Richard Coogan, Star of 'Captain Video and His Video Rangers,' Dies at 99

Richard Coogan Captain Video - P 2014
Courtesy Everett Collection

Richard Coogan Captain Video - P 2014

After quitting the live sci-fi series, a ratings sensation in the early days of television, he toplined “The Californians,” a Western on NBC.

Richard Coogan, who played Captain Video on the early TV sci-fi adventure series Captain Video and His Video Rangers, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 99.

Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which aired on the DuMont Television Network from 1949-55, was set in the distant future and revolved around a band of heroes fighting for truth and justice. The show was broadcast live five to six days a week, usually starting at 7 p.m., and was beloved by adults and children alike.

The show was a huge, and unexpected, hit.

Captain Video and His Video Rangers started off from scratch, no advance notice or publicity. It caught on so rapidly that we caught up with Milton Berle’s rating, and he was Mr. Television!” Coogan exclaimed in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television. “He was at 37.6 [rating], and we got 37.4 or something … When word got back from the front office that Captain Video was even with Berle, it was unbelievable!”

Coogan starred as Captain Video until December 1950, when, unhappy with the show’s shoestring budget, he quit and was replaced by Al Hodge.

Folks today are perhaps aware of the nascent TV series from an episode of The Honeymooners; in a 1955 installment, Ed Norton (Art Carney) hogs a TV set shared by him and Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) in order to watch Captain Video, his favorite show.

Coogan later starred for six years on the CBS daytime soap opera Love of Life and then for two seasons as Marshal Matthew Wayne (an obvious clone of Gunsmoke’s Marshal Dillon, played by James Arness) on NBC’s The Californians, a Western that aired from 1957-59.

A native of Short Hills, N.J., Coogan worked as an announcer and news anchor on radio before making his Broadway debut in 1945 in the comedy Alice in Arms. He also appeared with Kirk Douglas in Spring Again and with Geraldine Page in The Rainmaker, and while starring in Captain Video, he also appeared opposite Mae West on stage in Diamond Lil, taking a cab to get from one job to another.

Coogan’s other TV appearances came on such series as 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Maverick, Bonanza, Laramie and Perry Mason. His film résumé includes Girl on the Run (1953), Three Hours to Kill (1954), The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956) and Vice Raid (1960).

In 2010 at age 96, Coogan was teaching kids golf and running a monthly tournament that raised funds for a children’s center.

Survivors include his son Richard Jr., daughter-in-law Debbie, granddaughter Melissa, grandson Christopher, great-grandchildren Keira and Dylan and “soul mate” Leona.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4