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Richard Carlson
Richard Carlson in 1940
Born Richard Dutoit Carlson
(1912-04-29)April 29, 1912
Albert Lea, Minnesota, U.S.
Died November 25, 1977(1977-11-25) (aged 65)
Encino, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cerebral hemorrhage
Place of burial Los Angeles National Cemetery
Alma mater University of Minnesota
cum laude
Occupation Actor, director, screenwriter
Years active 1937–75
Spouse(s) Mona Carlson (1939–1977, his death)
Children Richard Henry Carlson
Christopher Hugh Carlson
Parents Mabel Du Toit
Henry Carlson

Richard Dutoit Carlson (April 29, 1912 – November 25, 1977) was an American actor, television and film director, and screenwriter.


The son of a Danish-born lawyer,[1] Carlson was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota.[2]

Carlson majored in drama at the University of Minnesota, where he wrote and directed plays and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[1][3] He graduated cum laude with a Master of Arts degree.[3] Carlson then opened his own repertory theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota.[2] When the theater failed, Carlson moved to New York City.[2]

In 1935, Carlson made his acting debut on Broadway in Three Men on a Horse, and appeared with Ethel Barrymore in Ghost of Yankee Doodle and Whiteoaks.[2] In 1937, he wrote and staged the play Western Waters, which ran for only seven performances.[4][5]

Carlson then moved to California, where he joined the Pasadena Playhouse.[3]

Carlson's first film role was in the 1938 David O. Selznick comedy The Young in Heart. He worked as a freelance actor for different studios, and his film appearances included Too Many Girls (1940) with Lucille Ball, The Howards of Virginia (1940) with Cary Grant, and The Little Foxes (1941).

During World War II, Carlson served in the United States Navy.[1] When he returned to Hollywood, he had few offers of employment, and turned to writing to supplement his income.[1] In 1948, Carlson was cast in two low-budget film noir releases, Behind Locked Doors and The Amazing Mr. X. In 1950, he co-starred with Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in the highly successful adventure film King Solomon's Mines, filmed on location in the Kenya Colony and the Belgian Congo.[2] While shooting in Africa, Carlson wrote a series of articles for The Saturday Evening Post, collectively titled "Diary of a Hollywood Safari."[2]

For the rest of the 1950s, Carlson worked steadily, finding a niche in the newly re-emergent of science fiction and horror.[1] He was cast in several B movies, including 3-D films: The Maze (1953), The Magnetic Monster (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953) with Barbara Rush, and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) with Julia Adams. His success in the genre led him to the director's chair for the 1954 science fiction film Riders to the Stars, in which he also starred.

In 1957 and 1958, Carlson played "Mr. Fiction Writer" in three of the nine films made for television collectively titled The Bell Laboratory Science Series. He also directed his final film for the project, The Unchained Goddess.

On July 14, 1951, Carlson and then U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey were the guests on the CBS live variety show, Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town, in which hostess Faye Emerson visited Minneapolis to accent the kinds of music popular in the city.[6]

In addition to writing and directing various film and television projects, Carlson also was the star of the Cold War drama television series I Led Three Lives from 1953 to 1956.

He was featured in 1957 in The Helen Morgan Story. That same year, he was cast as two different ministers, Rabbi Avraham Soltes and Father William Wendt, in the episodes "The Happy Gift" and "Call for Help", respectively, of the syndicated religious anthology series, Crossroads.

In the 1958-1959 television season, Carlson portrayed Colonel Ranald Mackenzie of the 4th Regiment of the United States Cavalry in the syndicated western series, Mackenzie's Raiders, with Morris Ankrum, Louis Jean Heydt, Jack Ging, and Brett King among the "Raiders". The series is set at the former Fort Clark near Brackettville in southwestern Texas, where the real Mackenzie was stationed during much of the 1870s. However, the episodes were filmed at the former Corriganville Movie Ranch in Simi Valley, California. In the series theme, Mackenzie and his men must protect the American border from an assortment of outlaws from both the United States and Mexico. Yet the Raiders cannot risk being caught within Mexico, or they would lose the open support of their own government.[7]

In 1959, Carlson was cast as Paul Drake in "The Faithless" of the NBC western series Riverboat, with Darren McGavin. In the story line, Drake is an escaped prisoner with medical training being transported on the river vessel, the Enterprise, back to jail. Having lost his religious faith, Drake refuses to render medical assistance to a two-year-old girl stricken with a communicable disease which threatens the entire vessel. William Phipps and Jeanne Bates play the parents of the child. Bethel Leslie portrays Cathy Norris.[8]

In 1965, he played a mad scientist who creates a mutant, killer octopus in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode "The Village of Guilt".

In the final two seasons of CBS's Perry Mason, Carlson made two guest appearances, both times as the murder victim. In 1964 he played Anthony Fry in "The Case of the Tragic Trophy;" in 1966, he played Clete Hawley in "The Case of the Avenging Angel."

Carlson's last movie role was in the 1969 Elvis Presley/Mary Tyler Moore film, Change of Habit. His last acting role was in a 1975 episode of the television series Khan!.

