Like Talkies ended the era of silent films, TV was a serious blow to radio drama. And like silent movie talent, there were many actors more than ready to make the transition to the changing media. Gerald Mohr, with his wonderful voice, suave good looks, and well developed sense of cool, was a natural for the new media.
|1949 - 1950||
It was his rich voice that earned his first job in television, as the narrator of the Lone RangerTV series, for 15 episodes from 1949-1951. His voice work on the series is uncredited.
The Lone Ranger: Enter (1949) The first three episodes of TV's Lone Ranger starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. Features the origins of the Lone Ranger, narrated by Gerald Mohr.
AMC TV- The Lone Ranger, 1949-1957 "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…" Narrated by Gerald Mohr
Mohr also had chances to exercise his comic talents, appearing on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on August 14, 1951, and guest starring on My Friend Irma as Brad Jackson during the show's first season in 1952.
One of Mohr's genius moments in comedy would be the Inferiority Complex episode of I Love Lucy (Feb 2, 1953.) Lucy is suffering a bout of depression because she can't seem to get anything right. In desperation, Ricky consults psychiatrist Dr. Molin (Mohr) who recommends a radical treatment to pull her out of her slump. Mohr oozes cool as he flirts with Lucy, inflaming Ricky with jealousy. [YouTube Clip] [Entire Episode]
Foreign Intrigue is set in post WWII Europe, a world of spies and shady underworld characters. The show featured three different series from 1951 through 1955. The third, "Cross Current", starred Gerald Mohr as the owner of the Frontier Hotel in Vienna, Christopher Storm. The series was principally shot in Stockholm, Sweden, for U.S. syndication. Mohr starred in 39 episodes. Featured is a tune that Mohr would sometimes tap out on the piano, "the Frontier Theme"; it is the star's own composition.
Letter To Loretta, aka, The Loretta Young Show , was an anthology of half hour dramas hosted by, and often starring Loretta Young. The stories varied greatly, as did the locations and time periods. The topic may have been serious, amusing, or touching, but it was always uplifting! Mohr appeared in two episodes; as Willie Sheepshead in "Dear Madge", May 16, 1954, and Elliot Sayer in "Across the Plaza", November 27, 1954.
Anthology productions, shows that feature a different cast and story every week, provided a lot of work for Mohr in the mid 50's. Climax! (later known as Climax Mystery Theater), featured Mohr as "Quinn" in "The Empty Room Blues", airing may 3, 1956, the story of a woman fearing for the life of her child after she finds out her husband is a pathological liar.
In the July 27, 1956 airing of Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars Mohr guest stars in the story of a grieving widow who is confronted by her supposedly dead husband who accuses her of murder.
On the Zane Grey Theater , November 23, 1956, Mohr plays "Veringo", the Bad Guy gunning for the local Sheriff. Mohr also made appearances on Crossroads, stories of clergymen of all faiths, and Conflict.
Gerald Mohr made a number of appearances on Red Skelton Show , adding to the comedy sketches by playing "Gerald Mohr Characters."
Mohr is a Bank Robber in "Freddie Finds a Fortune" (Jan 28, 1958.) The loot is hidden in the city dump that is Freddie the Freeloader's home. Freddie finds it and thinks that he has died and gone to heaven.
Clem Kadiddlehopper tries to find a wife in "Clem and the Merry Widow," (Feb 10, 1959,) and becomes the target of a designing woman and a scam artist named Philip, played by Mary Beth Hughes and Gerald Mohr.
"Bolivar and the Roaring Twenties" (23 Feb, 1960) has Bolivar cutting into Scarface's (Mohr) action when his "Bathtub Beer" develops a following.
Mohr returns to the Westerns where he started his TV career, but in stark contrast to The Lone Ranger. In the Feb 28, 1960, episode of Lawman , "The Thimblerigger" a supposed conman running a shell game (played by Mohr) turns up at the Birdcage Saloon, promising to destroy a man. The man is a cowardly husband who ran out on his wife when they were set upon by highwaymen years before. The man turns out to be Sam White, played by DeForest Kelley ("Dr. McCoy" in the original Star Trek series.) When White is exposed in the shell game as the cowardly husband, he shoots the thimblerigger at point blank range. Before he dies, the thimblerigger reveals that he was the leader of the band that attacked the husband and wife, and the girl had stayed with him after her husband deserted her. The girl's influence reformed the highwayman, but she remained in love with her husband, inflaming the thimblerigger's hatred for White.
