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Morgan Woodward, the silent, menacing mirrored-glasses boss dubbed “The Man with No Eyes” in Cool Hand Luke, has died. He was 93.
Woodward died Friday morning at his home in California, the Fielder House Museum in Arlington, Texas, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. They house a large portion of his film and television memorabilia in their “Woodward Room.”
A stalwart of the Western genre, he guest-starred in a record 19 episodes of Gunsmoke (and its 1992 television movie), 12 episodes of Wagon Train, across nine seasons on Dallas as oil-man Marvin “Punk” Anderson and as Hugh O’Brian’s deputy on 80 episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.
His prolific television career also included Bonanza, The Waltons, The Lucy Show (with John Wayne guest-starring), Hill Street Blues, MGM’s series Logan’s Run and Star Trek, on which he was the first victim of Mr. Spock’s telepathic “Vulcan mind meld.”
On the big screen, Woodward played supporting roles in Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), The Gun Hawk (1963), opposite Audie Murphy in Gunpoint (1966), as a bad man dragged out of town in James Stewart and Henry Fonda’s Firecreek (1968) and on the Alan Smithee pseudonym Western Death of a Gunfighter.
Later he appeared in John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Jack Starrett’s A Small Town in Texas (1976) and Final Chapter: Walking Tall (1977), Which Way is Up? opposite Richard Pryor and the romantic comedy Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1985).
Woodward was such a regular on Gunsmoke that CBS head honchos called producer John Mantley suggesting there surely must be other Hollywood journeymen who can do the show. “Yes,” Mantley told them, “but not as well.”
In Cool Hand Luke, his intimidating character never said a word as he oversaw, with rifle or cane in hand, the chain gang prison which Paul Newman had joined. They have a memorable shocking showdown in the film’s climax.
“Even today Cool Hand Luke plays every week and I get a residual. And everybody remembers ‘The Man with No Eyes.’ It’s very gratifying,” he said in 2016.
On-set legend has it that Woodward kept the reflective sunglasses on in between scenes and did not speak to anyone.
Born Thomas Morgan Woodward on Sept. 16, 1925, in Fort Worth, Texas, he was hugely influenced by cowboy cinema stars Buck Jones, Tom Tyler and Hoot Gibson. But when he was in college he studied and sang opera, before a sinus condition cut short that career. “I traded Grand Opera for Horse Opera,” he recalled in a 2010 interview.
Woodward performed at the Margo Jones Repertory Theatre, hosted a weekly radio show, joined a barbershop quartet and studied at the University of Texas Law School before he was called on by the Air Force to fight in the Korean War. He flew his first plane when was 16, having lived near the Arlington army airfield.
One of his schoolmates, Fess Parker (“Davy Crockett”) was starring in Walt Disney’s cinemascope technicolor adventure The Great Locomotive Chase. Parker recommended Woodward, and Walt personally appeared on day one of shooting and signed him to a three-picture contract.
For The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, the producers loved his appearance in an earlier episode as a Ranger Captain and created the character of “Shotgun Gibbs,” which became a central role after Mason Alan Dinehart (Bat Masterson) left the show.
“We shot five days a week, Monday through Friday, usually shot three days on the set, at Desilu Studios, two days on location, out at Melody Ranch.”
While shooting Dallas he also appeared on the top-rating daytime show Days of Our Lives. “I didn’t have time to prepare, I didn’t like the cue cards, I thought the dialog was asinine. But I must say I certainly met some good actors on the soap opera.”
After 250 TV and film appearances, Woodward ended his career with The X-Files episode “Aubrey,” playing an elderly killer who has passed down murderous DNA to his grandchild and as a man in an iron lung on Millennium.
For his contribution to the Western genre, he received the Golden Lariat Award at the National Western Film Festival, and the prestigious Golden Boot Award from the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Woodward’s role in Cool Hand Luke was so memorable that decades later he spoofed his “Boss” character in an episode of Dukes of Hazard — trademark mirrored glasses and all.
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