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter . Morrow later appeared in the third season Bonanza episode The Tin Badge. [6]

Mann used Morrow a third time in Cimarron (1960), again tormenting Glenn Ford. He took on Audie Murphy in Posse from Hell (1961).

Morrow was cast as soldier/engineer Lt. Robert Benson in the 1962 episode, "A Matter of Honor", on the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days , hosted by Stanley Andrews. The story focuses on Benson's fiancé, Indiana (Shirley Ballard) (1925–2012), who tries to persuade him to boost their income by selling inside Army information to criminal real estate moguls like Joseph Hooker (Howard Petrie). Trevor Bardette and Meg Wyllie were cast in the roles of Captain and Mrs. Warner. [7]

Leading man

Morrow had his first leading role in Portrait of a Mobster (1961) playing Dutch Schultz. [8]

He continued as mostly a TV actor, appearing in Death Valley Days , Alcoa Premiere , and Suspense .


As Sgt. Saunders in Combat! Vic Morrow Combat 1965.jpg
As Sgt. Saunders in Combat!

Morrow was cast in the lead role of Sergeant "Chip" Saunders in ABC's Combat! , a World War II drama, which aired from 1962–1967. [9] Pop culture scholar Gene Santoro has written:

TV's longest-running World War II drama (1962–1967) was really a collection of complex 50-minute movies. Salted with battle sequences, they follow a squad's travails from D-Day on – a gritty ground-eye view of men trying to salvage their humanity and survive. Melodrama, comedy, and satire come into play as top-billed Lieutenant Hanley (Rick Jason) and Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) lead their men toward Paris ... The relentlessness hollows antihero Saunders out: at times, you can see the tombstones in his eyes." [10]

His friend and fellow actor on Combat!, Rick Jason, described Morrow as "a master director" who directed "one of the greatest anti-war films I've ever seen". He was referring to the two-part episode of Combat! entitled Hills Are for Heroes, which was written by Gene L. Coon. [11]

Deathwatch and A Man Called Sledge

Morrow also worked as a television director. Together with Leonard Nimoy, he produced the 1965 film Deathwatch , an English-language film version of Jean Genet's play Haute Surveillance , adapted by Morrow and Barbara Turner, directed by Morrow, and starring Nimoy. [12]

After Combat! ended, Morrow played the lead in Target: Harry (1969), the pilot for a proposed series that was not picked up; Roger Corman directed.

In 1969 he set up his own company, Carleigh. [13]

Morrow wrote and directed a Spaghetti Western, produced by Dino DeLaurentiis, titled A Man Called Sledge (1970) and starring James Garner, Dennis Weaver and Claude Akins. After Deathwatch, it was Morrow's first and only big screen outing behind the camera. Sledge was filmed in Italy [14] with desert-like settings that were highly evocative of the Southwestern United States.

Morrow guest starred in The Immortal , Dan August , Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Sarge , McCloud', and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law .

TV movies

In the 1970s Morrow starred in some TV movies including A Step Out of Line (1971), Travis Logan, D.A. (1971) (playing the title role), River of Mystery (1971), The Glass House (1972), The Weekend Nun , Tom Sawyer (1973), Nightmare (1974).

He guest starred in Ironside , The Bold Ones: The New Doctors , Mission: Impossible , The FBI, Love Story , The Streets of San Francisco , and Police Story .

Morrow appeared in two episodes of Australian-produced anthology series The Evil Touch (1973), one of which he also directed.

He memorably played the wily local sheriff in director John Hough's road classic Dirty Mary Crazy Larry , as well as the homicidal sheriff, alongside Martin Sheen, in the television film The California Kid (1974), and The Take (1974).

Morrow had the lead in Funeral for an Assassin (1975). He had key roles in Death Stalk (1975), Scar Tissue (1975), The Night That Panicked America (1975), Treasure of Matecumbe (1976) and had a key role, as aggressive, competitive baseball coach Roy Turner, in the comedy The Bad News Bears (1976).

In the late 1970s Morrow worked increasingly in mini series such as Captains and the Kings (1977), Roots and The Last Convertible (1979), as well as guest starring on shows like Bronc, Hunter , The Littlest Hobo and Charlie's Angels .