On Nov 28, 1960, Mohr again teamed up with Barbara Stanwyck, whom he had worked with earlier in his career in Lady of Burlesque (1943). In the anthology program The Barbara Stanwyck Show's episode "Ironback's Bride" Miss Stanwyck's character is trying to rebuild her life when her husband, Charlie Cahill (Mohr's character,) who has been in jail for 15 years returns to her life. She eventually shoots him in the back!
Clint Walker almost singlehandedly started the 50's TV western craze with Cheyenne . In the Feb 21, 1956 episode, "Rendezvous at Red Rock," Mohr plays a bank robber who saves Cheyenne from a band of vigilantes, not realizing he is a lawman. There is plenty of gun play, robbery, kidnaping and murder, before the Good Guy eventually shoots the Bad Guy, but not until we get the chance to hear Gerald Mohr play the piano and sing three different songs! Mohr also appears as "Elmer Bostrum" in the "The Incident at Dawson Flats" (Jan 9, 1961.)
Gerald Mohr would make seven appearances on the western Maverick , making him one of the show's most frequent male guest-stars.
In "The Quick and the Dead" (Dec 8, 1957) Bret Maverick (James Garner) is tracking a man who paid him with counterfiet money in a poker game. When he finds the counterfieter he has to keep him alive long enough to clear his name, hard to do when Doc Holliday (Mohr) wants the man dead!
Travelling across the Arizona desert by stagecoach, Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly) and his fellow passengers are ambush by what appear to be Apache Indians, but are in fact Mexican bandits. One of the passengers has a secret that is worth fighting, and perhaps dying for. Johnny Bolero (Mohr) has the great line "Oh, I never lie. Steal yes, but never lie."
In "Seeds of Deception" (April 13, 1958), Mohr reprises his portrayal of Doc Holliday in the last few seconds of the broadcast. The show deals with brothers Bret and Bart riding into town and being mistaken for Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
"Escape to Tampico" (Oct 26, 1958) was shot on the set of Casablanca, and the story is filled with allusions to the movie. Along with Mohr's resmeblance to Bogie, his character, Steve Corbett, wearing a white dinner jacket, is the owner of Cantina Americana. Bret sails to Tampico to find the murderer of a man in New Orleans. Bret and Steve become close, and Corbett convinces Maverick that he had been framed. Of course he is the real murderer and dies at the of the program.
Bart is hired to protect gambleing hall owner Dave Lindell (Mohr) in "You Can't Beat the Percentage"(Oct 4, 1959). The vengeful cowpoke threatening him is killed, and Bart discovers he is now part of a plot that could cost him his own life.
Mohr's last appearance on Maverick was in "The Deadly Image" (Mar 12, 1961). Jack Kelly plays a double role in this episode, both as Bart Maverick and the outlaw Rod Claxton. Bart meets Mohr's character, Gus Tellson, just after Tellson and his dead brother are in a gun battle. Bart is arrested by the Army for his resmemblance to the outlaw. Once again Mohr gets his share of witty lines:
In the late 50s and early 60's ABC had a series of detective shows on the air that all featured exoctic American locations, catchy theme songs, and attractive young detectives. The series had plots, characters, guest stars, even scripts exchanged between shows. This was relatively easy, because they were not shot in the exotic locale they promoted- they were all shot on the Warner Brothers backlot.
