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Appeared on EQ tv-showRichard Derr (06/15/1917 - 05/08/1992)





Height: 6' 2" (1,88 m)
Hair: brown
Eyes: brown

Marriages:
None

Brother:
Walter Rodman (b. March 1. 1910 - ), plant manager Columbia Mills, Trucksville, PA, married (aft 1930 - 1946 - ) to Alice Tindall (b.1910- Sep 30.1991).
Children: W. Rodman Jr. b.1933  (Sep 11. 1953 to Sandra Davis)
                 Kenneth Tindall Derr  b.1937 (Sep 12. 1959 to Donna Carol Mettler)


Richard LeMar Derr was born in Norristown, PA, on June 15 1917 as child of Walter Rodman Sr. and Martha Kelp (b. Nov 10. 1883). Reportedly Richard made "headline news" five hours later, when his father bought a Liberty Bond in his name. By the age of five his father had learned Richard how to make martinis: "The best in town."

Their father died around 1926. Derr's mother and 7 years older brother Rodman were left to support the household. Richard and his brother made a pact. Richard would go to work after school to earn money to help send Rodman to college. Once Rodman was established, he would return the favor. After graduating, though, Rodman got married, and "forgot" the agreement to help his brother out. (Williams)

 

When he attended Stewart Junior High, "his voice deepened and awkward lankiness gave way to square-jawed, blond good looks." Derr proved to be popular in school. He auditioned for leading roles in plays and was awarded them, edited the school newspaper, was Vice President of his Senior Class, President of the Honor Society, and "Mayor" of the school. "I was always playing George Washington in some pageant or other but before I undertook the part of George I served my apprenticeship as Robin Washington, George's half brother, until my nose got big enough to handle the leading role." He graduated two years early, at the age of 16.

 

After graduating from Norristown High School (Pennsylvania) in 1933, he held a banking position of clerk at a Norristown bank. He studied with the American Institute of Banking, completing a 4 year course in 3 years. For three years he kept on acting with "The Dramateurs," a Norristown amateur little theatre group, doing standard "little theatre" plays of the period. He then appeared at the Hedgerow Theatre, a repertory theatre in nearby Moylan, Pennsylvania.

 

Pursuing his goal to be a professional actor, Derr became a student of Jaspar Deeter - the director/educator of the Hedgerow Theater in Pennsylvania, and honed his craft there for three years (in the evenings. Daytimes, he still worked at the bank.)

His acting career blossomed after appearing with Joe E. Brown in Elmer the Great and with Walter Hampden's Richelieu at the Maplewood, N.J. summer theater. Richard Derr was appearing in the six-hour version of George Bernard Shaw's Man And Superman when he was seen by the New York agent Maynard Morris.

Morris got parts for Derr in various plays, and finally he got his "big break." He'd gone to the 20th Century Fox studios in New York to "feed cues" to an actress - it was her screen test. But when Daryl Zanuck saw this screen test in Hollywood - it was Derr whom he liked. Derr signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox. He boarded a train for Hollywood on Thanksgiving Day. He was met at the train station in Pasadena by studio personnel, and taken to an apartment in Westwood, near the studio. Derr soon bought a car, a new yellow Plymouth convertible, for $450, which he paid off in three months with his new salary. He was 24. It was 1942.


  Richard Derr, bound with rope in "Man At Large" (1941).Derr with Francis Gifford in 1948's "Luxury Liner."
Above left: Richard Derr, bound with rope in Man At Large  (1941).
Above right: Derr with Francis Gifford in 1948's Luxury Liner.

 


Derr's first movie was Charlie Chan in Rio (1941), Derr played a German spy in Man at Large (1941), which starred George Reeves, as well as a dozen other movies. He so disliked Tonight We Raid Calais (1943) (with Lee J. Cobb, Beaulah Bondi and John Sutton) that he broke his contract with 20th Century Fox.


  A second Chan film role would come with Castle in the Desert (1942). (From L to R): Sidney Toler as Chan, Henry Daniell and Richard Derr. Derr (R) as German officer in "Tonight We Raid Calais" (1943).
Above left:  A second Chan film role would come with Castle in the Desert (1942). (From L to R): Sidney Toler as Chan, Henry Daniell and Richard Derr.
Above right: Derr as German officer in
Tonight We Raid Calais (1943)

 

During World War II, Derr enrolled in the US Army Air Corps, and flew three years as a navigator on flights between between Miami, Brazil and Africa, for the Air Transport Command .

 

Returning to Hollywood, Derr began to appear in "A" pictures - such as Secret Heart (1946), The Bride Goes Wild (1948), Luxury Liner (1948), and Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc (1948).

