ichard P. Coogan (Apr 4, 1914 - Dec 3, 2014)
Born as Richard Charles Potter Coogan in Short Hills, New Jersey, to William
Gordon Coogan and Dorothea Havemeyer Potter. William was a former vice chairman of the
National Democratic Finance Committee and was a close friend of President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he urged to run for Governor of New York in 1928.
Richard was one of ten children. "You have to do something to get attention."
In this category he excelled. His pranks at home and at school became legendary
- at least to the local townsfolk, after he completely drained a wealthy
neighbor's fishpond, and gave the fish to his mother in a burst of filial
generosity. Also in the realm of local legend was his courage, especially when
doctors reported he could never lead an active life as a result of rheumatic
fever. He dispelled their doubts, and later became an ardent athlete favoring
golfing, skiing, riding and water skiing.
A graduate of Morristown Preparatory School, his illness prevented him from accepting an athletic scholarship to Brown University and an appointment to West Point. With two careers closed to him, Coogan turned to a third - dramatics. In 1936 he was a spear carrier in Leslie Howard's production of 'Hamlet'. During the run of that same production, Richard met the girl he was to marry, former actress and singer Gay Adams. In 1940 he received a drama scholarship to Emerson College in Boston.
My wife brought my six-month old son down to the theater, and I said,
"Mae, could we have your picture with my son?" She said, "Darling, that’s all I
need is to have my picture with a baby." I said, "well, it will never be shown,
it’s just for him." So she relented and said, "okay, alright then. I’ll let you
do it." So she’s in her full regalia with her big picture hat, and all her
jewels sparkling, and my wife is holding my son, and he’s just dazzled by the
diamonds, you know. And they were this far apart, and he just reached out like
that, and it looked as though he was going for, you know, here -- and she said,
"this young man doesn’t need any help at all, does he?"
Still appearing on Broadway with West he took the role of Captain Video and His Video Rangers on the DuMont Television Network on June 27, 1949. After the live telecast each day, ending at about 7:30 pm EST, he took a cab to the theatre where Diamond Lil was playing. But as the popularity of Captain Video increased, Coogan grew less and less comfortable with both the role and the show’s shoestring budget. He left Captain Video in December 1950, replaced by Al Hodge.
Richard Coogan was often seen on NBC -TV's "Kraft Television Theatre," the "Philco," "Goodyear" and "Robert Montgomery" shows, as well as on a number of daytime opuses. One being the soap opera Love of Life, where he played the heroic Paul Raven. He indulges his knack for impersonations by recording every character in Love Of Life on his tape recorder, then playing the tape back as he rehearses his own role. Coogan was fired from Love of Life over his contract demand for a laundry budget. After producer Roy Winsor denied his request, Coogan began shooting his scenes with a frayed collar in protest. "Roy Winsor and I hit it off great," Coogan stated about Winsor. "He was a golfer and so was I. We played two or three times a week. It was a sorry state when I tested him with that collar. That was the end of our friendship."
Between 1954 and 1961, Coogan appeared in such films as Three Hours to Kill,
The Revolt of Mamie Stover, Vice Raid, and Girl on the Run.
On the NBC Western television series, The Californians
(1957–1959) set in the California Gold Rush in San Francisco during the
1850s, Coogan appeared as Marshal Matthew Wayne, a character who struck most
viewers and critics as a deliberate clone of Gunsmoke's Marshal Matt Dillon. His
co-stars included Carole Mathews in a romantic role as the young widow Wilma
Fansler and later Jeopardy! host, Art Fleming.
Richard Coogan has been an actor all his life. "When I wasn't acting, I was acting up." His sense of humor was legendary and he was determined to live life on his own terms.
Additional video & audio sources
(1) Archive of American Television Richard Coogan interview
(2) Captain Video (1949 episode)
(3) Gunsmoke 'Lover Boy' (1963 episode) (18:00)
(4) Love of Life, (episode 1955)
Page first published on Jun 26.
Last updated Jun 26, 2016
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