Richard Crenna
Crenna in a 1961 publicity photo
Richard Donald Crenna

(1926-11-30)November 30, 1926
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 17, 2003(2003-01-17) (aged 76)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationBelmont Senior High School
Alma materUniversity of Southern California (BA)[1]
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
Years active1937–2003
Joan Grisham
(m. 1950; div. 1955)
Penni Sweeney
(m. 1959)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1945–1946[2]
Battles/warsWorld War II

Richard Donald Crenna (November 30, 1926 – January 17, 2003) was an American actor.[3]

Crenna starred in such motion pictures as Made in Paris (1966), Marooned (1969), Breakheart Pass (1975), The Evil (1978), The Flamingo Kid (1984), Summer Rental (1985) and Sabrina (1995). His first success came on radio in 1948 as high school student Walter Denton co-starring with Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in the series Our Miss Brooks. Crenna continued with the comedy in its 1952 move into television. He also starred as Luke McCoy in the television series The Real McCoys (1957–1963). In 1985, he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for his portrayal of the title role in The Rape of Richard Beck (1985).

Early life

Crenna was born November 30, 1926, in Los Angeles, the only child of Edith Josephine (née Pollette), who was a hotel manager in Los Angeles, and Domenick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian descent.[4] Crenna attended Virgil Junior High School, followed by Belmont Senior High School in Los Angeles, from which he graduated in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, entering the Army in February 1945 and serving until August 1946.[5][2]

After his Army service, Crenna attended the University of Southern California (USC), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, and he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.[5][6]

Acting career

Crenna and Kathleen Nolan in The Real McCoys, 1960

Radio years

Crenna got his acting start on radio. In 1937, he had gained his first role, that of "the kid who did everything wrong" on Boy Scout Jamboree, a show on which he continued to appear occasionally in numerous roles until 1948. In the following year, he started playing Walter "Bronco" Thompson on The Great Gildersleeve, a role he played until 1954. He also originated the role of geeky Walter Denton on the radio comedy Our Miss Brooks alongside Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in 1948, and followed that role when the series moved to television in 1952.[5] He remained in that role until 1957. He appeared as a delivery boy in My Favorite Husband (episode "Liz Cooks Dinner for 12"), was Oogie Pringle on A Date With Judy (episode "The Competitive Diet", among several other episodes of the show) and as a teenager on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (episode "Watching the Neighbor's Daughter").

Early television years

Crenna played Walter Denton on radio's Our Miss Brooks, remaining with the cast when it moved into television in 1952.[5] He remained with the show until it was canceled in 1957. He guest-starred on the I Love Lucy episode "The Young Fans", with Janet Waldo and on the 1955–56 anthology series Frontier,[7] in the lead role of the episode titled "The Ten Days of John Leslie". In 1955, he was the guest star on The Millionaire in the episode "The Ralph McKnight Story".

Crenna and Bernadette Peters in All's Fair, 1976

Crenna appeared in 1956 on the television series Father Knows Best in the episode "The Promising Young Man" as a young man named Woody. In 1957, he played a bank robber on Cheyenne (season 2, episode 19).[7]

After Our Miss Brooks was canceled in 1957, Crenna joined the cast of the comedy series The Real McCoys as Luke McCoy; his co-star was Walter Brennan, who played Grandpa Amos McCoy. Crenna ultimately became one of the series's four directors during its six-year run (1957–1963).[8]


Credited as Dick Crenna, he directed eight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show during its 1963-1964 season, including "Opie the Birdman," "The Sermon for Today," and the Gomer Pyle-instigated "Citizen's Arrest." Crenna also directed "Henhouse," a 1977 episode of Lou Grant.[5]

Crenna portrayed California state senator James Slattery in the series Slattery's People (1964–1965). For his acting in this series, he was twice nominated for an Emmy Award with slightly different names: for Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment and for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series, both in 1965.[9] Crenna was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star – Male for this same role in 1965. In 1966, Crenna played beside Steve McQueen as an ill-fated captain of an American gunboat in 1920s China in The Sand Pebbles.[8]

Crenna in 1998

During the 1970s, Crenna continued acting in Western dramas such as The Deserter, Catlow,[10] The Man Called Noon,[11] and Breakheart Pass. He made a notable performance in Jean-Pierre Melville's final film Un Flic in 1972. In 1976, Crenna returned to weekly network television in the sitcom All's Fair, a political satire co-starring Bernadette Peters. Despite high expectations and good critical reviews, it lasted just a single season. The 1978 miniseries Centennial, based on James A. Michener's historical novel of the same name saw Crenna in the role of deranged religious fanatic Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn, who ordered the 1864 massacre of Colorado American Indians.[7]