77 Sunset Strip was set in L.A., Hawaiian Eye took place in the recently admitted 50th State, New Orleans had Bourbon Street Beat, and Surfside 6 featured a detective agency based on a houseboat in Miami. Gerald Mohr would guest seven times on three of these shows:
77 Sunset Strip , Feb 6 1959 "Conspiracy of Silence", as Prof. Carlos Traynor
Hawaiian Eye , Dec 16, 1959 "Shipment from Kihei", as Bart Harrison
Hawaiian Eye, 14 Dec 1960, "The Money Blossom", as Martin Haney
77 Sunset Strip, Dec 22, 1961, "Bullets for Santa", as Artie Henneghan
Surfside 6 , Feb 5, 1962, "Surfside Swindle", as Dawson Welles
Surfside 6, April 9 1962, "The Money Game", as Hermes Doratis
Hawaiian Eye, April 2 1963, "Passport", as Robert Alston
Mohr brought his humor to the Jack Benny Program . Appearing with fellow guest star Mamie Van Doren on Feb 12, 1961, they spoofed their earlier picture, Guns, Girls, and Gangsters(1959). In the "Ghost Town Western Sketch" (Feb 11, 1962) Jack Benny imagines himself as a western hero,"the Cactus Kid", and who better to go up against than Gerald Mohr as "Tombstone Harry", with memorable lines like: "Cactus, turn around. I never want it to be said that Tombstone ever shot a man who was facin' him!"
Appearing with Chuck Connors on The Rifleman Mohr gets to play the western bad guy again. This time he is a land swindler, Willard Prescott, trying to get Lucas McCain (Connors) to sell his land so that Prescott can sell at an incredible profit to the rail road. But land is not something McCain is willing to part with. Prescott takes his henchmen to the ranch to rough up McCain, but finally relents, saying "He doesn't know the meaning of the word 'beg.'"
We would resonably expect that Gerald Mohr would make a visit to the the good folks at the Ponderosa Ranch. Over the years he would make three appearances on Bonanza ; on Oct 29, 1960 in "The Abduction" as Phil Reed, again in "Found Child", Oct 24, 1965, as Collins, and finally as Cato Troxell in "A Girl Named George", Jan 14, 1969. Troxell is accused of murdering a Virginia City Judge, but a photograph taken at the Ponderosa proves his innocence, but no one on the ranch remembers him being there when the picture was taken.
Mohr will make an interesting appearance in the science fiction family adventure Lost In Space , airing Dec 7, 1966. Dr. Smith, the shows recurring semi-villian, discovers an alien harp that transports him to a prison planet that strongly resembles hell. He is greeted by this week's guest alien, a very Satan-like Morbus, played by Mohr.
Mohr's rich baritone voice found plenty of work in voice overs and occasionally in cartoons.He was the voice of Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the 1967 animated series The Fantastic Four . Because this one of few Marvel Comics animated by Hanna-Barberra, the series is not property of Disney, and has yet to make it to DVD, although many comic fans praise the'67 version as the best animanated version of FF. [ YouTube Clips]
Private Entrance was shot in Stockholm, Sweden, for distribution in the US. It is apparently the pilot for a propsed series starring Mohr. Mohr was to play Jeff Landers, an international lawyer based in Europe. In the pilot Landers is lent a box of matches with a mysterious phone number written on it. This leads to a series of mistaken identities, an entertaining chase scene, and a fight between the cops and the bad guys in an exclusive Stockholm hotel. Of course our suave star pass through wiser but basically unscathed. Sadly, Mohr suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Sweden soon after the completion of filming of the one episode of Private Entrance.
On April 28, 1969, Mohr made his last appearace in a TV western. He guest stars on The Big Valley as Dr. Raoul Mendez, a Mexican Revlolutionary who is helped by the Barkley clan, but who hasa questionable past and motives.The Big Valleystarred long time friend of Mohr's, Barbera Stanwyck, as the matriarch of the Barkley clan. Mohr's appearance in Our Lady of Burlesque(1943) with Stanwyck was one of his earliest film roles.
Whether it was a case of type-casting, or just a matter of being glad to have work, Mohr was effective in his many roles as the Bad Guy, and maintained a sense of humor, both on and off screen. In a Dec 11, 1966 newspaper interview he states
"The best heavies, however, are those actors who play the part with a little humor, a little love of life thrown in. You've got to look like you enjoy the job. When you break the hero's arm… smile. When you throw sand in his face… chuckle a little. When you push an old lady down the stairs… wave good-bye as she goes. Audiences are happiest when the can watch a man who loves his work."
Gerald Mohr loved his work, and audiences are unfortunate that it came to an end so soon.