|From the L.A. Times, December 30, 1999
'Littlejohn' in 1960s 'Combat' TV Series
By MYRNA OLIVER, Times Staff Writer
Realism was a hallmark of the early 1960s television series "Combat," which
focused on the grim march of a U.S. Army platoon
across Europe after the D-day invasion of World War II. The stars were often splattered
with mud and sometimes blood, but the realistic show lightened the face of war with humor.
There were laughs off camera as well. Actor Rick Jason, who portrayed the platoon's
hard-boiled leader Lt. Gil Hanley, and Dick
Peabody, as the group's "gentle giant" farm boy Littlejohn, proved adept
comedians without scripts. At 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6, respectively, Jason and Peabody
always got attention--and laughs--when they entertained fellow cast members with their
renditions of Carl Reiner and Mel
Brooks' "2,000-Year-Old Man" routines.
Jason and Peabody remained close friends long after the ABC series ended.
It was Jason who announced that Peabody died Monday in the Sacramento Valley community
of El Camino from prostate cancer.
Peabody was 74.
"Combat," which also starred the late Vic Morrow, illustrated the ravages of
the European invasion and has remained popular in
syndication and on video. During its run from 1962 to 1967, the show attracted such
well-known guest stars as Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Sal
Mineo, Ted Knight, Eddie Albert and James Coburn.
Members of the "Combat" cast maintained close ties. Six of them went on a
reunion cruise in 1996, the first time they had been together
since Morrow's 1982 death in a helicopter accident that occurred while he was filming
"Twilight Zone: The Movie."
In 1986, when Peabody dreamed up "Fair Oaks" as "the world's first
telephone soap opera," which listeners could access for a small fee, he
enlisted cast member Jack Hogan to write the script and Jason, Pierre Jalbert and Tom
Lowell to perform the voice roles.
Peabody, who appeared in more than 120 television shows and six feature films, has been
seen this year in satirical Stan Freberg
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Peabody studied electronics in college. But as he once said
in an interview, "I wanted fame and I couldn't find
anyone who could name a famous electrical engineer."
He started out producing commercials for movie theaters and TV. One he did for the
Greater Kansas City Ford Dealers impressed director
Robert Altman, who recommended Peabody to an educational and industrial film company.
After that work and a stint as news anchor with the Kansas City NBC television
affiliate, Peabody moved to Los Angeles in 1962, hoping to become a "heavy" in
westerns. On his first day in town, he was hired to host an all-night show at radio
The next day, Altman offered Peabody a small role in the first episode of his new
television series, "Combat." He stayed on for the full five-year run.
Peabody did get into westerns, appearing frequently on such television series as
Among Peabody's films was the 1969 "Support Your Local Sheriff" starring
In 1971, Peabody joined KFI-AM (640) radio as a talk show host, interviewing Hollywood
celebrities from a booth at Universal Studios.
After his retirement to Northern California, he wrote a column called "Peabody's
Place" for the Placerville (Calif.) Mountain Democrat.
Peabody is survived by his wife, Tina.
|From the Mountain Democrat, December 29, 1999
Richard Peabody dies
By RON GOBEN, Special to the Democrat
Richard Peabody, movie and television actor who wrote a weekly column for several years
for the Mountain Democrat, died Monday, Dec. 27, at his home in Camino. He was 74 and the
cause of death was prostate cancer.
The multi-talented Mr. Peabody, who was called Dick by friends
and co-workers, also was a TV news anchor; a radio newscaster and talk show host; an actor
in TV commercials; and a writer of advertising copy, documentary films and radio and TV
His acting career in Hollywood featured roles in 120 prime-time television shows and six
movies, including "MacKenna's Gold,"' "Support Your Local Sheriff" and
"Your Money or Your Wife."
He worked with actors who were literally some of Hollywood's biggest stars, men like James
Garner and James Arness. Mr. Peabody, who was 6 feet, 6 inches tall, explained that tall
stars such as Arness of "Gunsmoke" fame liked to work with him as a villain
because they wouldn't look like bullies if they beat him up in a screen fight.
The role that earned Mr. Peabody his most enduring fame was that of "Littlejohn"
in the long-running TV series "Combat!" He played Littlejohn for five years in
dozens of episodes of the series, which ran in the 1960s. It became a cult favorite and
fans often came up to Mr. Peabody, calling him "Littlejohn."
In recent years, a "Combat!" fan club organized a cruise and a reunion
featuring cast members of the series. Mr. Peabody and his wife,
Tina, attended both events.
Dick Peabody was born April 6, 1925, in Kansas City. He joined the Navy in 1942 at age 17
and when he was discharged four years later, began studying electrical engineering at
Kansas City Junior College. After a year, he switched to a liberal arts major at the
University of Kansas City because "I wanted fame and I couldn't find anyone who could
name a famous electrical
Soon, he began producing screen advertising and TV commercials, which led to work on the
other side of the camera. He became a TV news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Kansas City,
then his deep baritone voice landed him a job as host of a radio jazz show in Denver.
There, he supplemented his income with freelance writing of films and commercials.
Eventually, he formed his own radio commercial production company and in 1960 the Denver
Advertising Club awarded the top six places in yearly competition to commercials written
and produced by Mr. Peabody.
Two years later, he took a self-inventory and left Denver for Hollywood to pursue his
dream of fame. On his first day in Los Angeles, he got a job hosting an all-night show at
radio station KMPC. On his second, he was offered a part by director Robert Altman in the
new series, "Combat!," and his acting career was launched.
In addition to his television and movie roles, Mr. Peabody became a talk show host for KFI
radio in Los Angeles, interviewing more than 500 celebrities in a show emanating from
Universal Studios. He also did dozens of TV voice-overs and radio spots, including one
written by Stan Freeberg for Jeno's Frozen Pizza that won awards and is frequently aired
in broadcasts of outstanding TV commercials.
Back surgery ended Mr. Peabody's acting career in 1985 and he and his wife moved to El
Dorado County and he resumed his writing career. Soon, he began writing a weekly column
for the Mountain Democrat. His columns included reminiscences of Hollywood, but also
covered a wide range of social and political topics.
Mr. Peabody was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer about three years ago, but
continued an active life until a few weeks before his death.
Besides his wife, Tina, Mr. Peabody is survived by two sisters, Ann Enlow of Denver and
Pat Sheets of Amsterdam, Mo.
There will be no local services. Friends and relatives will get together in Carmel
sometime next spring for a celebration of Dick Peabody's life.
Tina Peabody requests that memorials be contributed to the Motion Picture Home in Woodland