1980s–early 2000s

Crenna won an Emmy Award[5] and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television nomination for his performance in the title role of the 1985 film The Rape of Richard Beck.[12]

Crenna then played John Rambo's ex-commanding officer Colonel Sam Trautman,[13] in the first three Rambo films, a role for which he was hired after Kirk Douglas left the production a day into filming. Trautman became the veteran actor's most famous role; his performance received wide critical praise.[14] He also spoofed the character in Hot Shots! Part Deux in 1993.[15][16]

Crenna portrayed New York City Police Department lieutenant of detectives Frank Janek in a series of seven popular made-for-television films, beginning in 1988 and ending in 1994. The character of Janek had originally appeared in a series of novels by William Bayer.[17][18]


Crenna was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard.[19]

Illness and death

Crenna died of pancreatic cancer at age 76 on January 17, 2003, in Los Angeles.[20]



Year Title Role Notes
1950 Let's Dance Bit Part Uncredited
1951 Starlift Movie Theater Usher
1952 Red Skies of Montana Noxon
The Pride of St. Louis Paul Dean
It Grows on Trees Ralph Bowen
1956 Over-Exposed Russell Bassett
Our Miss Brooks Walter Denton
1965 John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! John Goldfarb
1966 Made in Paris Herb Stone
The Sand Pebbles Captain Collins
1967 Wait Until Dark Mike Talman
1968 Star! Richard Aldrich
1969 Midas Run Mike Warden
Marooned Jim Pruett
1971 Doctors' Wives Dr. Peter Brennan
The Deserter Major Wade Brown
Red Sky at Morning Frank Arnold
Catlow Marshal Ben Cowan
1972 Un flic Simon
1973 The Man Called Noon Noon
Jonathan Livingston Seagull Father (voice)
1975 Breakheart Pass Governor Richard Fairchild
1978 Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell Mike Barry
The Evil C.J. Arnold
1979 Stone Cold Dead Sergeant Boyd
Wild Horse Hank Pace Bradford
1980 Death Ship Trevor Marshall
Joshua's World Dr. Joshua Torrance
1981 Body Heat Edmund Walker
1982 First Blood Colonel Samuel R. "Sam" Trautman
1983 Table for Five Mitchell
1984 The Flamingo Kid Phil Brody Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1985 Rambo: First Blood Part II Colonel Samuel R. "Sam" Trautman
Summer Rental Al Pellet
1988 Rambo III Colonel Samuel R. "Sam" Trautman
1989 Leviathan Dr. Glen "Doc" Thompson
1993 Hot Shots! Part Deux Colonel Denton Walters
1995 A Pyromaniac's Love Story Tom Lumpke Uncredited
Jade Governor Lew Edwards
Sabrina Patrick Tyson
1998 Wrongfully Accused Lieutenant Fergus Falls
2008 Rambo Colonel Samuel R. "Sam" Trautman Archival footage; uncredited
2019 Rambo: Last Blood


