George Peppard, Jr. (1928 - 1994)

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About George Peppard, Jr.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Peppard

George Peppard, Jr. (/pəˈpɑrd/; October 1, 1928 – May 8, 1994) was an American film and television actor and producer.

Peppard secured a major role when he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), portrayed a character based on Howard Hughes in The Carpetbaggers (1964), and played the title role of the millionaire sleuth Thomas Banacek in the early-1970s television series Banacek. He is probably best known for his role as Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-chomping leader of a renegade commando squad, in the 1980s television show The A-Team.

Early life

George Peppard, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of building contractor George Peppard, Sr. and opera singer Vernelle Rohrer. He graduated from Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan.

Peppard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17 on July 8, 1946 and rose to rank of Corporal in the 10th Marines, leaving the Marines at the end of his enlistment in January 1948.

From 1948 to 1949, he studied Civil Engineering at Purdue University where he was a member of the Purdue Playmakers theatre troupe and Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He then transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1955. He also trained at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Acting

Peppard made his stage debut in 1949 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. After moving to New York City, Peppard enrolled in The Actors Studio, where he studied the Method with Lee Strasberg. His first work on Broadway led to his first television appearance, with a young Paul Newman, in The United States Steel Hour (1956), as the singing, guitar-playing baseball player Piney Woods in Bang the Drum Slowly.

Peppard's Broadway appearance in The Pleasure of His Company (1958) led to an MGM contract. Following to a strong film debut in The Strange One (1957), he played the illegitimate son of Robert Mitchum's character in the popular melodrama Home from the Hill (1960).

His good looks, elegant manner and superior acting skills landed Peppard his most famous film role as Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn. This 1961 role boosted him briefly to a major film star. His leading roles in that film's wake included How the West Was Won in 1962 (his character spanned two sections of the episodic Cinerama extravaganza), The Victors in 1963, The Carpetbaggers in 1964, and The Blue Max in 1966.

Peppard started choosing tough guy roles in big, ambitious pictures where he was somewhat overshadowed by ensemble casts; for example, his role as German pilot Bruno Stachel, an obsessively competitive officer from humble beginnings who challenges the Prussian aristocracy during World War I in The Blue Max (1966). For this role, Peppard earned a private pilot's license and did much of his own stunt flying, although stunt pilot Derek Piggott was at the controls for the famous under-the-bridge scene.

He was cast as the lead in Sands of the Kalahari (1965) but walked off the set after only a few days of filming.

Due to Peppard's alcoholism, and notoriously difficult personality on the set, his career devolved into a string of B-movies through the late sixties and early seventies. As film critic David Shipman once wrote of this stage in his career:

With his cool, blond baby-face looks and a touch of menace, of meanness, he had established a screen persona as strong as any of the time. He might have been the Alan Ladd or the Richard Widmark of the Sixties: but the Sixties didn't want a new Alan Ladd. Peppard began appearing in a series of action movies, predictably as a tough guy, but there were much tougher guys around - like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, whose films had now become television staples.

Peppard then had a notable success with the TV series Banacek (1972–74), (part of the NBC Mystery Movie series), and one of his most critically acclaimed[citation needed], though rarely seen, performances in the TV movie Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case (1975), as Sam Sheppard.

Among the disappointing films was the 1970 Western Cannon for Cordoba, in which Peppard played the steely Captain Rod Douglas, who has been put in charge of gathering a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission into Mexico, and 1967's Rough Night in Jericho in which he was billed over crooner Dean Martin and Jean Simmons, a reflection of his status at that point in his career. Peppard appeared in the short-lived (half a season) Doctors' Hospital (1975) and several other television films. He starred in the 1977 science-fiction film Damnation Alley, which has gone on to attain a substantial cult following. Peppard's role in the film was reportedly turned down by Steve McQueen due to salary issues. With fewer interesting roles coming his way, he acted in, directed and produced the drama Five Days from Home in 1979.

