Mike Connors, star of TV
private eye series 'Mannix,' dead at 91
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[January 27, 2017]
By Will Dunham
(Reuters) - Mike Connors,
the former college basketball player and B-movie actor
who found stardom on television playing the title role
in the popular, long-running private eye series "Mannix,"
died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Connors' death at a hospital from leukemia, which the
Hollywood trade publication Variety reported he was diagnosed
with a week ago, was confirmed to Reuters by the office of his
talent agent, Frank Gilardi.
One of the highest-paid actors on American television at the
time, Connors starred on "Mannix" for all eight seasons of its
run on the CBS network, from 1967 to 1975.
The square-jawed actor played tough-as-nails private detective
Joe Mannix and actress Gail Fisher co-starred as an independent
investigator and his loyal secretary, Peggy, in a series that
attracted a strong following.
The show was heavy on car chases, fistfights and bullets - and
light on nuance - as Connors pursued the bad guys, although he
later professed to a determination to plumb the emotional depths
of his TV alter ego.
"I know that I kept saying I want this character to be as real
as possible, to feel the emotions, the ups and the downs, to
shed a tear, whatever it took that happens to the average human
being," Connors told Fox News Channel in a 2000 interview.
"One of the reasons the show was very popular is because we
tried to stay as close to reality as possible."
Connors was nominated for an Emmy four times for his work on "Mannix"
and won a Golden Globe award in 1970 as best actor in a dramatic
series. "Mannix" was twice nominated for an Emmy as best
Fisher, one of the few black women with a regular role on a U.S.
television series at the time, became the first African American
actress to win an Emmy.
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Before landing his role in "Mannix," the actor appeared under the
stage name of Touch Connors in some outrageous B movies, such as
legendary Hollywood schlockmeister Roger Corman's "Swamp Women"
(1956) and the similarly lurid "Voodoo Woman" (1957).
Connors, who was of Armenian descent, was born as Krekor Ohanian on
Aug. 15, 1925, in Fresno, California. Tall and athletic, he attended
UCLA on a basketball scholarship and was noticed by veteran
Hollywood director William Wellman, who steered him into acting.
His first film appearance, using the Touch Connors credit, was in a
secondary role in the Joan Crawford thriller "Sudden Fear" (1952).
He managed similar supporting roles in movies like "Island in the
Sky" (1953), starring John Wayne, and lead roles in lesser films. He
changed his name to Mike Connors later in the 1950s.
His roles steadily improved and he secured a starring spot in the
short-lived network TV cop series "Tightrope" in 1959 and prominent
roles in such films as the war comedy "Situation Hopeless ... But
Not Serious" (1965), starring Alec Guinness, before landing "Mannix."
Connors filed suit against CBS and Paramount in 2011, asserting that
they failed to pay him millions of dollars in royalties. The case
was later settled.
Connors married his wife, Mary Lou, in 1949. They had two children.
(Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Editing by Steve Gorman and
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