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Warren Stevens, whose busy seven-decade career as a character actor in Hollywood included a key role in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, died Tuesday of respiratory failure at his home in Sherman Oaks. He was 92.
A veteran of dozens of motion pictures and stage productions and hundreds of episodes on television, Stevens made his Broadway debut in 1948 and co-starred in The Trail to Hope Rose, a 2004 Western for The Hallmark Channel starring Lou Diamond Phillips. He was rarely idle during the years in between.
Stevens was a charter member of the Actors Studio, the workshop started by On the Waterfront director Elia Kazan and others in New York in the 1940s. He trained alongside Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Montgomery Clift, and before long, he was working in live television. On an early anthology series titled Actor’s Studio, he starred opposite Russell Collins in a production of The Tell-Tale Heart, which won a Peabody Award.
Kazan introduced Stevens to Broadway in the 1948 Actors Studio production of Sundown Beach, which led to a critically acclaimed performance in the long-running stage hit Detective Story and then a seven-year movie contract at 20th Century Fox.
Stevens had become interested in acting through a friendship with Gregory Peck and Kenneth Tobey at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse.
In MGM’s Forbidden Planet, starring Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen, Stevens plays Lieutenant “Doc” Ostrow, a member of a 22nd century expedition sent to the planet Altair to find a group that had left Earth many years earlier to establish a colony but had disappeared. Ostrow meets his end after using a “plastic educator” to boost his intelligence in an effort to uncover the secret of the film’s invisible monster.
Stevens also had roles in such films as Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951), Deadline U.S.A. (1952), Phone Call From a Stranger (1952), Red Skies of Montana (1952), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), No Name on the Bullet (1959), Madame X (1966) and Madigan (1968).
On television, Stevens was a regular on the India-set adventure series Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers in the 1950s and supplied the voice of John Bracken in the 1969-70 series Bracken’s World, about the head of a fictional studio in Hollywood.
The native of Clarks Summit, Pa., also appeared in such shows as Return to Peyton Place, The Richard Boone Show, Bonanza, Star Trek, Land of the Giants, Have Gun — Will Travel and Mannix.
An avid flyer who served in the U.S. Navy, Stevens is survived by his wife of 43 years, Barbara, and sons Adam, Mathew and Laurence. A veteran’s military service is pending.
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