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Richard Anderson, who portrayed Oscar Goldman, the head of a secret scientific government organization, on the 1970s series The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman, died Thursday. He was 91.
Anderson, who was mentored by nice guy Cary Grant and received a huge career boost when he was cast in Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war classic Paths of Glory (1957), died at his home in Beverly Hills, publicist Jonathan Taylor announced.
A frequent authority figure onscreen, Anderson also portrayed a colonel in another notable war film, the Rod Serling-scripted Seven Days in May (1964), and he operated on Rock Hudson, the second time much to Hudson’s dismay, in another John Frankenheimer film, the sci-fi thriller Seconds (1966).
As an MGM contract player who started out in the mailroom, Anderson appeared early in his career in such films for the studio as The Magnificent Yankee (1950), Scaramouche (1952), Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) and Forbidden Planet (1956).
He then moved to Fox and played Joanne Woodward’s mama’s-boy boyfriend in The Long, Hot Summer (1958).
In the highly rated, two-part episode that brought a thrilling end to the 1960s ABC series The Fugitive, Anderson portrayed the brother-in-law of Richard Kimble (David Janssen). He also was Police Lt. Steve Drumm on the final season of CBS’ Perry Mason and Santa Luisa Police Chief George Untermeyer on ABC’s Dan August, starring Burt Reynolds.
After three popular Six Million Dollar Man telefilms in 1973, the Universal TV property was given steady life as an ABC series in January 1974. On the show, Anderson played the chief of the fictional Office of Scientific Intelligence and the boss of Steve Austin (Lee Majors), a NASA astronaut who is injured in a crash and “rebuilt” (at a cost of about $29 million in today’s dollars), becoming a secret agent.
Anderson also is heard in the show’s action-packed introduction: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him, we have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.”
The series then spawned The Bionic Woman — starring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, a tennis player who’s infused with machinery and brought back to life after a parachuting accident, and Anderson played Goldman on that show (which went from ABC to NBC) as well.
He was the first actor to portray the same character on two TV series running concurrently on two networks.
Both shows ended in 1978, but Universal, prodded by Anderson, made three more bionic telefilms through 1994. As an executive producer, he was instrumental in the casting of Sandra Bullock as a supercharged woman in 1989’s Bionic Showdown.
Years later, Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) had an action figure of Oscar Goldman in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
In a statement, Majors said that he first met Anderson in 1966 when he guest-starred on one of Majors’ earlier shows, The Big Valley.
“Richard became a dear and loyal friend, and I have never met a man like him,” he recalled. “I called him ‘Old Money.’ His always stylish attire, his class, calmness and knowledge never faltered in his 91 years. He loved his daughters, tennis and his work as an actor. He was still the sweet, charming man when I spoke to him a few weeks ago.”
Added Wagner: “I can’t begin to say how much I have always admired and have been grateful for the elegance and loving friendship I was blessed to have with Richard Anderson.”
His first wife was Carol Lee Ladd, the step-daughter of actor Alan Ladd; his second was Katharine Thalberg, the daughter of Oscar-winning actress Norma Shearer and famed MGM producer Irving Thalberg. Both marriages ended in divorce.
Born on Aug. 8, 1926, in Long Branch, N.J., Anderson and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 10. After graduating from University High School and serving a 17-month stint in the Army during World War II, he studied at the Actors Laboratory in L.A.
Anderson was working on an NBC show called Lights, Camera, Action in 1949 when, out of the blue, he received a phone call from Grant. “My wife [Betsy Drake] and I saw you on television. We think you’re pretty good, particularly in comedy. Why don’t you come to the studio for lunch?” he said of the invitation in the 1991 book, Evenings With Cary Grant.
“I met him on the set of Crisis. I’ll never forget it. He said, ‘I’d like to help you. You’re a very good actor.’”
That led to a screen test and a contract at MGM, where Anderson stayed for six years and made nearly 30 films. He then appeared on a loan-out to United Artists for Paths of Glory, playing Major Saint-Auban, the heartless prosecuting attorney who wants three soldiers court-martialed for cowardice, in the acclaimed World War I drama.
“That film changed my whole career,” he said.
Anderson later portrayed a district attorney on the 1961-62 ABC adaptation of Bus Stop, a brigadier general on Twelve O’Clock High, another government guy opposite Jennifer O’Neill on Cover Up, Sen. Buckley Fallmont on Dynasty and the narrator on Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
The career-long supporting player was once a leading man — portraying a doctor in Curse of the Faceless Man, a forgettable 1958 film that took six whole days to make.
“It was a low-budget remake of The Mummy two decades earlier, featuring a stone monster rather than one wrapped in bandages,” Anderson recalled in a 2015 interview. “We spent a week filming in a big old house on the way up to Malibu — the house is still there. I really just learned my lines and tried not to bump into the furniture. The only movie poster I have hanging in my home is from that film.”
A collector of vintage cars — he had a 1936 Ford Phaeton and a 1957 Bentley Continental Flying Spur — Anderson also was dedicated to philanthropic causes like the Veterans Park Conservancy, an organization that honors military veterans by preserving, protecting and enhancing the West Los Angeles VA property, and the California Indian Manpower Consortium, which provides employment, training and other services to Native Americans across California, Illinois and Iowa.
Survivors include his daughters Ashley, Brooke and Deva, a music supervisor for film and TV at Playtone in Los Angeles.
“Our dad was always there for us and showed us by loving example how to live a full and rich life with gratitude, grace, humor and fun,” Ashley said.