Richard Carlson


29 Apr 1912


Albert Lea, Minnesota, USA


Richard Dutoit Carlson


The son of an attorney, Richard Carlson had an introspective quality to his performances and looked every inch the academic he first aspired to be. Following his graduation from the University of Minnesota with a Master's Degree in English, the tall, dark-haired youth had a brief stint as a drama teacher at his alma mater. However, deciding on the performing arts instead, he invested his money in buying his own theatre in Minneapolis and featuring himself as the star. By the age of 23, he had gained sufficient acting credentials to perform on Broadway opposite Ethel Barrymore, Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman. Sidelining as a writer, he enjoyed moderate success publishing a number of short stories, but his play "Western Waters" was a flop on Broadway, closing after just seven performances. Just when it seemed, Richard's fortunes were on the wane, he was offered a contract as actor/writer/director by the producer David O. Selznick.

After being encouraged by leading actress Janet Gaynor to make his screen bow in her motion picture The Young in Heart (1938), Richard moved to California on a permanent basis. During the next few years, he made several films (primarily at RKO), invariably in the part of the diffident male ingénue. Many of these were forgettable second features, such as the supernaturally-themed Beyond Tomorrow (1940), or commercial failures, like the nostalgic Anna Neagle musical No, No, Nanette (1940). There was, however, one stellar performance: his newspaperman David Hewitt in William Wyler''s brilliant adaptation of Lillian Hellman's southern melodrama The Little Foxes (1941). This was followed by another decent role in the fruity (but highly enjoyable) melodrama White Cargo (1942), and the lead in a cliched, run-of-the-mill crime picture, Highways by Night (1942). Then World War II intervened and Richard did his tour of duty. When he returned to the screen, it was without the intensity and vigour which had characterised his pre-war performances.

After several years of indifferent acting parts, Richard found renewed energy for his third-billed appearance in MGM's lavish Technicolor remake of King Solomon's Mines (1950). Perhaps surprisingly, this did not lead to further roles in A-grade features. Instead, Richard Carlson found himself the unlikely star of several sci-fi features, which have attained cult status over the passing years. Pick of the bunch was Jack Arnold's seminal It Came from Outer Space (1953) (based on a story by Ray Bradbury), with Richard in the role of a well-meaning, rather arcane astronomer, witness to an alien presence which turns out to be benign. The sincerity of his performance led to similar parts in The Magnetic Monster (1953) (with similar moralistic undertones) and the atmospheric Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

Though his original contract with Selznick had stipulated directing as well, Richard did not work behind the camera until 1954. Then, he unwisely accepted charge of a silly pseudo-scientific premise entitled Riders to the Stars (1954), a low-budget enterprise bogged down by verisimilitude and technobabble at the expense of drama. In the course of the next twelve years, he directed some better second features, including the westerns Four Guns to the Border (1954) and Kid Rodelo (1966), as well as a number of television episodes. He also wrote the occasional TV script, as well as contributing articles on non-fiction subjects to several magazines.

During the early fifties -- with America in the grip of McCarthyist paranoia -- Richard gained a wider audience as the star of I Led 3 Lives (1953), playing the role of Herbert A. Philbrick (1915-1993) (on whose book by the same title the series was based), who infiltrated the Communist Party on behalf of the FBI. The show proved popular enough at the time to run for three years and 115 episodes. Richard had yet another recurring part, as stalwart Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, taming the south-western frontier in Mackenzie's Raiders (1958). For the remainder of his acting career, he guested in western and detective series, including The Virginian (1962), Perry Mason (1957), The F.B.I. (1965) and Cannon (1971) . After his retirement in 1975, Richard lived the last two years of his life in Sherman Oaks, California.

