Peppard in 1964
George Peppard Jr.
October 1, 1928
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||May 8, 1994 (aged 65)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Northview Cemetery, Dearborn, Michigan|
|Alma mater||Pittsburgh Playhouse|
Carnegie Mellon University
(m. 1954; div. 1964)
(m. 1966; div. 1972)
(m. 1975; div. 1979)
(m. 1984; div. 1986)
Laura Taylor (m. 1992–1994)
George Peppard Jr. (; October 1, 1928 - May 8, 1994) was an American film and television actor.
Peppard secured a major role when he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and later portrayed a character based on Howard Hughes in The Carpetbaggers (1964). On television, he played the title role of millionaire insurance investigator and sleuth Thomas Banacek in the early-1970s mystery series Banacek. He played Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-smoking leader of a renegade commando squad, in the hit 1980s action show The A-Team.
George Peppard, Jr. was born October 1, 1928, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of building contractor George Peppard, Sr. and opera singer and voice teacher Vernelle Rohrer. He was graduated from Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan in 1946.
During 1948 and 1949, he studied civil engineering at Purdue University where he was a member of the Purdue Playmakers theatre troupe and Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He then transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1955. He also trained at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
Peppard made his stage debut in 1949 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. After moving to New York City, Peppard enrolled in the Actors Studio, where he studied the Method with Lee Strasberg. He did a variety of jobs to pay his way during this time, such as working as a disc jockey, being a radio station engineer, teaching fencing, driving a taxi and being a mechanic in a motorcycle repair shop.
His first work on Broadway led to his first television appearance, with Paul Newman, in The United States Steel Hour (1956), as the singing, guitar-playing baseball player Piney Woods in Bang the Drum Slowly.
He made his film debut in The Strange One (1957).
Peppard had signed to play a role on Broadway in The Pleasure of His Company (1958) when he auditioned successfully for MGM's Home from the Hill (1960). He ended up appearing in Pleasure of His Company for six months before making Home from the Hill. Part of the arrangement of the latter involved signing with MGM for a long term contract.
Home from the Hill was a prestigious film directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Robert Mitchum, who played Peppard's father. It was a success at the box office, although the film's high cost meant that it was not profitable.
His good looks, elegant manner and superior acting skills landed Peppard his most famous film role as Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn, based on a story by Truman Capote. This 1961 role boosted him briefly to a major film star.
That year a newspaper article dubbed him "the next big thing". Peppard said he had turned down two TV series and was focused on being a film star. His contract with MGM was for two pictures a year, allowing for one outside film and six TV appearances a year, plus the right to star in a play every second year.
He was meant to appear in Unarmed in Paradise which was not made. Instead MGM cast him in the lead of their epic western How the West Was Won in 1962 (his character spanned three sections of the episodic Cinerama extravaganza). It was a massive hit.
He followed this with a war story for Carl Foreman, The Victors in 1963, then, most notably, The Carpetbaggers, a 150-minute saga of a ruthless, Hughes-like aviation and film mogul based on a best-selling novel by Harold Robbins. It turned out to be one of the biggest box-office hits of 1964.
"My performances bore me", said Peppard in a 1964 interview, adding that his ambition was to deliver "one great performance. And I must say I feel a little presumptuous to shoot for that. But that's the goal, like a hockey goal. I figure I've got a choice ... not of the outcome but of the objective. And my objective is that one performance."
Peppard started choosing tough-guy roles in big, ambitious pictures where he was somewhat overshadowed by ensemble casts; for example, his role as German pilot Bruno Stachel, an obsessively competitive officer from humble beginnings who challenges the Prussian aristocracy during World War I in The Blue Max (1966). For this role, Peppard earned a private pilot's license and did much of his own stunt flying, although stunt pilot Derek Piggott was at the controls for the famous under-the-bridge scene.
"I'm an actor not a star," he said around this time, adding that he looked for "three things" in a film, "a good director, a good part and a good script. If I get two out of three of those I'm satisfied." He was cast as the lead in Sands of the Kalahari (1965) but walked off the set after only a few days of filming.
Film critic David Shipman writes of this stage in his career:
"With his cool, blond baby-face looks and a touch of menace, of meanness, he had established a screen persona as strong as any of the time. He might have been the Alan Ladd or the Richard Widmark of the sixties: but the sixties didn't want a new Alan Ladd. Peppard began appearing in a series of action movies, predictably as a tough guy, but there were much tougher guys around -- like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, whose films had now become television staples."
A string of Peppard films that followed made little or no impact, including Tobruk, P.J., The Executioner, House of Cards and One More Train to Rob, as well as a romantic comedy called What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, co-starring Mary Tyler Moore.
In 1968 he announced he had co-written a script Watch Them Die, which he planned to direct, but not play a starring role. It was never made.
Among other disappointments during this period were a pair of westerns, 1970's Cannon for Cordoba, in which Peppard played the steely Captain Rod Douglas, who has been put in charge of gathering a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission into Mexico, and 1967's Rough Night in Jericho in which he was billed over Dean Martin and Jean Simmons, a reflection of his status at that time in his career.