After 2 weeks in the hospital his mother Martha Derr died on April 9. 1947 in Los Angeles, due to pancreatic cancer

In 1948, Derr played John in a touring production of John Loves Mary. He made his Broadway debut as Lt. Henderson in The Traitor, by Herman Wouk,  receiving a Theatre World Award in 1948/49 for this performance.

 

 

      Richard with Jan Sterling on the Playbill for "John Loves Mary", The Harris Theatre, Chicago, August 1948. Richard and Barbara Rush in a promotional photo for "When Worlds Collide" (1951)
Above left: Richard with Jan Sterling on the Playbill for John Loves Mary, The Harris Theatre, Chicago, August 1948.
Above right: Richard and Barbara Rush in a promotional photo for When Worlds Collide (1951)



Derr alternated his time between movies and the stage in the late 40s and early 50s...and then starred in When Worlds Collide in 1951.

 

Richard Derr, staying at the Gorham Hotel in New York while he was appearing on stage on Broadway, was sent the script for When Worlds Collide, by his agent Maynard Morris. Derr was not a fan of science fiction, he equated it with "Flash Gordon, little green men from Mars, ray guns, and flying saucers." He liked the script and, in the end, practical considerations took over and he committed to the role. The pay was good, the shooting schedule was a short one (four weeks), and he could be back in New York by the third week in January. "He wouldn't miss anything really important". It was a good decision. When Worlds Collide made Richard Derr a star, albeit a shooting one - and soon he was starring in the play Dial M For Murder, (1952-54) which ran for a year and half.

 

In the 50s he had numerous TV-roles and once played Ellery Queen in the TV-episode "Confidential Agent" (8-27-52) of The Adventures of Ellery Queen as replacement for the lead, Lee Bowman who was on vacation...

 

In 1958 another TV pilot was filmed for The Shadow. Several episodes were filmed but again the show didn’t go to series. Republic, known for squeezing every last penny out of their productions, released this to movie theaters as a 60-minute feature titled Invisible Avenger, and again in 1962 re-titled Bourbon Street Shadows. This one had higher production values, and wasn’t bound to a stage set. It opened with the voice of The Shadow much like the radio series. Instead of organ music, though, viewers hear a gong being struck repeatedly in the background. Lamont Cranston was played by Richard Derr, who was a strange choice to play Cranston, because of his light hair. In all other incarnations of The Shadow, Cranston was dark haired. (John Olsen)

Derr spent the next several decades working on stage and in television. As far as science fiction is concerned, he had cameo roles in Star Trek in two different episodes, "The Alternative Factor," (1967) as Commodore Barstow and "The Mark of Gideon," (1969) as Admiral Fitzgerald.

 

  Richard Derr as Admiral Fitzgerald "on screen" in Star Trek's "The Mark of Gideon".Derr's last television role was a guest shot in the TV series "Automan" (1983)
Above left: As Admiral Fitzgerald "on screen" in Star Trek's "The Mark of Gideon".
Above right: Derr's last television role was a guest shot in the TV series
Automan (1983)

 


Derr has also appeared on such television series as Perry Mason (one episode with Leslie Parrish, another with Garry Walberg), The Outer Limits, Mannix (including an episode with Jill Ireland and Sabrina Scharf), Starsky and Hutch (starring David Soul), Project U.F.O. (in an episode with Malachi Throne), Taxi (starring Christopher Lloyd), Dallas (with Joanna Cassidy, Susan Howard, Leigh J. McCloskey, William Smithers and Morgan Woodward), and several episodes of Barnaby Jones (starring Lee Meriwether and Vince Howard and also guest-starring the likes of Whit Bissell, Joanne Linville, and Phillip Pine).


In 1983, however, Derr retired and made a new career in the real estate business, in the lucrative Beverly Hills market, although he occasionally accepted a TV role. He held a real estate broker's license, was an associate of the Beverly Hills Realty Company and a member of the Beverly Hills Realty Board.

His last television role was a guest shot in the TV series Automan (1983) (which starred Robert Lansing, as well as Desi Arnaz Jr. and Chuck Wagner.)

Derr succumbed, just as his mother had done, to pancreatic cancer on May 8, 1992, at the age of 74.

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References
(1) IBDB
(2) Wikipedia

(3) IMDb
(4) Richard Derr Papers with special thanks to Katherine Krzys, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

(5) "When Worlds Collide" by Wade Williams in Filmfax Dec/Jan 1992 issue, #30
(6) Wikitree

Additional video & audio sources
(1) When Worlds Collide - 1951 trailer
(2) Bourbon Street Shadows - 1962 trailer
(3) Tales of Tomorrow - episode "The Miraculous Storm" - 1952


This actor profile is a part of the Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Ellery Queen in an Ellery Queen TV series.

At Arizona State University the Richard Derr papers are held. They confirm his year of birth as 1917. In contradiction to the more widely spread "1918".


Page first published on Feb 28. 2019 
Last updated Apr 6. 2019 

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