Actor Richard Denning, who starred in the film “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and played the governor on the TV series “Hawaii Five-O,” died Oct. 11 of cardiac arrest at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. He was 85.
The Maui native, who had a history of emphysema, was visiting relatives in Southern California when he died, said his daughter, Dee Dwyer.
He played the governor in “Hawaii Five-O” for 12 years but also appeared in dozens of films including “Some Like It Hot,” “An Affair to Remember,” “No Man of Her Own,” “Caged Fury,” “Adam Had Four Sons,” “The Lady Takes a Flyer” and “Twice Told Tales.”
He also starred with Lucille Ball in the CBS radio show “My Favorite Husband,” which led to a four-year part on the TV series “Mr. and Mrs. North.” (“Favorite Husband” was retooled for TV as “I Love Lucy,” with Desi Arnaz stepping into the harassed hubby role.) Other TV credits include “Flying Doctor,” “Michael Shayne” and “Karen.”
Denning, who was born in 1914 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., studied accounting at Woodbury U so he could take over his father’s garment manufacturing business.
But Denning won a Warner Bros. screen test through a radio contest, “Do You Want to Be an Actor?” He resembled Errol Flynn, who then reigned on the Warner lot, so the studio would not sign him, according to his daughter.
The screen test, however, got Denning an agent, who helped the fledgling actor obtain a seven-year contract with Paramount. Denning made his film debut in “Hold ’em Navy.”
In 1942, Denning married English actress Evelyn Ankers of “The Wolf Man” fame. She died of cancer in 1985.
In addition to his daughter, Denning is survived by his second wife, Patricia Leffingwell, whom he married in 1985, and two granddaughters.
Memorial services were pending.