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Rex Reason, the tall, handsome actor with a lush voice who portrayed the heroic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham in the 1955 science-fiction cult classic This Island Earth, has died. He was 86.
Reason died Thursday of bladder cancer at his home in Walnut, California, his wife of 47 years, Shirley, told The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor also starred as Adam MacLean, publisher and chief reporter for the Wyoming newspaper The Yellowstone Sentinel, in the 1957-59 syndicated TV show Western Man Without a Gun, and he played another newspaperman in the 1960-61 series The Roaring 20’s.
Contrary to what one might think, Rex Reason was his birth name, not one dreamed up by a Hollywood executive. Universal Pictures, in fact, had billed him as “Bart Roberts” in a couple of films before he insisted on being credited with his real name.
His younger brother, Rhodes Reason, also an actor, died in December 2014 at age 84.
In This Island Earth, distributed by Universal-International and directed by Joseph M. Newman, Reason’s Dr. Meacham is one of the scientists recruited by a denizen of the planet Metaluna to help in a war against another alien race. Russell Johnson, the future Professor on Gilligan’s Island, also played a scientist in the Technicolor movie, which at the time was hailed for its effects.
Raised in Los Angeles, Reason attended Hollywood High School and then Hoover High School in Glendale. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he began a stage career at the Pasadena Playhouse.
The 6-foot-3 actor was noticed by a talent scout who surely admired his distinctive baritone, and he quickly was cast as the lead in the World War II drama Storm Over Tibet (1952), playing opposite Diana Douglas, the mother of actor Michael Douglas (she had recently divorced Kirk Douglas).
After a few years at MGM and Columbia, Reason landed at Universal and worked alongside Rita Hayworth in William Dieterle’s Salome (1953). He later starred as another scientist in The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), appeared with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in Band of Angels (1957) and toplined Badlands of Montana (1957) and Thundering Jets (1958).
In addition to The Roaring 20’s, Reason picked up gigs on other Warner Bros. TV dramas like Conflict, 77 Sunset Strip, The Alaskans and Bourbon Street Beat.
Following an appearance in a 1963 episode of Wagon Train, Reason quit show business. He eventually became a real estate broker.
“It was hard to pull away from the only thing I knew, acting, even though I knew that the best of me was still ahead,” he said in a 2010 interview. “The internal tug-of-war gave way to my leaving the Glamour City, without really knowing exactly what direction I was going to take. My agent, my mother, my brother and others could not understand my choice, and in fact, my agent was particularly angry, as you can imagine.”
In addition to his wife, survivors include his children Andrea and Brent.
Years ago, Reason recorded several verses of poetry — about “love, profound truth and philosophic wisdom” — written by Bertram Fowler. The recordings are available for purchase here.
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