Peppard then decided to turn to television. After developing projects for two years, including making a number of pilots, he had a notable success with Banacek (1972-1974), part of The NBC Mystery Movie series, starring in 90-minute whodunits as a wealthy Boston playboy who solves thefts for insurance companies for a finder's fee. Sixteen regular episodes were produced over two seasons. Both have been released on DVD along with the pilot episode. He also delivered one of his most critically acclaimed, though rarely seen, performances in the TV movie Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case (1975), as Sam Sheppard.
Peppard appeared in the short-lived (half a season) Doctors' Hospital (1975) and several other television films. He starred in the 1977 science-fiction film Damnation Alley, which has gone on to attain a substantial cult following. Peppard's role in the film was reportedly turned down by Steve McQueen because of salary issues. With fewer interesting roles coming his way, he acted in, directed and produced the drama Five Days from Home in 1979.
Peppard later said the low point of his career came over a three-year period around the time of Five Days from Home. "It was a bad time", he said. "I was heavily in debt. My career seemed to be going nowhere. Not much work over a three-year period. Every morning I'd wake up and realize I was getting deeper and deeper into debt".
He had to sell his car and take out a second mortgage on his home to finance Five Days from Home. Eventually, he got his money back and was able to concentrate on his career.
In a rare game show appearance, Peppard did a week of shows on Password Plus in 1979, in which he could often be seen smoking cigarettes while filming. Out of five shows, the first was never broadcast on NBC, but aired much later on GSN and Buzzr, because of on-camera comments made by Peppard regarding personal dissatisfaction he felt related to his treatment by the NBC officials who supervised the production of Password Plus.
In 1980, Peppard was offered, and accepted, the role of Blake Carrington in the television series Dynasty. During the filming of the pilot episode, which also featured Linda Evans and Bo Hopkins, Peppard repeatedly clashed with the show's producers, Richard and Esther Shapiro; among other things, he felt that his role was too similar to that of J. R. Ewing in the series Dallas. Three weeks later, before filming was to begin on additional episodes, Peppard was fired and the part was offered to John Forsythe; the scenes with Peppard were re-shot and Forsythe became the permanent star of the show.
"It was a big blow," Peppard noted subsequently, adding he felt Forsythe ultimately did "a better job (as Blake Carrington) than I could have done." Ironically, this led to him being available to be cast in NBC's The A-Team, the number one rated television show in its first season in 1982.
In 1982, Peppard auditioned for and won the role of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in the television action adventure series The A-Team, acting alongside Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz. In the series, the A-Team was a team of renegade commandos on the run from the military for "a crime they did not commit" while serving in the Vietnam War. The A-Team members made their collective living as soldiers of fortune, but they helped only people who came to them with justified grievances.
As "Hannibal" Smith, Peppard played the leader of the A-Team, distinguished by his cigar smoking, confident smirk, black leather gloves, disguises, and distinctive catch phrase, "I love it when a plan comes together." The show ran five seasons on NBC from 1983 to 1987, made Peppard known to a new generation and is arguably his best-known role. It has been reported that the role was originally written with James Coburn in mind, but Coburn declined, and thus it went to Peppard. Peppard was reportedly annoyed by Mr. T upstaging him in his public image, and at one point in their relationship, refused to speak directly to Mr. T. Instead he sent messages through intermediaries (including at times fellow cast members, particularly Dirk Benedict), and for this, Peppard was occasionally portrayed by the press as not a team player.
In his later years Peppard appeared in several stage productions. In 1988 he portrayed Ernest Hemingway in the play PAPA, which played a number of cities including Boise, Idaho; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Francisco. Peppard financed it, and played in it. In 1992 he toured in The Lion in Winter, in which he played Henry II to Susan Clark's Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Peppard's last series was an intended occasional series of television movie features entitled Man Against the Mob set in the 1940s. In these TV detective films, Peppard played Los Angeles Police Detective Sgt. Frank Doakey. The second film Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders was broadcast in December 1989. A third film in this series was planned, but Peppard died before it was filmed.
Peppard was married five times and was the father of three children.
Peppard resided in a Greek revival-style white cottage in Hollywood Hills, California with elegant porches on three sides and a guest house in the back. He was living there at the time of his death. Later owned by designer Brenda Antin who spent a year renovating it, the small home was purchased by writer/actress Lena Dunham in 2015 for 2.699 million dollars.
Peppard, born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Dearborn's most famous resident after Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford and legendary long serving Congressman John Dingell, wanted to go home, and George is buried simply and plainly with his mother and father in the local Northview Cemetery in Dearborn. In April 2017, Peppard's name resurfaced in the media after the cemetery was vandalized for the third time and 37 stones overturned. The Peppard family stone was not damaged. The cemetery was subsequently restored.
Peppard overcame a serious alcohol problem in 1978; subsequently then became deeply involved in helping other alcoholics. He had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life until he quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992, having part of one lung removed in an operation shortly after the formal diagnosis.
