Feature, stage and TV actor Ford Rainey died Monday July 25 in Santa Monica, Calif. of complications from a series of strokes. He was 96.
The craggy thesp played presidents, judges and Shakespearean leads, and appeared in features including “The Sand Pebbles” with Steve McQueen and “Two Rode Together” with James Stewart and Richard Widmark.
He was a frequent guest star on series including “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Route 66,” “Perry Mason” and “The Untouchables” and worked well into his 90s, appearing in “ER” and “The King of Queens.”
He had recurring roles in TV series “Window on Main Street” and “The Richard Boone Show,” and was a mainstay of anthology series such as the Hallmark Hall of Fame where he played Abraham Lincoln in “Miss Curtis Goes to Washington.”
Born in Mountain Home, Idaho, he studied at the Cornish Drama School in Seattle and worked at odd jobs including logger and clam digger before moving into acting. He joined the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio in Connecticut and in 1939 made his Broadway debut with the repertory troupe in Dostoevski’s “Possessed.” His other theatrical roles included Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and the title role in a touring production of “King Lear.”
After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Rainey joined other Chekhov associates to create a farm and theater, The Ojai Valley Players. The troupe tended horses and vegetables by day and presented “Macbeth” by night, often with such figures as director John Huston in the audience.
In 1949, Rainey made his motion picture debut in an uncredited role in “White Heat.” He also appeared on Broadway in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “J.B.” “Between Two Thieves” and “The Crucible.” He is survived by his wife, former actress Sheila Hayden Rainey, two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Wilderness Society.