Combat! guest stars
by Dick Peabody
From the Mountain Democrat--Placerville, California
Thursday, December 24, 1992
Peabody's Place by Richard Peabody
(reprinted with permission of Dick Peabody)
When we were shooting the Combat! TV series in the '60s, we discovered that
guest stars are not created equal not equal in talent, not equal in intelligence
and not equally amusing.
We spent a lot of time with these people usually 10 hours a day for six days.
That's how long it takes to shoot a one-hour TV show. We got to know them pretty well--at
least those who weren't aloof or shy or otherwise unapproachable.
We invited some of them to join the "gang" comprised of Vic Morrow
("Sgt. Saunders"), Jack Hogan ("Kirby"), Pierre Jalbert
("Caje"), Frank Kowalski (our dialogue director) and myself
One of the most popular guests and an honorary "gang" member was the late Dan
Duryea. He joined us in our stupid games, laughed at our dumb jokes, and was an
enthusiastic spectator at our unauthorized Jeep races through the western streets of MGM's
back lot No. 3.
Dan was older by 20 years but he fit in as not many guest stars did. He said working
with us reminded him of his college days at Cornell. He had belonged to a fraternity whose
members were as wild and irreverent as we were.
Dan died young. He was 61. We said goodbye to him at a chapel at Forest Lawn in 1968.
Robert Loggia was another "gang" member. He even joined us in our
"disgusting sounds symphonies." You couldn't invite just anyone to these
concerts, which took place in our clubhouse--Vic Morrow's motorhome.
The object was to make the most disgusting sounds, vocally, that you could think of. At
the end of each session we would vote on which of us was the most sickening. Loggia won
twice; not bad for a novice.
The most entertaining guest we ever had was the late Fernando Lamas. Fernando was both
erudite and earthy. From a wealthy family in the Argentine Republic and educated in
Europe, he had the manner and the manners of the manor. But not always. Sometimes he was
as funky as we were.
He enjoyed doing our show so much that he would badger his agent to put him up for any
role he could possibly play--mostly Frenchman or Germans. Besides English, Fernando spoke
French, German, Italian and Spanish. I think he did more Combat! episodes than
any other guest. [Note: Lamas appeared in the Combat! episodes:
"Breakout" and "The Brothers". Robert Duvall beats him, guest starring
in 3 episodes -- jad]
His stories about his days as an MGM contract player should have been a book (X-rated)
but Fernando was a talker not a writer. His wife Esther Williams liked to come with him to
our wrap parties, the informal get-togethers a film company traditionally has at the end
of the last day of shooting. The propmen break out the booze and hors d'oeuvres and
everyone congratulates each other for having made it through another episode.
The most stand-offish guest was Robert Duvall. He appeared in four or
five shows but spent all of his time, when the camera wasn't rolling, running his lines
behind the sets. None of us got to know him well enough to decide whether he was a good
guy, a bad guy, or just unfriendly. Dennis Weaver was the first runner-up in this
We enjoyed working with Dennis Hopper, however. He was crazy-- therefore eligible to be
an honorary "gang" member. Dennis and I had gone to the same junior high
school--Westport Junior High in Kansas City, Missouri. Not at the same time, however. He's
11 years younger. We wondered if that experience could have negatively impacted on our
The late Neville Brand was as interesting as any guest we had. He liked to drink but
wisely held off until the last scene was shot. We invited him to the bar in Vic's dressing
room and a couple of hours later everyone had left except Neville and myself.
I hinted that maybe he had better go while he could still drive but he kept wanting one
more for the road. I finally got him out of there but he was too loaded to get behind the
wheel. I drove him home--home being Malibu. Since I lived in Sherman Oaks it wasn't
exactly on my way.
When we got to the door of his house his wife invited me in for something I didn't
need, a drink. The most remarkable thing about Neville's house was the floor-to-ceiling
bookshelves in every room. There were literally thousands of volumes. His tastes were
eclectic since almost everything interested him.
Neville's wife pointed to the books and said, "He's read every one of them."
And I believed her.
Neville, a high school drop-out, spent 10 years in the army and was the fourth
most-decorated GI in World War II.
We miss those guys: Vic Morrow, Dan Duryea, Fernando Lamas, Neville Brand and others
who have left us. I hope they're happy wherever they are and I hope they know how much we
Dick Peabody's columns about Combat!:
Dick Peabody writes about Rick Jason
Dick Peabody writes about Vic Morrow
Dick Peabody writes about Robert Goulet
Dick Peabody writes about Vic Morrow's death
Combat Guest Stars
Dick Peabody writes about Jack Hogan
Dick Peabody writes about Rick Jason on The Dangerous Robin