Born to Harry and Olga Anderson in Long Beach, New Jersey, 91-year old television and film actor Richard Anderson passed away Thursday due to natural causes, as confirmed by family spokesperson Jonathan Taylor in a statement to The Associated Press.
Anderson is best remembered for his role as Oscar Goldman, the head of a secret US Government spy agency, in the hit television shows “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” of the 1970s.
Astronaut Steve Austin, portrayed by Lee Majors becomes the “The Six Million Dollar Man” when his body is reconstructed with Atom-powered limbs and other engineered body parts after he suffers severe, life-threatening injuries in a near-fatal crash. After the six-million-dollar transformation, Astronaut Austin goes to work for the spy agency headed by Goldman (Anderson).
Following the popularity and success of “The Six Million Dollar Man” – which started as television movies in 1973 and was then introduced as a weekly series in 1974 – the spinoff series, “The Bionic Woman,” was launched in 1976 with Lindsay Wagner in the title role.
In “The Bionic Woman,” Jaime Sommers played by Lindsay Wagner, is a professional tennis player whose body is rebuilt à la “The Six Million Dollar Man” to give her immense powers after a serious sky-diving mishap. Anderson reprises his role as Oscar Goldman in this series as well – playing Wagner’s boss this time around.
Both shows were popular in their own rights, with Anderson appearing as the agency boss concurrently in both of them, week after week, until the shows ended in 1978. However, Anderson is rumored to have coaxed Universal into making three more superhero telefilms – the last of the three releasing in 1994.
Paying tribute to the departed actor, Lee Majors said in a statement Thursday that he first met Anderson in 1966 on the sets of another popular western TV series of the time, “The Big Valley.”
“Richard became a dear and loyal friend, and I have never met a man like him,” he reminisced. “I called him ‘Old Money.’ His always stylish attire, his class, calmness and knowledge never faltered in his 91 years. He loved his daughters, tennis and his work as an actor. He was still the sweet, charming man when I spoke to him a few weeks ago.”
The tall and handsome Anderson started his acting career with a bit part in 12 O’clock High” playing the role of a wounded soldier. However, it was his comedy scenes in the television show “Lights, Camera, Action!” that got him a screen test and later a contract with MGM.
His interest in acting is said to have been influenced by Gary Cooper movies and it was a scene from Cooper’s “The Cowboy and the Lady” that he chose to perform for his screen test. However, with MGM he appeared in minor roles in movies such as ”Scaramouche,” ”The Story of Three Loves,” ”Across the Wide Missouri,” ”Hit the Deck,” ”The Student Prince,” “The Magnificent Yankee,” and “Forbidden Planet.”
He was released by MGM in the late 50s after which he took up work with other studios. His post-MGM films included “Kitten With a Whip,” ”Compulsion,” ”Seven Days in May,” “Paths of Glory,” ”The Long Hot Summer,” ”The Gathering of Eagles,” ”Johnny Cool,” and “The Wackiest Ship in the Navy” among others.
Remembering the actor, his “Bionic Woman” co-star Wagner said in a statement, “I can’t begin to say how much I have always admired and have been grateful for the elegance and loving friendship I was blessed to have with Richard Anderson.”
Here are a few tweets from fans and well-wishers:
— Joe Duffy (@joedarts317) August 31, 2017
— Marty McKee (@MartyMcKee) August 31, 2017
— Paul J. Coyne, A.C.E (@Paul_J_Coyne) September 1, 2017