Richard Denning

Happy birthday to actor Richard Denning, born March 27, 1914 in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Denning graduated cum laude from Woodbury Business College with a masters in business administration.  Like his father, he took a job in the garment industry and worked his way up to a vice president position, but he never really liked the business world.  In his spare time, he performed with small theater groups and won a screen test at Warner Brothers on a “Do You Want to Be an Actor?” radio contest.  Warners passed on Denning, but he continued to pursue acting and eventually landed a contract with Paramount.  His first film appearance was a bit part in Hold ‘Em Navy (1937), and for the remainder of the 1930s, he continued to have small roles in over 35 films, many of them uncredited.  Finally, in 1940, Denning got top billing in The Farmer’s Daughter and his film career hit full stride.  He appeared in a dozen more films until joining the Navy and serving on a submarine during WWII.  After the war, it took over a year for his acting career to resume, during which time he and his family lived out of a mobile home.  In 1948, his career got back on track when he landed the role of George Cooper on the radio show My Favorite Husband, playing opposite Lucille Ball.  The show was a big success and eventually led to the development of the I Love Lucy TV sitcom, but without Denning, of course.  Denning primarily appeared in adventure films and westerns, but he also became a familiar face in science fiction movies of the era, including The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Target Earth (1954), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), and The Black Scorpion (1957).  We celebrate Denning for his roles in classic noir films: The Glass Key (1942) with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, No Man of Her Own (1950) with Barbara Stanwyck, The Glass Web (1953) with Edward G. Robinson, and The Crooked Web (1955) with Frank Lovejoy.  From 1952 to 1954, Denning starred with Barbara Britton in the television detective series Mr. and Mrs. North.  Denning continued to appear in movies and television until he retired to Maui in 1968.  However, his retirement never got a chance to begin because that same year, he was offered the role of governor of Hawaii in the long-running Hawaii Five-O (1968-80) TV series, which he played until his eventual retirement in 1980. Denning was married to classic horror film star Evelyn Ankers until her death in 1985.  Denning died of respiratory failure in 1998 at age 84.


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