Born as William Dennis Gargan in Brooklyn, New York, USA as the son of a bill collector/bookmaker.
Gargan is know to have had a
series of jobs ranging from
soda jerking to street car conducting
but after leaving high school
he had a number of white collar jobs.
first worked as a credit investigator and collection agent for a clothing firm.
Once Gargan was shot at when he attempted to get a deadbeat customer to pay his
overdue account. Next, he worked for about a year as a
private detective with a New York agency for "$10.00 a day and expenses." Gargan
did many of the usual detective jobs: guarding payrolls, tailing possible
suspects, conducting stakeouts, and protecting clients with valuables. He was
fired when he lost track of a diamond salesman he was supposed to be protecting.
he became bored with the routine of a regular job he turned
to acting... .within a year he made it
He was breezier, and more entertaining, in B-films such as Headline Shooters (1933), Man Hunt (1936), Wings Over Honolulu (1937), and Bombay Clipper (1942).
For his work in They Knew What They Wanted (1940), he received a "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar nomination. Whilst during the '30s he played high-energy, gregarious leads in many "B"-movies and second leads in major films; later he moved into character roles e.g. I Wake Up Screaming (1941), Who Done It? (1942), The Canterville Ghost (1944), and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) He played master detective Ellery Queen in three 1942 Columbia programmers. The series could have outlasted the war but the fact that he had no contractual obligation to a studio prevented him to continue the role. The series was so quickly shelved Gargan and Lindsay had to go on in an unrelated movie 'No Place for a Lady' (1943).
Christmas time 1943, Gargan went on a USO tour together with fellow
film performers Claudette Colbert and Keenan Wynn. He spent several months
visiting bases in China. Gargan mainly participated in sketches. He was also
appreciated for his informal talks with the GI's and Gargan found the experience
(which lasted past the first quarter of 1944) to be one of the most rewarding of
his entire career. If William Gargan brought an air of authenticity to his roles
as a private detective it's because of his youth (father)
Gargan learned a lot about the gambling world and met a lot of interesting
characters from across the spectrum of society. The
main reason why Gargan was so convincing as a detective was that he was probably
the only actor of his time who had actually been a private detective.
Before heading into TV he had several roles on radio.
He made few films after 1948, but from 1949 to 1951 he starred in the title role of the TV series Martin Kane, Private Eye , a series originally conceived for television but which also had a run over Mutual Radio from 1949-52. Gargan called it quits on the TV series in 1951. In his autobiography Gargan tells us about the problem the series, and indeed early TV had to cope with:
Nevertheless he soon found another
role awaiting him on Barry Craig, which debuted over NBC Radio October 3, 1951. "Barry Craig, Confidential Investigator"
(1951-1955). The role of Craig may have been just a little too tailor-made for
Gargan. His character's name was spelled originally as "Barry Crane," later
on as "Barrie Craig" and then finally as "Barry Craig."
This was due to the protest by the
producers of Martin Kane, charging that “Kane” and “Crane” sounded a little too
similar. So the character’s surname was changed to “Craig.”
He was stricken by cancer of the larynx, and in 1960 his voice box was removed in surgery, ending his career. He learned esophageal speech then taught this method for the American Cancer Society. As Martin Kane Gargan would hang out at Happy McMann's Tobacco shop, touting his sponsor's products now he became an indefatigable campaigner against smoking.
Two years after losing his speech, he gave his final performance, portraying a mute clown on TV in King of Diamonds. He authored an autobiography, Why Me? (1969), recounting his struggle with cancer.
William Gargan died in flight
between NY and San Diego of a heart attack in February
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|Last updated May 22, 2016|
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