Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy birthday, Gerald Mohr!

“Get this and get it straight: crime is a sucker's road, and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison, or the grave...” Old-time radio fans will instantly recognize that phrase as the one that kicked off each weekly installment of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe over CBS Radio from September 1948 to September 1951. The actor who uttered those words was Gerald Mohr, whose unforgettable voice was heard practically everywhere over the ether during Radio’s Golden Age—he starred as Jungle Jim, Bill Lance (The Adventures of Bill Lance), Sorrowful Jones (The Damon Runyon Theater) and Archie Goodwin (The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)…and could also be heard on broadcasts of The Adventures of Superman, Dr. Christian, Escape, Let George Do It, Mandrake the Magician, Nightbeat, Rogue’s Gallery, The Shadow of Fu Manchu (as announcer), Suspense, Tales of the Texas Rangers and The Whistler. Mohr appeared on most of the major dramatic anthologies—Cavalcade of America, Hallmark Playhouse, The Lux Radio Theatre, Screen Director’s Playhouse—but also displayed quite a flair for comedy with roles on The Adventures of Maisie, Burns and Allen, The Eddie Cantor Show (as Cantor’s kidnapper, “Baby Face”), The Judy Canova Show (as muscle-bound movie star Humphrey Cooper), My Favorite Husband, Our Miss Brooks (one of my personal favorites—he was Jacques Monet, Madison’s French teacher) and The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

As ubiquitous a presence as he was on radio, Mohr possessed the good looks to appear on the big and small screens throughout his career. He got quite the workout in the cliffhanger serials, both as the voice of “The Scorpion” in Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) and as Slick Latimer in Jungle Girl (1941). He played Michael Lanyard, aka The Lone Wolf in three of the films in the Columbia series (a part he also played in the 1948-49 radio series), and had roles in Lady of Burlesque (1943), Gilda (1946), Two Guys from Texas (1948), Hunt the Man Down (1950), Sirocco (1951), Detective Story (1951), The Sniper (1952), The Ring (1952) and Money from Home (1953). Like Reed Hadley, Gerald’s stentorian tones could also be heard narrating feature films like Southside 1-1000 (1950) and Smoky Canyon (1952); during my convalescence my mother and I watched quite a few episodes of The Lone Ranger from my The Lone Ranger: 75th Anniversary set, and giggled every time the narrator would say that the Masked Man “was a fabulous individual” (he’s fab-u-lous!). That was Gerald Mohr, too.

As for television, I’ll always remember Mohr for a guest appearance as a would-be Satan in a Lost in Space episode entitled “A Visit to Hades” (12/07/66)—but he can be spotted in tons of classic television reruns in everything from Maverick to Perry Mason (he also scored a regular gig as Christopher Storm in the 1954-55 series Foreign Intrigue, and the voice of Reed Richards in the 1967-68 cartoon series based on Marvel’s the Fantastic Four). Mohr suffered a heart attack in 1968 while filming a TV pilot in Sweden, and television, movies and radio would never be the same. So on behalf of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, happy 96th natal anniversary to you, Mr. Mohr—an amazing actor with an amazing voice.

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8 comments:

hobbyfan said...

For a time, Gerald Mohr was also the announcer on "Sky King", as I found out after getting a 4-episode DVD of that series.

Mohr also got into cartoons in the 60's. In 1967, he was the voice of both Green Lantern and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), working with another icon, Paul Frees, on both series. I know Mohr served as an announcer on Lone Ranger, presumably before Fred Foy took over the gig, though Foy is more famous for the job.

Laura said...

Thanks for a great tribute. I always associate Mohr with my favorite show MAVERICK -- he was one of the show's most frequent guest stars: 7 times!

Bset wishes,
Laura

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I always associate Mohr with my favorite show MAVERICK -- he was one of the show's most frequent guest stars: 7 times!

Laura -- were it not for that Lost in Space episode, which scared the heck out of me as a kid, the Maverick episodes would be my greatest Mohr association, too.

C. Jerry Kutner said...

I know him as the astronaut hero of THE ANGRY RED PLANET, a personal favorite. Didn't realize he had done so much else.

Scott C. said...

Gerald is remembered by MST3K fans as the Peggy Castle-romancin', Commie-fightin' (and failing), Ted Baxter wannabe in Invasion USA (the '52 iteration, not the similarly named, but even harder to swallow Chuck Norris flick). In edition to the aforementioned and aforelovely Miss Castle, he played opposite Dan O'Herlihy's arch, creepy mesmerist, and a whole bunch'a stock footage from World War II. Mike and the bots took it on early in Season 6.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Gerald is remembered by MST3K fans as the Peggy Castle-romancin', Commie-fightin' (and failing)

Scott...are you insinuating that we couldn't depend on Mohr in our hour of need? I shall have to ask you to step outside, sir...

Scott C. said...

Well, I guess it depends what it was we needed in our hour of need. If what we required was someone to stymie a Red Army occupation of San Francisco, then maybe Mr. Mohr wasn't our guy. However, if we were looking for a place where Russian paratroopers could store their bullets, then Gerald's abdomen was just the spot!

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I had a great admiration for for mr. Mohr , actors like him are fading away from the screen , thank goodness we're able to enjoy an era of American t.v.and movies still available on video .