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Monday, May 19, 2008

Dick Crenna (1926-2003)

Richard Donald Crenna was born November 30, 1927, in Los Angeles, California. Dick's mother, Edith Crenna, who was divorced, managed a modest hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Dick's father, Dominick Crenna, was a phamacist. Dick went to Virgil Junior High School, which was located across the street from Earle C. Anthony's radio stations, KFI and KECA. It was there, before he attended Virgil, at the age of 11, that he acted in his first radio show, Boy Scout Jamboree (yes, he was a Boy Scout!), which was heard over KECA. He also did a few guest spots on the George Burns-Gracie Allen Show. From Virgil, Dick went on to Belmont High School and then went to the University of Southern California. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

Upon graduation, Dick acted in several radio situation comedies, starting with The Great Gildersleeve, in which he played Marjorie's boyfriend. Later on that show, Dick would portray another of Marjorie's boyfriends, whom she would marry named Bronco (which was spelled "Broncho" back in those days, but still pronounced "Bronco"). His first regular role was Oogie Pringle on A Date with Judy. The next show he was heard on was My Favorite Husband, which starred Lucille Ball. Dick had a close personal and working relationship with Lucille and her husband, Desi Arnaz. His most memorable role was that of Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks (in the picture above, Dick is seen on the far left in his Walter Denton role on TV, this was a few years after the radio series went on). That radio series became a TV series.

Eventually, long after the radio series went off the air, Walter Denton's role mysteriously disappeared from the script. It was at this time, Dick starred in a TV sitcom, The Real McCoys (later just known as The McCoys). He played the part of Luke McCoy, who came to California from West Virginia with his wife (played by Kathy Nolan, born 1933) and little brother, who was also named Luke (played by Michael Winkleman, 1946-99), as well as his grandfather Amos (played by Walter Brennan, 1894-1974). After this went off the air in 1963, Dick did a few other TV shows, although now he was getting more into serious dramatic roles, rather than comedy. When this change started taking place, he became listed as "Richard Crenna," although, to his friends, he was still Dick.

Dick had an impressive career as a motion picture actor, director, and producer. His first movie was made when he was still a radio actor, Let's Dance (1950). Since he was uncredited and he never mentioned this movie, some people aren't even sure he was in the movie, in which he was thought to be one of the dancers. His first really big role was as Paul "Daffy" Dean in Pride of the Yankees (1952). The rest of the movies were some of the greatest movies made in Hollywood of their period and he always did a wonderful job.

Richard Crenna was married twice, first to a college sweetheart, which ended in divorce, and his second marriage was to Penni Sweeney, a divorcee herself. He had two children with Penni, plus a stepdaughter from her previous marriage.

In 2003, Dick contracted pancreatic cancer. This is one of the fastest cancers, which also killed Jack Benny. He died January 17, 2003, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Hollywood, surrounded by family members, at the age of 76. Seeing that he was born, grew up, worked, and died within the city limits some people who didn't know anything about him might think he hadn't gone anywhere with his life. How wrong they would be.

1 comment:

dggd said...

Got a chance to meet Richard Crenna in 1977, whenever he'd visit his mother Mrs. Edith Crenna at a downtown LA hotel I lived at. Mrs. Crenna lived there too. She always told me I sounded like a horse running up the stairs in the elevator-less hotel! Ha! Richard and his wife stopped by one day to get her for a weekend and she introduced me as that horse that runs up and down the stairs everyday! I was much younger then (22) but had to get a running start because I lived on the 4th floor!!! Mrs. Crenna was on the 2nd floor. She was a nice lady regardless, and always supported the fact that I was an ambitious and hard working young lady. Sadly she passed away later that year.

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