In a rare game show appearance, Peppard did a week of shows on Password Plus in 1979. Out of five shows, one was never broadcast on NBC (but aired much later on GSN) due to comments made by Peppard regarding personal dissatisfaction he felt related to his treatment by NBC standards & practices.

In his later years he appeared in several stage productions, most notably a 1992 tour of The Lion in Winter in which he played Henry II to Susan Clark's Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Dynasty

In 1981, Peppard was offered, and accepted, the role of Blake Carrington in the TV series Dynasty. During the filming of the pilot episode, which also featured Linda Evans and Bo Hopkins, Peppard repeatedly clashed with the show's producers, Richard and Esther Shapiro; among other things, he felt that his role was too similar to that of J. R. Ewing in the series Dallas. Three weeks later, before filming was to begin on additional episodes, Peppard was fired and the part was offered to John Forsythe; the scenes with Peppard were re-shot and Forsythe became the permanent star of the show.

The A-Team

In 1982, George Peppard auditioned for and won the role of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in the TV action adventure series The A-Team, acting alongside Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz. In the series, the A-Team was a team of renegade commandos on the run from the military for "a crime they did not commit" while serving in the Vietnam war. The A-Team members made their collective living as soldiers of fortune, but they helped only people who came to them with justified grievances.

In the series, Peppard played John "Hannibal" Smith. He was the leader of the A-Team, distinguished by his cigar smoking, confident smirk, black leather gloves, disguises and distinctive catch phrase, "I love it when a plan comes together." The show ran five seasons on NBC from 1983–1987. It made Peppard known to a whole new generation and is arguably his most well-known role. The role was reportedly written with James Coburn in mind, but Coburn declined and thus the role went to Peppard. Peppard was reportedly annoyed by Mr. T upstaging him in his public image, and at one point in their relationship refused to speak directly to Mr. T. Instead, he sent messages through intermediaries and for this Peppard was occasionally portrayed by the press as not a team player.

Man Against the Mob

Peppard's last series was an intended occasional series of television movie features entitled Man Against the Mob set in the 1940s. In these TV detective films, Peppard played Los Angeles Police Detective Sgt. Frank Doakey. The second film Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders was broadcast in December 1989. A third film in this series was planned, but Peppard died before it was filmed.

Personal life

Peppard was married five times, and was the father of three children.

Helen Davies (1954–1964): two children, Bradford and Julie

Elizabeth Ashley (1966–1972), his co-star in The Carpetbaggers: one son, Christian

Sherry Boucher-Lytle (1975–1979), originally from Springhill in northern Webster Parish, Louisiana

Alexis Adams (1984–1986)

Laura Taylor (1992–1994)

Death

Peppard overcame a serious alcohol problem in 1978, and subsequently became heavily involved in helping other alcoholics. He had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life until he quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992. His illness never forced his retirement from acting, and Peppard completed a pilot for a new series in 1994 (a Matlock spin-off) shortly before his death. Peppard died on May 8, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. Although he was still being treated for lung cancer, the direct cause of death was pneumonia.[8] He is buried alongside his parents George Sr and Vernelle in Northview Cemetery, Dearborn, Michigan.

Critical Appraisal

David Shipman published this appraisal of Peppard in 1972:

George Peppard's screen presence has some agreeable anomalies. He is tough, assured and insolent - in a way that recalls late Dick Powell rather than early Bogart; but his bright blue eyes and blond hair, his boyish face suggest the all-American athlete, perhaps going to seed. The sophistication is surface deep: you can imagine him in Times Square on a Saturday night, sulky, defiant, out of his depth, not quite certain how he wants to spend the evening.

Awards

1960 NBR Award (National Board of Review of Motion Pictures) for Home from the Hill as Best Supporting Actor

1961 BAFTA Award Nomination (British Academy Award) for Home From The Hill

1961 Promising newcomer to leading film roles

Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Category Motion Pictures, 6675 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles)

Filmography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Peppard#Filmography

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George Peppard's Timeline

1928
1928
1994
1994
Age 66