Actor ( 112 credits )

Cinemassacre's Monster Madness (2007)  David Reed (archive footage) (1 episode, 2007)
Gremlins (1984) Dr. Research (archive footage) (uncredited)
Frontline (1983)  Himself (archive footage) (1 episode, 2008)
Khan! (1975) (1 episode, 1975)
Cannon (1971)  Mr. Archibald / ... (2 episodes, 1972-1973)
Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law (1971)  Al Downes / ... (2 episodes, 1973)
Change of Habit (1969) Bishop Finley
The Valley of Gwangi (1969) Champ
The Power (1968) Prof. Norman E. Van Zandt
It Takes a Thief (1968)  Daniel K. Ryder (1 episode, 1969)
Lancer (1968)  Judah Abbott (1 episode, 1969)
Kid Rodelo (1966) Link
The F.B.I. (1965)  Harold David Dewitt (1 episode, 1969)
Della (1964) David Stafford
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964)  Mattson (1 episode, 1964)
The Fugitive (1963)  Allan Pruitt (1 episode, 1964)
Burke's Law (1963)  Dr. Carol Smith / ... (2 episodes, 1963-1964)
Arrest and Trial (1963)  Turner Leigh (1 episode, 1964)
The Virginian (1962)  Major Ralph Forrester / ... (2 episodes, 1964-1965)
Going My Way (1962)  Francis Delaney (1 episode, 1963)
Bus Stop (1961)  George Whaley (1 episode, 1962)
Tormented (1960) Tom Stewart
Thriller (1960)  Guy Guthrie (1 episode, 1962)
The Aquanauts (1960)  Ross Porter (1 episode, 1960)
The Chevy Mystery Show (1960)  Dr. Roy Flemming (1 episode, 1960)
Bonanza (1959)  Arch Hollinbeck (1 episode, 1968)
Rawhide (1959)  Major Buford (1 episode, 1965)
Riverboat (1959)  Paul Drake (1 episode, 1959)
Mackenzie's Raiders (1958)  Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie / ... (39 episodes, 1958-1959
The Helen Morgan Story (1957) Russell Wade
Perry Mason (1957)  Anthony Fry / ... (2 episodes, 1964-1966)
Wagon Train (1957)  Adam Vance / ... (2 episodes, 1963-1964)
Three for Jamie Dawn (1956) Martin Random
Bengazi (1955) Insp. Levering
The Last Command (1955) William B. Travis
An Annapolis Story (1955) Introductory Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Matinee Theatre (1955) (1 episode, 1956)
Crossroads (1955)  Father William Wendt / ... (2 episodes, 1957)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) David Reed
Riders to the Stars (1954) Dr. Jerry Lockwood
Climax! (1954)  Cass Terhgune / ... (2 episodes, 1956)
The Best of Broadway (1954)  Mike Connor (1 episode, 1954)
The Golden Blade (1953) Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
The Maze (1953) Gerald MacTeam
All I Desire (1953) Henry Murdoch
The Magnetic Monster (1953) Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
It Came from Outer Space (1953) John Putnam
Seminole (1953) Major Degan
General Electric Theater (1953)  Archie Hawkins (1 episode, 1954)
The Loretta Young Show (1953)  Larry / ... (2 episodes, 1960)
I Led 3 Lives (1953)  Herbert A. Philbrick (115 episodes, 1953-1956)
Flat Top (1952) Lt. (j.g.) Joe Rodgers
The Rose Bowl Story (1952) Pre-credits Narrator (uncredited)
Whispering Smith Investigates (1952) Whispering Smith
Retreat, Hell! (1952) Capt. Paul Hansen
The Ford Television Theatre (1952)  Clem Nosek (1 episode, 1953)
The Christophers (1952) (1 episode, 1964)
Footlights Theater (1952) (1 episode, 1953)
The Blue Veil (1951) Gerald Kean
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Thomas Stevens Jr (uncredited)
A Millionaire for Christy (1951) Dr. Roland Cook
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Story (1951) (archive footage)
Valentino (1951) Bill King
Schlitz Playhouse (1951)  Alan Mitchell / ... (5 episodes, 1952-1959)
Celanese Theatre (1951) (1 episode, 1952)
Hollywood Opening Night (1951) (1 episode, 1953)
General Electric Guest House (1951)  Himself (1 episode, 1951)
Wonderful Town, U.S.A. (1951)  Himself (1 episode, 1951)
The Sound of Fury (1950) Gil Stanton
King Solomon's Mines (1950) John Goode
The Colgate Comedy Hour (1950)  Himself - Actor (1 episode, 1955)
Your Show of Shows (1950)  Himself - Guest Performer (1 episode, 1951)
Lux Video Theatre (1950)  Jerry Durrance / ... (2 episodes, 1954-1956)
Robert Montgomery Presents (1950) (2 episodes, 1952-1953)
Cameo Theatre (1950) (1 episode, 1951)
Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1950)  Donald Ring Mellett (1 episode, 1950)
The Prudential Family Playhouse (1950)  Biff Grimes (1 episode, 1951)
Behind Locked Doors (1948) Ross Stewart
The Amazing Mr. X (1948) Martin Abbott
Studio One in Hollywood (1948)  Father / ... (3 episodes, 1950-1958)
The Ford Theatre Hour (1948)  Marlow (2 episodes, 1950-1951)
So Well Remembered (1947) Charles Winslow / Charles Winslow Sr.
Kraft Theatre (1947) (2 episodes, 1956)
Lights Out (1946)  Steenie (1 episode, 1951)
Fury in the Pacific (1945) Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
For God and Country (1943) Tom Manning
The Man from Down Under (1943) 'Nipper' Wilson
Young Ideas (1943) Tom Farrell
Presenting Lily Mars (1943) Owen Vail
A Stranger in Town (1943) Bill Adams
Sucker Bait (1943) Bill - Soldier
White Cargo (1942) Mr. Langford
My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1942) Prof. Richard Inglethorpe Culbertson Kay, aka R.I.C. Ka
Highways by Night (1942) Tommy Van Steel
The Affairs of Martha (1942) Jeff Sommerfield
Fly-By-Night (1942) Dr. Geoffrey Burton
The Little Foxes (1941) David Hewitt
Hold That Ghost (1941) Doctor Jackson
West Point Widow (1941) Dr. Jimmy Krueger
Back Street (1941) Curt Stanton
No, No, Nanette (1940) Tom Gillespie
Too Many Girls (1940) Clint Kelly
The Howards of Virginia (1940) Thomas Jefferson
The Ghost Breakers (1940) Geoff Montgomery
Beyond Tomorrow (1940) James Houston
Little Accident (1939) Perry Allerton
Dancing Co-Ed (1939) 'Pug' Braddock
These Glamour Girls (1939) Joe
Winter Carnival (1939) Professor John Welden
The Duke of West Point (1938) Jack West
The Young in Heart (1938) Duncan Macrae
Desert Death (1935) MGM Reporter (uncredited)

