Leif Erickson
Leif Erickson in Blonde Savage.jpg
Erickson in Blonde Savage (1947)
William Wycliffe Anderson

(1911-10-27)October 27, 1911
DiedJanuary 29, 1986(1986-01-29) (aged 74)
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active1933–1984
(m. 1936; div. 1942)
(m. 1942; div. 1942)
Ann Diamond
(m. 1945)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1941–45
U.S. Navy E9 infobox.png
Chief petty officer[1]

Leif Erickson (born William Wycliffe Anderson; October 27, 1911 – January 29, 1986) was an American stage, film, and television actor.

Early life

Erickson was born in Alameda, California, near San Francisco. He worked as a soloist in a band as vocalist and trombone player, performed in Max Reinhardt's productions, and then gained a small amount of stage experience in a comedy vaudeville act. Initially billed by Paramount Pictures as Glenn Erickson, he began his screen career as a leading man in Westerns.[1]

Military service

Erickson enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. Rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, he served as a military photographer, shooting film in combat zones, and as an instructor.[1] He was shot down twice in the Pacific, and received two Purple Hearts.[2] Erickson was in the unit that filmed and photographed the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.[1] Over four years service, he shot more than 200,000 feet (61,000 m) of film for the Navy.[1]

Acting career

Erickson (left) alongside Yaphet Kotto in The High Chaparral, perhaps his best-known television role
Erickson (left) alongside Yaphet Kotto in The High Chaparral, perhaps his best-known television role

Erickson's first films were two 1933 band films with Betty Grable before starting a string of Buster Crabbe Western films based on Zane Grey novels. He went on to appear in films such as The Snake Pit, Sorry, Wrong Number, Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Invaders from Mars, On the Waterfront, A Gathering of Eagles, Roustabout, The Carpetbaggers, and Mirage.[3]

One of his more notable roles was as Deborah Kerr's macho husband in the stage and film versions of Tea and Sympathy. He appeared with Greta Garbo, as her brother, in Conquest (1937). He played the role of Pete, the vindictive boat engineer, in the 1951 remake of the famed musical Show Boat. His final appearance in a feature film was in Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977).

Erickson and Linda Cristal in The High Chaparral
Erickson and Linda Cristal in The High Chaparral

Erickson appeared frequently on television; he was cast as Dr. Hillyer in "Consider Her Ways" (1964) and as Paul White in "The Monkey's Paw—A Retelling" (1965) on CBS's The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He is probably best known, however, for The High Chaparral, which aired on NBC from 1967 until 1971. He portrayed a rancher, Big John Cannon, determined to establish a cattle empire in the Arizona Territory while keeping peace with the Apache. Erickson guest-starred in several television series, including Rawhide, Bonanza (two episodes, 1961–1965), as Aaron Burr in Daniel Boone (two episodes, 1964–1970) Gunsmoke, Marcus Welby, M.D., Medical Center, Longstreet, Cannon, The Rifleman, The Rockford Files, The Rookies, Night Gallery, and the 1977 series Hunter. His final role was in an episode of Fantasy Island in 1984.[4]

Personal life

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Erickson was married to actress Frances Farmer from 1936 until 1942. The same day that his divorce from Farmer was finalized, on June 12, 1942, he married actress Margaret Hayes; the marriage lasted only a month. He married Ann Diamond in 1945. The couple had two children: William Leif Erickson, who died in a car accident, and Susan Irene Erickson.


Erickson died of cancer in Pensacola, Florida, on January 29, 1986, aged 74.[5]

Selected filmography

Leif Erickson and Frances Farmer (front row, from left) with members of the Group Theatre in 1938
Leif Erickson and Frances Farmer (front row, from left) with members of the Group Theatre in 1938

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Erickson, Leif, AFC". www.navy.togetherweserved.com. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Day Leif Erickson Faced Death". The High Chaparral. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  3. ^ "Profile". Blockbuster.com. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  4. ^ "Fantasy Island - Goin' on Home/Ambitious Lady". IMDB. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  5. ^ "Profile". Thehighchaparral.com. Retrieved June 25, 2013.