He returned to directing, helming episodes of Quincy, M.E. as well as Lucan and Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color .

Final roles

Morrow had the lead in The Ghost of Cypress Swamp (1977), the Japanese film Message from Space (1978) and The Evictors (1979). He was in TV movies The Man with the Power (1977), The Hostage Heart (1977), Curse of the Black Widow (1977), Wild and Wooly (1978), Stone (1979), Paris (1980)

Morrow made Humanoids from the Deep (1980) for Roger Corman and The Last Shark (1981) and had a regular role in the series, B.A.D. Cats (1980).

Morrow's last roles included guest roles in Magnum, P.I. and the films 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1981) and Abenko Green Berets (1982).

Personal life

In 1958, [2] Morrow married actress and screenwriter Barbara Turner. They had two daughters, Carrie Ann Morrow (born 1958) and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (born 1962). Morrow's marriage to Barbara ended in divorce after seven years. He married Gale Lester in 1975, but they separated just prior to Morrow's death.

Morrow fell out with his daughter Jennifer after his divorce from her mother. She changed her last name to Leigh to avoid being publicly associated with Morrow. They were still estranged at the time of his death. [15]

Rick Jason, co-star of Combat!, wrote in his memoirs,

Vic Morrow had an absolute dislike of firearms. He used a Thompson submachine gun in our series, but that was work. In any other respect he'd have nothing to do with them. On one of the few days we got off early while there were still several hours of daylight left, I said to him, "I've got a couple of shotguns in the back of my station wagon. You want to shoot some skeet?" Without so much as a pause he responded, "No, thanks. I can't stand to kill clay." He knew he could always break me up and during our five years together he did it quite a bit. His sense of humor happened to tickle my funny bone and he knew he had my number. [11]


In 1982, Morrow was cast in a feature role in Twilight Zone: The Movie , in a segment directed by John Landis. Morrow was playing the role of Bill Connor, a racist who is taken back in time and placed in various situations where he would be a persecuted victim: as a Jewish Holocaust victim, a black man about to be lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, and a Vietnamese man about to be killed by U.S. soldiers.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 1982, Morrow and two child actors, seven-year-old Myca Dinh Le, and six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were filming on location in California, in an area that was known as Indian Dunes, near Santa Clarita. They were performing in a scene for the Vietnam sequence, in which their characters attempt to escape out of a deserted Vietnamese village from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter. The helicopter was hovering at approximately 24 feet (7.3 m) above them when the heat from special effect pyrotechnic explosions reportedly delaminated the rotor blades [16] and caused the helicopter to crash on top of them, killing all three instantly. Morrow and Le were decapitated and mutilated by the helicopter rotor blades, while Chen was crushed by a helicopter strut. [17]

Landis and four other defendants, including pilot Dorsey Wingo, were ultimately acquitted of involuntary manslaughter after a nearly nine-month trial. The parents of Le and Chen sued and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Morrow's children also sued and settled for an undisclosed amount. [17] [18]

Morrow is interred in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. [19]

