In today’s guest post, the great Rick29 returns to share seven trivia tidbits about Chuck Connors!
1. Chuck Connors, who was 6′ 5″, played both professional basketball and baseball. He appeared in 53 games for the Boston Celtics in 1946-48 and averaged 4.5 points per game. In major league baseball, he appeared in one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He spent a season with the Chicago Cubs in 1951, batting .239 with 18 runs batted in. He also played football and baseball when he attended Seton Hall University.
2. He made his film debut in 1952, appearing as a police captain in Hepburn and Tracy’s Pat and Mike. According to some sources, it was his performance in Walt Disney’s Old Yeller (1957) that led to his casting on The Rifleman. Connors played Old Yeller’s real owner, who lets Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran keep Yeller when he realizes how much they love the dog. (Technically, he trades Yeller for a horny toad and a home-cooked meal).
3. Connors played one of the first widowed parents on U.S. television in The Rifleman (1958-63). He and co-star Johnny Crawford created an incredibly natural father-son relationship on the screen. It’s one of the reasons why The Rifleman is still popular on television today. When Connors died in 1992, Johnny Crawford said: “Well, it was a great childhood, and he was bigger-than-life, a wonderful guy, very intelligent, and a big influence on me, and a great supporter, too. He was always interested in what I was doing and ready to give me advice or help me and he would call me out of the blue, and I really miss him.”
4. Chuck Connors, a Republican who campaigned for his friend Ronald Reagan, met Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1973. According to his New York Times obituary: “When President Richard M. Nixon invited several celebrities to meet Brezhnev in 1973, Mr. Connors presented the visiting Soviet leader with United States armaments–two Colt .45 six-shooters–and a cowboy hat. Brezhnev, a Western fan, was delighted. He and the actor locked in such an enthusiastic bear hug that Mr. Connors briefly lifted him off his feet.”
5. Following the cancellation of The Rifleman, he starred in numerous TV series to include Branded (1965-66), Cowboy in Africa (1966-67), and The Yellow Rose (1983). Two of his most different roles were in Arrest and Trial (1963-64), in which he played a criminal defense attorney, and Werewolf (1987-88), in which he played…a werewolf.
6. Although the New York Times stated that Chuck Connors was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of a slave owner in the mini-series Roots (1977), that apparently is not true. Although Roots received 37 Emmy nominations (and won nine), we couldn’t find Chuck Connors’ name anywhere in the list.
7. He was born Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors–but never liked his name. The story goes that he changed his name to Chuck while playing first base in baseball. He would yell to the pitcher: “Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!”
Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!