Barry Coe, Actor in 'Peyton Place,' 'Follow the Sun' and 'Bonanza,' Dies at 84

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Barry Coe

He nearly became the fifth Cartwright on the NBC Western, but his stay on the show lasted one episode.

Barry Coe, who starred in the Peyton Place movie and on the short-lived Hawaii-set ABC adventure series Follow the Sun, has died. He was 84.

A longtime resident of Sun Valley, Idaho, Coe died July 16 in Palm Desert after a battle with the bone marrow disease myelodysplastic syndrome, his family announced.

A Golden Globe recipient in 1960 for most promising male newcomer — shared with James Shigeta, Troy Donahue and George Hamilton — Coe also appeared with Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956); with Sal Mineo, Terry Moore, Gary Crosby and Barbara Eden in A Private's Affair (1959); and with Alan Ladd in One Foot in Hell (1960).

He also recurred as an assistant director on the Hollywood-set NBC drama Bracken's World in 1970 and played the character Mr. Goodwrench in TV commercials for General Motors through the early '80s.

He was born Barry Clark Heacock on Nov. 26, 1934, in Santa Monica. After his father, Warner Bros. publicist Frank Heacock, was killed in an auto accident in 1940, his mother remarried, and the family traveled through the U.S.

He attended high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and then USC before he was signed by Fox, which gave him small roles in the 1955 releases House of Bamboo and How to Be Very, Very Popular.

On Peyton Place (1957), Coe played Rodney Harrington (Ryan O'Neal's role on the subsequent ABC series) and got to kiss Diane Varsi and elope with Moore.

He portrayed freelance magazine writer Ben Gregory on Follow the Sun, which aired for one season (1961-62) on ABC. Created by Roy Huggins (MaverickThe FugitiveThe Rockford Files), the 20th Century Fox Television series also starred Brett Halsey, Gary Lockwood and Gigi Perreau.

Coe was hired to replace an unhappy Pernell Roberts on Bonanza in 1962, and on the episode, "The First Born," which launched the fourth season, his character, Clay Stafford, signs on to work on the Cartwright ranch while claiming to be the half-brother of Little Joe (Michael Landon).

According to the website Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa, Landon "was jealous of Coe and also considered him to be competition and his screen time would be lost." Production on the episode was shut down for three hours while writers debated the fate of Coe's character, and Clay winds up leaving the ranch, never to return. 

Coe went on to appear on Mission: ImpossibleThe Mary Tyler Moore Show and General Hospital and in such films as A Letter to Nancy (1965), MacArthur (1977) and Jaws 2 (1978), his final credit.

His film résumé also included The Bravados (1958), Thundering Jets (1958), But Not for Me (1959),The Wizard of Baghdad (1961) and The 300 Spartans (1962).

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, painter Jorunn Kristiansen Coe, who was voted Miss Norway in 1959; their children and spouses Barry and Maricarmen, Vivianne and Mauricio and William and Wendi; and grandchildren Jacqueline, Tabitha, Ariana, Odin, Jonathan, Kevin, Aksel, Jessica, Bethany and Hannah.

Donations in his name can be made to Habitat for Humanity.