Partial filmography

1955 Blackboard Jungle Artie West
1955 It's a Dog's Life Wildfire the dogVoice
1956 The Millionaire Joey DiamondTV, 1 episode
Tribute to a Bad Man Lars Peterson
Climax! TedTV, 1 episode
1957 Men in War Corporal James Zwickley
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Benny MungoTV, 1 episode "A Little Sleep"
1958 King Creole Shark
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Joe Rovi"The Ed Church Case" (CBS-TV)
God's Little Acre Shaw Walden
The Rifleman Johnny CottonABC-TV, 1 episode, "The Angry Gun"
1959 Naked City David GrecoABC-TV, 1 episode
The Rifleman Brett StockerTV, 1 episode, "The Letter of the Law"
Johnny Ringo Bill StonerCBS-TV, 1 episode, "Kid With a Gun"
1960-1961 Bonanza Lassiter / Ab BrockTV, 2 episodes: "The Avenger" (3/1960, episode 26) and "The Tin Badge" (12/1961, episode 13)
1960 The Barbara Stanwyck Show Leroy BensonNBC-TV, 1 episode
Cimarron Wes Jennings
The Brothers Brannagan LockeSyndicated TV, series premiere, "Tune in for Murder"
The Untouchables CollierTV, 1 episode, "The Tommy Karpeles Story" (12/1960, episode 11)
1961 Portrait of a Mobster Dutch Schultz
Posse from Hell Crip
The Tall Man Skip FarrellNBC-TV, 1 episode, "Time of Foreshadowing"
The Law and Mr. Jones Dr. BigelowABC-TV, 1 episode, "A Very Special Citizen"
1962 The New Breed BelmanABC-TV, 1 episode
The Untouchables Vince ShirerTV, 1 episode, "The Maggie Storm Story" (3/1962, episode 20)
1962–1967 Combat! Sergeant Chip SaundersABC-TV, 152 episodes
1969 Target: Harry Harry BlackAlternative titles: What's In it For Harry?, How to Make It
1970 The Immortal Sheriff Dan W. WheelerTV, 1 episode
Dan August Steve HarrisonABC-TV, 1 episode
1971 Hawaii Five-O Edward HeronCBS-TV, 1 episode, "Two Doves and Mr. Heron"
Mannix Eric LatimerCBS-TV, 1 episode
Sarge Lt. Ross EdmondsTV, 1 episode
1972 The Glass House Hugo Slocum
McCloud RichardNBC-TV, 1 episode
Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Andy CapasoABC-TV, 1 episode
Mission: Impossible Joseph CollinsCBS-TV, 1 episode
1973 Love Story Dave WaltersNBC-TV, 1 episode, "The Cardboard House"
Tom Sawyer Injun Joe
1973–1974 Police Story Sergeant Joe LaFriedaNBC-TV, 2 episodes
The Evil Touch Purvis GreeneTV, 2 episodes
The Streets of San Francisco Vic TollimanABC-TV, 1 episode
1974 Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry Captain Franklin
The California Kid Roy Childress
The Take Manso
1975 Wanted: Babysitter Vic, the kidnapper
The Night That Panicked America Hank MuldoonTelevision movie
1976 Captains and the Kings Tom HennesseyMiniseries
The Bad News Bears Coach Roy Turner
Treasure of Matecumbe SpanglerDisney movie
1977 Hunter CBS-TV, 1 episode, "The K Group (Part One)"
Roots AmesABC-TV miniseries
The Hostage Heart Steve RockewiczTelevision movie
1978 Wild and Wooly Warden WillisTelevision movie
Message from Space (Ucyuu karano messeiji)General GarudaJapanese (Toei) movie
1978–1980 Charlie's Angels Lt. Harry StearnsABC-TV, “Angel In Hiding” 2 episodes, fifth-season premiere
1979Greatest Heroes of the Bible Arioch TV, 1 episode
The Evictors Jake Rudd
The Seekers Leland PellTelevision movie
1980 Humanoids from the Deep Hank SlatteryAlternative titles: Humanoids of the Deep, Monster
B.A.D. Cats Captain Eugene NathanTV, 9 episodes
The Last Shark Ron HamerAlternative titles: Great White
1981 Magnum, P.I. Police Sergeant JordanCBS-TV, 1 episode
1982 Fantasy Island Douglas PicardABC-TV, 1 episode
1990: The Bronx Warriors HammerPenultimate movie
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie Bill ConnorDied in an on-set accident during filming

Award nominations

YearResultAwardCategoryFilm or series
1963Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead)Combat!

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  12. DRAMA BY GENET WILL BE FILMED. (November 27, 1962). New York Times
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  14. "A Man Called Sledge (1970): Filming Locations". Internet Movie Database . Retrieved August 24, 2013.
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  16. "NTSB Accident Report" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board . Washington, D.C. July 23, 1982. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 5, 2012.
  17. 1 2 Farber, Stephen; Green, Marc (1988). Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego and the Twilight Zone Case. Arbor House/Morrow. p. 394. ISBN   9780877959489 . Retrieved July 9, 2013.
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  19. Calisphere