Despite health problems in his later years he continued acting. In 1994, shortly before his death, Peppard completed a pilot with Tracy Nelson for a new series called The P.I. It aired as an episode of Matlock and was to be spun off into a new television series with Peppard playing an aging detective and Nelson his daughter/sidekick.
David Shipman published this appraisal of Peppard in 1972:
"George Peppard's screen presence has some agreeable anomalies. He is tough, assured and insolent -- in a way that recalls late Dick Powell rather than early Bogart; but his bright blue eyes and blond hair, his boyish face suggest the all-American athlete, perhaps going to seed. The sophistication is surface deep: you can imagine him in Times Square on a Saturday night, sulky, defiant, out of his depth, not quite certain how he wants to spend the evening."
|1956||The United States Steel Hour||Piney Woods||TV: Bang the Drum Slowly|
|1956-1957||Kraft Television Theatre||TV: The Long Flight|
Flying Object at Three O'Clock High
|1957||The Kaiser Aluminum Hour||Lynch||TV: A Real Fine Cutting Edge|
|1957||Studio One||TV: A Walk in the Forest|
|1957||The Alcoa Hour||Eddie Pierce||TV: The Big Build-Up|
|1957||The Strange One||Cadet Robert Marquales||Film debut|
|1957||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Evan Wallace||TV: The Diplomatic Corpse|
|1957-1958||Matinee Theatre||TV: End of the Rope, Part 1|
End of the Rope, Part 2
|1958||Suspicion||Lee||TV: The Eye of Truth|
|1958||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Dennis Walsh||TV: Little Moon of Alban|
|1959||Pork Chop Hill||Cpl. Chuck Fedderson|
|1960||Home from the Hill||Raphael "Rafe" Copley|
|1960||Startime||Pat Lawrence||TV: Incident at a Corner|
|1960||The Subterraneans||Leo Percepied|
|1961||Breakfast at Tiffany's||Paul Varjak|
|1962||How the West Was Won||Zeb Rawlings|
|1963||The Victors||Cpl. Frank Chase|
|1964||The Carpetbaggers||Jonas Cord|
|1964||Theatre of Stars||Buddy Wren||TV: The Game with Glass Pieces|
|1965||Operation Crossbow||Lt. John Curtis|
|1965||The Third Day||Steve Mallory|
|1966||The Blue Max||Lt. Bruno Stachel|
|1967||Tobruk||Capt. Kurt Bergman|
|1967||Rough Night in Jericho||Dolan|
|1968||What's So Bad About Feeling Good?||Pete|
|1968||House of Cards||Reno Davis|
|1969||Pendulum||Capt. Frank Matthews|
|1970||The Executioner||John Shay|
|1970||Cannon for Cordoba||Capt. Red Douglas|
|1971||One More Train to Rob||Harker Fleet|
|1972||The Bravos||Major John David Harkness||Television film|
|1972||The Groundstar Conspiracy||Tuxan|
|1972-1974||Banacek||Thomas Banacek||TV series|
|1974||Newman's Law||Vince Newman|
|1975||The Week of Fear||Dr. Jake Goodwin||Television film|
|1975||Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case||Dr. Samuel Sheppard||Television film|
|1975-1976||Doctors' Hospital||Dr. Jake Goodwin|
|1977||Damnation Alley||Maj. Eugene Denton|
|1979||Five Days from Home||T.M. Pryor||also director and producer|
|1979||Crisis in Mid-Air||Nick Culver||Television film|
|1979||From Hell to Victory||Brett Rosson|
|1979||Torn Between Two Lovers||Paul Rasmussen||Television film|
|1979||An Almost Perfect Affair||Himself||Uncredited|
|1980||Battle Beyond the Stars||Cowboy|
|1981||Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid||Jim Daley|
|1981||Race for the Yankee Zephyr||Theo Brown|
|1982||Twilight Theatre||Television film|
|1983-1987||The A-Team||Col. John "Hannibal" Smith||TV series|
|1984||Tales of the Unexpected||Sgt. Guedo||TV: The Dirty Detail|
|1988||Man Against the Mob||Frank Doakey||Television film|
|1989||Zwei Frauen||Mr. Martin|
|1989||Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders||Frank Doakey||Television film|
|1990||Night of the Fox||Col. Harry Martineau/Max Vogel||Television film|
|1992||The Tigress||Sid Slaughter||Final film role|
|1994||Matlock||Max Morgan||TV: The P.I., (final appearance)|
Like its predecessor, Stars in the Corps is a valuable resource for scholars and aficionados of motion picture films, military buffs and historians, and students of American popular culture. This volume is the equal to and in several ways surpasses its earlier companion and is itself a valuable reference. Structurally, the volume contains a preface and introduction, two parts comprising 28 short biographies, four appendices, and 101 black-and-white images. A very useful Bibliography lists 92 books and periodicals, thirteen reference works, twelve interviews or correspondence, five major official records or archives, and five other sources. A six-page double column index lists, in the main, proper nouns and is an appropriate finding aid.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)