Year Title Role Notes
1952 I Love Lucy Arthur Morton episode: "The Young Fans"
1952–1955 Our Miss Brooks Walter Denton 94 episodes
1955 The Millionaire Ralph McKnight episode: "The Ralph McKnight Story"
1956 Frontier John Leslie episode: "The 10 Days of John Leslie"
Medic Donny episode: "Don't Count the Stars"
Father Knows Best Elwood Seastrom episode: "The Promising Young Man"
1956–1958 Matinee Theatre Sergeant James 3 episodes
1957 The Silent Service Lieutenant Commander L. L. "Jeff" Davis episode: "The U.S.S. Pampanito Story"
1957 Cheyenne "Curley" Galway episode: "Hard Bargain"
1957–1963 The Real McCoys Luke McCoy 225 episodes
nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1959)
1960 The Deputy Andy Willis episode: "A Time to Sow"
1963 Kraft Suspense Theatre Edward Smalley episode: "The Long, Lost Life of Edward Smalley"
1964–1965 Slattery's People James Slattery 36 episodes
nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (1965)
nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment (1965)
nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1966)
1971 Thief Neal Wilkinson television film
1971–1972 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Guest Performer 3 episodes
1972 Footsteps Paddy O'Connor television film
1973 Double Indemnity Walter Neff
1974 Nightmare Howard Faloon
Shootout in a One-Dog Town Zack Wells
Double Solitaire
Honky Tonk "Candy" Johnson
1975 A Girl Named Sooner R.J. "Mac" McHenry
1976–1977 All's Fair Richard C. Barrington 24 episodes
1977 The War Between the Tates Professor Brian Tate television film
1978 Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell Mike Barry
First, You Cry David Towers
A Fire in the Sky Jason Voight
1978–1979 Centennial Colonel Frank Skimmerhorn television miniseries
1979 Mayflower: The Pilgrims' Adventure William Brewster television film
Better Late Than Never The Director
1980 Fugitive Family Brian Roberts / Matthews
1981 The Ordeal of Bill Carney Mason Rose
Daniel Boone voice
Look at Us Host
1982 The Day the Bubble Burst Jesse Livermore television film
1982–1983 It Takes Two Dr. Sam Quinn 22 episodes
1984 Squaring the Circle The Narrator television film
London and Davis in New York John Greyson
Passions Richard Kennerly
1985 The Rape of Richard Beck Richard Beck television film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Doubletake Frank Janek television miniseries
1986 A Case of Deadly Force Lawrence O'Donnell Sr. television film
On Wings of Eagles H. Ross Perot television miniseries
The High Price of Passion Bill Douglas television film
1987 Police Story: The Freeway Killings Deputy Chief Bob Devers
Kids Like These Bob Goodman
Plaza Suite Roy Hubley
1988 Internal Affairs Frank Janek
1989 The Case of the Hillside Stranglers Sergeant Bob Grogan
Stuck with Each Other Bert Medwick
1990 Murder in Black and White Frank Janek
Montana Hoyce Guthrie
Last Flight Out Dan Hood
Murder Times Seven Frank Janek
1991 And the Sea Will Tell Vincent Bugliosi
1991–1992 Pros and Cons Mitch O'Hannon 12 episodes
1992 Intruders Dr. Neil Chase television miniseries
Terror on Track 9 Detective Frank Janek television film
1993 A Place to Be Loved George Russ
1994 The Forget-Me-Not Murders Frank Janek
Jonathan Stone: Threat of Innocence Jonathan Stone
Janek: The Silent Betrayal Lieutenant Frank Janek
1995 In the Name of Love: A Texas Tragedy Lucas Constable Sr.
1995–1998 JAG Lieutenant Harmon Rabb Sr. 4 episodes
1996 Race Against Time: The Search for Sarah John Porter television film
Nova Narrator Episode: B-29: Frozen in Time
Texas Graces Virgil Grace television film
1997 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Professor Aronnax
Deep Family Secrets Clay Chadway
Heart Full of Rain Arliss Dockett
Cold Case Host
1999 To Serve and Protect Howard Carr
The Man Who Makes Things Happen: David L. Wolper Narrator
Chicago Hope Dr. Martin Rockwell episode: "Teacher's Pet"
2000 Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For Warren Pierce television film
By Dawn's Early Light Ben Maxwell
2000–2003 Judging Amy Jared Duff 13 episodes
2001 The Day Reagan Was Shot Ronald Reagan television film
2003 Out of the Ashes Jake Smith

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2014 Rambo: The Video Game Colonel Samuel "Sam" Trautman character likeness / uncredited

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1959 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series The Real McCoys Nominated
1965 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Slattery's People Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment Nominated
1966 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture The Flamingo Kid Nominated
1985 Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film The Rape of Richard Beck Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Won

See also


  1. ^ "The Real McCoys". The Gettysburg Times. February 24, 1962. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Richard Donald Crenna in the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,
  3. ^ "Richard Crenna". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2015. Archived from the original on July 31, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  4. ^ Martone, Eric (2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-61069-994-5.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Kilgannon, Corey (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna, Veteran Actor, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
  6. ^ "Prominent Alumni". Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Lentz III, Harris M. (2004). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 92. ISBN 0-7864-1756-0.
  8. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna, 75; Actor Made Transition From Comedy to Drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Slattery's People". Television Academy. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  10. ^ Greenspun, Roger (October 21, 1971). "Catlow' Pits Crenna Against Brynner". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  11. ^ Weiler, A. H. (September 25, 1973). "The Screen: Double Bill:' The Man Called Noon' and 'Triple Irons' The Casts". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Hal Erickson (2015). "The Rape of Richard Beck". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 22, 1982). "FIRST BLOOD". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  14. ^ Drawing First Blood. First Blood DVD: Artisan. 2002.
  15. ^ McKerrow, Steve (May 21, 1993). "'Hot Shots! Part Deux': Laughter's better the second time around". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  16. ^ Johnson, Malcolm (May 21, 1993). "Sheen Turns Rambo in 'Hot Shots!'". Hartford Courant. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  17. ^ Clark, Kenneth R. (November 6, 1988). "Crenna's Janek Is Back, But Not In A Series – Yet". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  18. ^ Sandler, Adam (March 28, 1994). "The Forget Me Not Murders". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  19. ^ McLellan, Dennis (January 19, 2003). "Richard Crenna – Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  20. ^ "Crenna dies at 76". Variety. January 19, 2003. Archived from the original on April 14, 2018. Retrieved March 2, 2018.