In terms of his physical appearance and voice, Carlson is often confused with actor Hugh Marlowe, who was one year older and starred in the science fiction classics The Day the Earth Stood Still and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Despite their remarkable resemblance, the two actors were not related.


Carlson died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65 on November 25, 1977, in Encino, California.[9] He was buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery, in West Los Angeles. For his contribution to the television industry, Richard Carlson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6333 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1938 The Young in Heart Duncan Macrae
The Duke of West Point Jack West
1939 Winter Carnival Professor John Welden
These Glamour Girls Joe
Dancing Co-Ed Michael "Pug" Braddock
Little Accident Perry Allerton
1940 Beyond Tomorrow James Houston
The Ghost Breakers Geoff Montgomery
The Howards of Virginia Thomas Jefferson
Too Many Girls Clint Kelly
No, No, Nanette Tom Gillespie
1941 Back Street Curt Stanton
West Point Widow Dr. Jimmy Krueger
Hold That Ghost Dr. Duncan "Doc" Jackson Alternative title: Oh Charlie
The Little Foxes David Hewitt
1942 Fly-by-Night Dr. Geoffrey Burton
The Affairs of Martha Jeff Sommerfield
Highways by Night Tommy Van Steel
My Heart Belongs to Daddy Prof. Richard Inglethorpe Culbertson Kay
White Cargo Mr. Langford
1943 A Stranger in Town Bill Adams
Presenting Lily Mars Owen Vail
Young Ideas Tom Farrell
The Man from Down Under "Nipper" Wilson
1947 So Well Remembered Charles Winslow
1948 The Amazing Mr. X Martin Abbott
Behind Locked Doors Ross Stewart
1950 King Solomon's Mines John Goode
The Sound of Fury Gil Stanton Alternative title: Try and Get Me
1951 Valentino Bill King
A Millionaire for Christy Dr. Roland Cook
The Day the Earth Stood Still Thomas Stevens Jr Uncredited
The Blue Veil Gerald Kean
1952 Whispering Smith Hits London Whispering Smith
Retreat, Hell! Captain Paul Hansen
The Rose Bowl Story Narrator Voice, Uncredited
Flat Top Lt. Rodgers
1953 The Magnetic Monster Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
Seminole Major Harlan Degan
It Came from Outer Space John Putnam
All I Desire Henry Murdoch
The Maze Gerald MacTeam
The Golden Blade Narrator Voice, Uncredited
1954 Riders to the Stars Dr. Jerome "Jerry" Lockwood Also directed
Creature from the Black Lagoon Dr. David Reed
1955 An Annapolis Story Narrator Voice, Uncredited
The Last Command William B. Travis Alternative title: San Antonio de Bexar
Bengazi Insp. Levering
1956 Three for Jamie Dawn Martin Random
1957 The Helen Morgan Story Russell Wade
1960 Tormented Tom Stewart
1966 Kid Rodelo Link Also director
The Doomsday Flight Chief Pilot Bob Shea
1968 The Power Professor Norman E. Van Zandt
1969 The Valley of Gwangi Champ
Change of Habit Bishop Finley
Year Title Role Notes
1953-1956 I Led Three Lives Herbert Philbrick
1954 General Electric Theater Archie Hawkins 1 episode
The Best of Broadway Mike Connor 1 episode
1959 Riverboat Paul Drake 1 episode
The Man and the Challenge
Director, 1 episode
Men into Space
Director, 1 episode
1960 The Aquanauts Ross Porter 1 episode
1961–1962 The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor
Director, 5 episodes
1962 Bus Stop George Whaley 1 episode
Thriller Guy Guthrie 1 episode
Going My Way Francis Delaney 1 episode
1964 Arrest and Trial Turner Leigh 1 episode
The Fugitive Allan Pruitt 1 episode
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' Lars Mattson 1 episode
1968 Bonanza Arch Hollinbeck 1 episode
1969 It Takes a Thief Daniel K. Ryder 1 episode
The F.B.I. Harold David Dewitt 1 episode
Lancer Judah Abbott 1 episode
1971–1973 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury
Writer, 3 episodes
1972–1973 Cannon Owen McMahon; Mr. Archibald 2 episodes
1973 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Al Downes 1 episode
1975 Khan! 1 episode


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weaver, Tom; Schecter, David; Kronenberg, Steve (2014-10-31) (in en). The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. McFarland. ISBN 9781476615806. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Times, Special To The New York (1977-11-27). "Richard Carlson, Actor, Dies at 65; Star of ‘I Led Three Lives’ on TV". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Richard Carlson Dies, Actor In TV Series, Films, Writer" (in en-US). The Washington Post. 1977-11-27. ISSN 0190-8286. 
  4. Bordman, Gerald (1996-11-21) (in en). American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1930-1969. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195090796. 
  5. League, The Broadway. "Western Waters – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". 
  6. "Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town". Classic Television Archives. Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  7. Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 112-113
  8. ""The Faithless", Riverboat, November 22, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  9. Jarvis, Everett Grant (1996). Final Curtain: Deaths of Noted Movie and TV Personalities, 1912-1996 (8 ed.). Carol Pub. Group. pp. 65. 

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