Crenna dies at 76

Rambo's boss balanced films and family

Richard Crenna, an Emmy award-winning character actor who starred as a lovesick teenager on the 1950s sitcom “Our Miss Brooks” and as Sylvester Stallone’s Green Beret mentor in three “Rambo” films, died Friday in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer. He was 76.

“He loved the camaraderie of a crew. He loved the creative process. He’s been working in it pretty much from the beginning,” said his son, actor Richard Anthony Crenna.

His role on the CBS drama series “Judging Amy” was recently put on hold because of his illness.

Crenna tried to balance work and family, bringing his wife and children with him on film shoots, including a yearlong adventure in Hong Kong and Taiwan to film “The San Pebbles,” in which he played a courageous gunboat captain opposite Steve McQueen in the 1966 naval epic.

In “Wait Until Dark,” Crenna played one of three con men who terrorized a blind Audrey Hepburn in the 1967 thriller. Other credits included 1984’s “The Flamingo Kid,” which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and television’s “The Real McCoys.”

He portrayed Col. Samuel Trautman, the mentor to Stallone’s Rambo character, in all three of those films. Crenna later spoofed that role in the 1993 comedy “Hot Shots! Part Deux,” a parody of such high-testosterone films.

He earned an Emmy for his 1985 performance as the title character in “The Rape of Richard Beck,” in which he played a macho, sexist police officer whose world changes after he becomes the victim of a sexual assault.

In another role as a tough cop, he played New York City Det. Lt. Frank Janek in the 1985 TV movie “Doubletake” and six sequels.

The Los Angeles native began his showbiz career as a child radio actor.

Crenna was elected last fall to a three-year term on SAG’s national board of directors as rep of the Hollywood division. He ran at the urging of former president William Daniels.

SAG president Melissa Gilbert said, “I speak for the entire elected leadership at SAG when I say how sad we all are to hear of the death of Richard Crenna. He was a talented, successful actor and a dedicated advocate for all performers. Although he had only been on the board of directors since last fall, he spoke passionately about ending our divisiveness and had become a force for change and understanding in the boardroom.

“Richard was funny, warm and generous. We will miss him greatly.

“We send our deepest sympathy to his family and we want them to know that we will carry on inspired by our memories of him.”

Bonnie Bartlett, wife of former SAG president William Daniels, recalled that Crenna was universally admired by his peers.

“He really was on the good side of everyone,” she said. “He could get a little hot under the collar on un-ion issues but he was always such a friend to everyone.”

Bartlett, who portrayed a sister to Crenna’s character in “In the Name of Love: A Texas Tragedy,” said he had been active during the 2000 commercials strike, appearing at protests and walking picket lines. “I walked down Wilshire Boulevard with him on the march on the first day of the strike,” she added. “He was a great union man.”

Crenna is survived by his wife of 47 years, Penni; two daughters and a son; and three grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center.

More Film

  • Chinese actor Xu Zheng holds his

    Golden Horse Organizers Set Clashing Date With China's Golden Rooster Awards

    The prestigious Golden Horse Awards announced Wednesday that it will hold its annual ceremony in Taiwan on the same day this year as China’s Communist-backed Golden Rooster Awards – which virtually assures that no major mainland Chinese talent will attend the event known as Asia’s Oscars on November 23. Hong Kong director Johnnie To will [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival Placeholder Berlinale

    Key Berlin Film Festival Venue Set to Close - or Is It?

    The announcement that German exhibitor CineStar would close its multiplex at Berlin’s famed Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz has thrown the cinema’s participation as a key venue for the Berlin Film Festival into doubt. Whether it actually shutters, however, remains to be seen. British-based Vue International is awaiting approval from German antitrust officials on its [...]

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • BTS - J-Hope, V, Jungkook, Jimin,

    BTS' 'Bring the Soul: The Movie' Gets Global Theatrical Release

    BTS will be back on the big screen this summer. The Korean pop group announced today that their latest feature film, “Bring the Soul: The Movie,” will have a global release on August 7. It arrives just six and a half months after the septet’s last film release, “Love Yourself in Seoul.” “Bring the Soul” [...]

  • Box Office: 'Yesterday' Movie Takes on

    Box Office: 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Yesterday' Take on 'Toy Story 4'

    The weekend box office has gone to the dolls. “Annabelle Comes Home,” a supernatural horror film about a possessed toy, is facing off against another band of plastic figurines: “Toy Story 4.” Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is expected to dominate box office charts again over newcomers “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Yesterday,” a fantasy musical set [...]

  • 'The Current War' Trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch,

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicholas Hoult Feud in 'The Current War' Trailer (Watch)

    101 Studios has released an official new trailer for the Martin Scorcese-produced thriller, “The Current War,”  offering a glimpse into the dramatic 19th century battle over electricity that became known as the “war of the currents.” The film, which is a dramatization of real-life events, will follow the tumultuous journey of Thomas Edison, played by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content