Richard Anderson, who simultaneously played Oscar Goldman, leader of secret government agent the OSI, on both “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” after a long career as a supporting actor in film and TV, died on Thursday in his Beverly Hills home. He was 91.
Anderson famously intoned the words heard in voiceover in the opening credits of “The Six Million Dollar Man”: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better … stronger … faster.”
Anderson was one of a handful of actors who’ve played the same character simultaneously on more than one series on an ongoing basis; some actors in the “Law & Order” franchise made occasional or special appearances on another “Law & Order” series, but were not seen regularly on more than one series.
In the case of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman,” Martin E. Brooks also appeared concurrently on both, as bionics expert Dr. Rudy Wells.
Anderson first portrayed Goldman, who would ultimately be the boss of both Lee Majors’ Steve Austin and Lindsay Wagner’s Jaime Sommers, in the 1973 TV movies “The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War” and “The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping” before the series began in 1974. “The Bionic Woman” premiered two years later, and the two shows ran concurrently for two years, with Anderson appearing on both. Later he appeared in the reunion movies “The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman” (1987), “Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman” (1989), and “Bionic Ever After?” (1994).
According to IMDb, the hard-working Anderson racked up 188 credits during his career.
He had a key role in the 1956 sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet,” in which he played chief engineer Quinn.
“That was the last of two dozen movies I did for MGM,”Anderson told Gannett’s the Spectrum in 2015. “Sci-fi feature films were rather new in 1956, and it changed the genre forever. The whole movie was shot on one stage and, as filming progressed, the studio gave us more money and the best production staff. We turned out a first-class movie that’s still impressive today.”
The actor also had substantial supporting roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 anti-war masterpiece “Paths of Glory,” in which he played Maj. Saint-Auban — a member of the military court that convicts the hopelessly innocent men — and 1958’s “The Long Hot Summer,” starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in which he played Alan Stewart, whom Woodward’s character has her eyes on. Also in 1958, Anderson was first billed in the horror film “Curse of the Faceless Man,” playing an archaeologist who disentombs the title monster. The actor told the Spectrum, “The only movie poster I have hanging in my home is from that film.”
He also played the older brother of Dean Stockwell’s child-murdering Judd Steiner in Richard Fleischer’s “Compulsion” (1959), but Anderson was increasingly moving away from movie roles and toward the opportunities afforded by television, although he nevertheless appeared in features “A Gathering of Eagles” (1963); John Frankenheimer’s “Seven Days in May” (1964), in which he played a colonel whose suspicions lead to the uncovering of the conspiracy; Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” (1966), in which he portrayed the doctor who transforms an old man into Rock Hudson’s character; 1970’s Pearl Harbor epic “Tora! Tora! Tora”; and 1972’s Joan Didion-penned “Play It as It Lays”
Anderson had the recurring role of Ricardo del Amo in the ABC series “Zorro” in 1958-59. After guesting on shows including “The Untouchables” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” he was a series regular, as D.A. Glenn Wagner, on ABC’s single-season drama “Bus Stop” in 1961-62. He recurred on “Perry Mason” from 1964-66 as police Lt. Steve Drumm (replacing Lt. Tragg, played by Ray Collins, who had died) and on the series “12 O’Clock High” as Brig. Gen. Phil Doud in 1966. On “The Fugitive,” he played the brother-in-law to protagonist Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen). He was a series regular on Burt Reynolds police series “Dan August,” in which he played Chief George Untermeyer in 1970-71 — and returned in 1980 for three “Dan August” TV movies for which Reynolds also returned.
In 1978 Anderson appeared in the ABC miniseries “Pearl” as Cmdr. Michael North, and he later guested on series including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Knight Rider,” and ” Fantasy Island.” In a 1983 episode of the brief CBS series “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” the actor portrayed Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
In 1986-87 he recurred as the powerful Buck Fallmont on “Dynasty.”
Late in his career Anderson appeared in two features: “Gettysburg,” as Gen. George Meade, and Charles Burnett’s drama “The Glass Shield,” in which he played Watch Commander Clarence Massey.
Richard Norman Anderson was born in Long Branch, N.J,, and raised in New York. He loved Westerns as a child.
“The stories had heroes and happy endings — I really wanted to live in that world,” Anderson recalled to the Spectrum. “I was especially drawn to one actor who never said much, but used his body language to tell the story. That was Gary Cooper, who inspired me to get into the business.”
He first got involved in drama in high school. After serving in the U.S. Army, he scrambled for acting work, but once he got started in the movies, he never looked back.
During the 1950s, he was a supporting player in a wide range of films, playing the sincere son-in-law, the deputy sheriff, sailor, a detective. He got things started in 1950 with roles in “The Vanishing Westerner” and Oliver Wendell Holmes biopic “The Magnificent Yankee.” Early in his career, to name a few films, Anderson appeared in Spencer Tracy crime drama “The People Against O’Hara”; William Wellman’s Western “Across the Wide Missouri,” starring Clark Gable; “Scaramouche,” starring Stewart Granger, in which Anderson’s Phillipe, the best friend of Granger’s character, is killed in a duel in a key plot point; Stanley Donen’s “Fearless Fagan”; and Sidney Sheldon’s “Dream Wife,” starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
By the mid-’50s he had graduated to bigger supporting roles in at least some higher-profile features, but the actor threw in his lot with the small screen by the end of the decade.
Anderson’s memoir, co-written with Alan Doshna, “Richard Anderson: At Last … A Memoir, From the Golden Years of M-G-M to The Six Million Dollar Man to Now,” was published in 2015.
Anderson was married twice: the first time to Carol Lee Ladd — the daughter of actor Alan Ladd — from 1955-56, the second time to Katharine Thalberg, the daughter of Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, from 1961-73. Both marriages ended in divorce.
“Norma Shearer was very nice to me; she liked and respected me,” Anderson told the Spectrum, recalling his former mother-in-law, a legendary actress. “She gave us a party when we were married — Judy Garland was one of the guests. Norma had a house on the beach, and when we visited her, she would talk about her career and how she ‘had it all’ at one time. She won a best actress Oscar (‘The Divorcee’ in 1930), and we still have it.”
He is survived by three daughters from Thalberg: Ashley, Brooke, and Deva.