April 21, 1923 October 16, 2000
Left: Rick Jason as private investigator Robin Scott in the syndicated TV series "The Case of the Dangerous Robin"
|The only child of a stock broker and well-to-do mother, Richard Jason was
born in New York City on May 21, 1926. He laughingly describes himself as "second
generation nouveau riche" (TVG 7) and a born romantic while those who know him say
that he is affable, charming, driven, and a real Renaissance Man.
A good student who was popular with his classmates and teachers, Jason's chronically hellish behaviour led to his expulsion from no less than eight prep schools before he finally managed to graduate from Rhodes School. His father, expecting him to follow in his footsteps, had bought him a seat on the stock exchange. Instead, Rick sold the seat and enlisted in the Army Air Corp (1943-45). After the war, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on the G.I. Bill and set out to pursue his life-long interest: acting. While getting started in the business, he lived in a cheap, furnished room and earned a living at various times, as a riding instructor, soda jerk, auditor and hotel clerk.
Rick Jason paid his dues in summer stock productions and various TV roles. While attending a play, he was spotted by actor-director Hume Cronyn who immediately cast him in "Now I Lay me Down to Sleep." The role earned Rick a Theater World Award and a Hollywood contract with Columbia Pictures (he was offered contracts by four different studios).
For the first year that he was under contract, a frustrated Rick Jason did not work. Meanwhile MGM, which was about to start production on "Sombrero," suddenly found itself desperately searching for an actor to replace the hastily departed Fernando Lamas (TVG 10). Jason, who had secured his release from Columbia, was immediately flown in from New York and landed the role.
Due to his success in this film, Columbia asked him to play the lead in "The Saracen Blade." RKO was also impressed with his work and Rick accepted their offer to star in "This Is My Love". From there, 20th Century Fox signed him to play the male lead in "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts." Rick's performance in this film resulted in him being signed to a multiple-picture contract. His first project, an adaptation of John Steinbeck's "The Wayward Bus," earned him considerable critical acclaim and a string of strong performances, both in films and on television, followed. Despite having shown little interest in doing a television series, Rick was deluged by more than 30 offers.
In 1960, Rick Jason brought his talents to television, starring as suave insurance investigator Robin Scott in "The Case of the Dangerous Robin." The role offered him the chance to play a multi-dimensional character in a series unlike any other TV adventure show. It proved to be a challenging assignment and one which fully utilized his versatility. The series, which ran for one season (38 episodes), made Jason the first actor to use martial arts (karate) on TV.
Rick Jason and Marius Goring in Rx for Murder (1958 - 20th Century Fox, lobby card #6)
In September of 1962, Rick Jason exploded onto prime-time screens as the cool, calm and compassionate Lt. Gil Hanley in ABC's hit series, "Combat!" Given the working title, "Men in Combat" and the original premise of the show (GIs lustily march their way through France), Jason at first turned it down. He felt that the show just wouldn't garner an audience but was soon swayed by the argument that no war movie ever lost money at the box office (TVC 2(10): 7). Five seasons and 152 episodes later, Rick Jason had become a house-hold name.
Shortly after "Combat!" ended, Rick returned to the theater where he broke house-records during a dinner theater engagement in Pheasant Run, Illinois (TVC 12). He also headed to Japan and Israel where he starred in a couple of films and then returned to TV where he was cast as the lead in the 1970 pilot, "Prudence and the Chief". In this spoof of "The King and I," Rick played the Chief of the Cheyenne nation while Sally Ann Howes played the woman who came to teach the Cheyenne's children (TVC 12). The pilot failed to sell but despite this disappointment, Rick's TV career remained strong. Throughout the 70s and 80s, he appeared in such hit series as "Matt Houston," "Police Woman," "Murder She Wrote," "Wonder Woman," "Fantasy Island," "Airwolf," and "Dallas". In 1973, he even did a stint as a regular on the CBS soap, "The Young and the Restless."
Rick's "Renaissance Man" reputation comes from his varied interests and talents. Sculpting, painting, ceramics, woodworking, plumbing, carpentry, upholstery, electronics, leathercraft, cooking, photography, training dogs and parakeets, and breeding tropical fish have all demanded his attention at one time or another. He also plays the guitar, sings, writes Ogden Nashian verse and speaks Spanish, French, Italian and Chinese. Most of all, he enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits especially flying, hunting, fishing and underwater swimming.
[added by Jo D., October, 2000] It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Rick Jason died October 16, 2000. He took his own life in his home in Moorpark, California..He had there with his beloved wife Cindy. After retiring from acting, he kept busy doing voice-overs for commercials and running The Wine Locker, a 4,000 square-foot storage facility where people can store their favourite beverages under optimal conditions. He had just published his autobiography in July, 2000 and had returned the previous weekend from a Combat! convention in Las Vegas.
A private memorial service was held on Sunday, October 22, 2000 at Rick's home, attended by family and close friends. His ashes were later interred at Hollywood Forever cemetery.
May he rest in peace. He will be deeply missed. Rick firmly believed in reincarnation. We hope and pray that he is now enjoying peace and happiness in his new life.
Professional Acting Credits:
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep won Theatre World Award for his performance
1953: Sombrero with Jose Greco, Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse
1969: The Monk (pilot)
Data collected by: Loraine Wingham, Malaspina University-College, Library, Nanaimo, B.C. CANADA
Loraine, a dear Combat! fan and one of the first members of the online Combat! discussion list, passed away in 2000. She is fondly remembered and greatly missed.
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