Dean Jagger

Dean Jagger, 87, dependable character actor who won an Oscar for his 1949 film” Twelve O’Clock High,” died Feb. 5 in Los Angeles.

His wife, Etta, said he had been recovering from a bout with the flu but was otherwise in apparent good health.

Born Dean Jeffries Jagger in Lima, Ohio, he studied at Wabash College in Indiana and became a vaudeville performer and stage actor. His film career got off to a slow start in 1929 with a supporting role to Mary Astor and Robert Armstrong in the Fox silent “Woman From Hell.”

He eventually made over 60 feature films, the best of these for 20th Century-Fox, but only rarely got plum roles with top directors. Most of his features were Westerns of the second rank.

He appeared in six B pictures for Paramount in 1934 and 1935: “You Belong To Me”; “College Rhythm”; “Wings In The Dark”; “Home On The Range”; “People Will Talk”; and “Men Without Names.”

He moved up to a good Mitchell Leisen picture in 1936, “Thirteen Hours by Air,” as well as his first leading role, in the horror pic “Revolt Of The Zombies.” Except for the 1937 Wallace Ford pic “Exiled To Shanghai,” Jagger concentrated on his stage career until his first big break on screen, the title role of Henry Hathaway’s 1940 film “Brigham Young – Frontiersman.” It was Jagger’s first A movie and he was in constant demand for character roles over the next four decades.

Western roles, both as heavies and good guys, followed, including “Western Union,” “Valley Of The Sun,” “The Omaha Trail” and “The Men In Her Life.”

In 1943, he made Lewis Milestone’s controversial “North Star,” scripted by Lillian Hellman. Another career peak came the following year in “When Strangers Marry.”

He went to England in 1945 for a key role in “I Live In Grosvenor Square.”

Jagger supported Rosalind Russell in “Sister Kenny,” followed by “Pursued” and “Driftwood.”

In 1949, he took home the best supporting actor Academy Award in Henry King’s war picture “Twelve O’Clock High,” starring Gregory Peck. Earlier that year he starred in the B movie “‘C’ Man.”

The following year he went to Paramount for several pictures: “Dark City” (which introduced Charlton Heston), Leo McCarey’s “My Son John,” as well as two Byron Haskin Westerns, “Warpath” and “The Denver And Rio Grande.”

Hathaway, who had given Jagger his break in “Brigham Young,” directed him in the 1951 Western “Rawhide.”

In 1952, Jagger co-directed (uncredited) with Arthur Lubin and co-starred in “It Grows On Trees.”

Fox’ inaugural Cinemascope film “The Robe” was followed by “Private Hell 36.” In 1954, Jagger was featured in “Executive Suite” and “White Christmas.”

After the oddball “It’s A Dog’s Life” and the minor “The Eternal Sea,” Jagger bounced back in “Bad Day At Black Rock.” He appeared in “Three Brave Men” and “The Great Man.”

He moved into the sci-fi genre with 1956 pic “On The Threshold Of Space” and with the British horror film “X, The Unknown.”

Sam Fuller directed Jagger in “Forty Guns,” and Jagger supported Pat Boone in Boone’s screen debut, “Bernardine.” He appeared in “Kid Creole” and was featured in “The Proud Rebel.”

In 1959, he had a supporting role in “The Nun’s Story.” The following year, Richard Brooks cast him in his awardwinning “Elmer Gantry.”

Jagger’s subsequent films did not reach these heights, and he became known more for his tv appearances, co-starring in the ’60s tv series “Mr. Novak.”

He had appeared on the small screen in the early ’50s in such shows as “Gulf Playhouse,” “Studio 57,” “Zane Grey Theater” and “Playhouse 90.” He also guested in the ’60s on “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” “GE Theater” and “The Fugitive.”

His film credits during that decade began with “Cash McCall” and “Parrish.” He also appeared in “Jumbo” and “The Honeymoon Machine.”

After a five-year lapse, Jagger filmed “First To Fight,” “The Day Of The Evil Gun,” “Smith” and “Tiger By The Tail.”

After John Huston’s unsuccessful all-star “The Kremlin Letter,” he was featured in a sleeper hit, Richard C. Sarafian’s “Vanishing Point.”

The rest of Jagger’s film career consists of forgettable indie B movies: the ax-murder pic “So Sad About Gloria”; “Goddamn Dr. Shagetz” (unreleased for a decade until it popped up as “Evil-town”); “The Great Lester Boggs”; “The End Of The World”; Robert Clouse’s posthumous Bruce Lee pasteup “Game Of Death”; and Lewis Teague’s classic B, the John Sayles-scripted “Alligator.”

More impressive was Jagger’s roster of tv movies, including “Lonely Profession”; “Brotherhood Of The Bell”; “Incident In San Francisco”; “The Glass House”; “The Delphi Bureau”; “The Stranger”; “The Lie”; “I Heard The Owl Call My Name”; “The Hanged Man”; “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case”; “Gideon’s Trumpet”; and “Haywire.”

He won an Emmy award in 1989 for his role in the religious show “This Is The Life.”

Survived by his wife; daughter, Diane Pearson; and two stepsons, Tom and Lee Winger.

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