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Richard P. Coogan (Apr 4, 1914 - Dec 3, 2014)

Family portrait of Richard Coogan Jr., Gay Adams and Richard Coogan (1959)




Partners
:
(1) Married Gay Adams, singer, actress
     (Jun 15, 1938 - Sep 19, 1975, her death)
     Children:
     Richard Coogan Jr. "Ricky" (born ca.1950)
(2) "Soul-mate":  Leona

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's grandfather James J. Coogan ran for Mayor, and was the first Borough President of Manhattan after the consolidation of the five boroughs into the City of New York in 1898. He was married to Harriet Gardiner Coogan, a descendant of the Gardiners of Gardiner's Island. The Coogan family bought much real estate in the city before 1900, including the Polo Grounds, long the home of the New York Giants baseball team.  Much of the land in the vicinity of the Polo Grounds, from Coogan's Bluff to the Harlem River, was owned by the Coogans, who gave portions to the city, including the Speedway, a favorite place for trotting races at the turn of the century, which is now part of the Harlem River Drive.

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.


Richard has been acting professionally since 1943. At that time he was waiting for his Broadway "break," when he decided to try radio were he worked as an announcer and news anchor. He auditioned for -and won -the role of Abie Levy in NBC Radio's Abie's Irish Rose. And, incidentally, while performing that role at night, he was working in a defense plant by day.

On radio Richard portrayed Ellery Queen during late 1946 and early ‘47.
Richard replaced Sydney Smith in the radio series but lasted only a few months himself. Anthony Boucher, who at that time was collaborating on the weekly scripts with EQ co-creator Manfred B. Lee, described Coogan’s performance in a letter to Lee (25 October 1946) as “not quite so smug” as his predecessor’s.
(Nevins)

He appeared on Broadway in five different productions between 1945 and 1955, all of them short-lived except for The Rainmaker and  Diamond Lil with Mae West.

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."

Richard Coogan, left, who stars as Matt Wayne in The Californians on NBC-TV, demonstrates authority he will use to rule over annual Yom Kippur dance (Sep 23, 1958)
Richard Coogan with Mamie Van Doren in Vice Raid (1960)
Richard Coogan and Roger Moore in Maverick 'Thunder from the North', November 13, 1960

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.

He also had a continuing role on the police procedural series Vice Raid
(1960–1961), as Sergeant Whitney Brandon. During 1951–1963 he guest-starred on a number of other television series, mainly Westerns such Gunsmoke, Laramie, Bonanza, Maverick, Stagecoach West, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Bronco, and Wichita Town, as well as crime dramas, such as Perry Mason, Surfside 6, and 77 Sunset Strip.

Coogan retired from film and television in 1963 following an appearance on Perry Mason as Police Sgt. Gifford in "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe", and his final appearance as Luke Ryan in an episode of Gunsmoke.
Richard Coogan had a never-ending devotion to golf so in later life, he was best known as a professional golfer and golf instructor
He had a never-ending devotion to golf so in later life, he was best known as a professional golfer and golf instructor.

On September 19, 1975 his wife Gay Adams died after a long illness.
In 2010 at age 96, Coogan was teaching kids golf and running a monthly tournament that raised funds for a children’s center.

Coogan died on March 12, 2014 in Los Angeles from natural causes a few weeks before his 100th birthday  

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.

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References
(1) Wikipedia

(2) IMDb
(3) IBDB

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. 2016 
Last updated Jun 26, 2016
 

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