Writer ( 9 credits )

Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law (1971) (1 episode, 1972)
O'Hara, U.S. Treasury (1971) (3 episodes, 1971-1972)
Island of the Lost (1967) (story) &
Off to See the Wizard (1967) (1 episode, 1967)
Daktari (1966) (2 episodes, 1966-1967)
The Man and the Challenge (1959) (1 episode, 1959)
Johnny Rocco (1958) (story)
Mackenzie's Raiders (1958) (3 episodes, 1959)
Schlitz Playhouse (1951) (1 episode, 1952)

Director ( 14 credits )

Kid Rodelo (1966)
Alcoa Premiere (1961) (1 episode, 1961)
Thriller (1960) (1 episode, 1961)
The Aquanauts (1960) (1 episode, 1960)
Men Into Space (1959) (1 episode, 1959)
The Detectives (1959) (6 episodes, 1961-1962)
The Man and the Challenge (1959) (1 episode, 1959)
This Man Dawson (1959) (2 episodes, 1959-1960)
The Saga of Hemp Brown (1958)
Mackenzie's Raiders (1958) (3 episodes, 1959)
Appointment with a Shadow (1957)
Four Guns to the Border (1954)
Riders to the Stars (1954)
The Loretta Young Show (1953) (6 episodes, 1960-1961)