Richard Anderson, who played the boss of both “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” in an on-screen career stretching some 50 years, died on Thursday, a family spokesman said. He was 91.
Anderson died from natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by his family, publicist Jonathan Taylor said. Memorial services will be private, Taylor added.
The imposing 6-foot-3-inch (190-cm) actor often appeared on screen as an authority figure - politicians, government officials and policemen - but also played his share of cowboys and criminals. His roster of guest appearances included many popular shows still airing in syndication such as “The Big Valley,” “Ironside,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Dynasty.”
Anderson played the police chief in the Burt Reynolds’ detective series “Dan August” (1970-1971), and a police lieutenant in the last season of the long-running legal drama “Perry Mason.” Two decades later, he had a prominent guest role in the 1985 TV movie “Perry Mason Returns,” which reunited original series cast members Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale.
In the 1967 two-part finale of “The Fugitive,” Anderson played the husband of Dr. Richard Kimble’s sister. The climactic episode in which Kimble, played by David Janssen, finally cleared his name in the killing of his wife after four seasons on the run, was at the time the most-watched series program in TV history.
But it was as U.S. intelligence official Oscar Goldman that Anderson left his most lasting mark on television. Goldman was the chief of Steve Austin, a secret agent with enhanced bionic powers after reconstructive surgery in the 1974-1978 hit series “The Six Million Dollar Man,” starring Lee Majors.
Anderson became one of the first actors to play the same character simultaneously on two shows on different networks when he reprised his Goldman role in the 1976-1978 spinoff “The Bionic Woman,” starring Lindsay Wagner.
“It was a time when everything was down. The Vietnam War had just ended and everybody was down and we came in with a hero,” Anderson told “Hollywood Exclusive” in 2009 when asked about the shows’ popularity.
In the late 1980s, Anderson persuaded studio executives to reunite the two bionic heroes, which led to three television movies in which he reprised his Goldman role and helped produce.
“I’m very grateful to Oscar Goldman. He’s been very good to me,” Anderson told a Montreal radio show in 1994.
Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on Aug. 8, 1926, Anderson began his acting career as an MGM contract player in the last days of the studio system. Among his many film credits were “Forbidden Planet” (1956), Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” (1957), and “The Long Hot Summer” (1958).
He made the leap into television in the early 1950s, becoming one of the medium’s most familiar faces through a stream of character roles over five decades.
“When I went into television, that’s where the audience was. And in my opinion, still is,” Anderson said in the Canadian radio interview.
Reporting and writing by Peter Cooney in Washington; Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Trott and Bill Rigby