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Vic Morrow

Vic Morrow

D.O.B.: February 14, 1929 (Bronx, NY)

D.O.D.: July 23, 1982

Cause of Death: Decapitated

Location: Hillside Memorial; Mount of Olives, Block 5

Biographical Notes:

Actor. Vic Morrow was born in the Bronx, NY on February 14, 1929. He played the character, Sergeant Chip Saunders on COMBAT+ACE, television's longest running WWII drama, which ran on ABC from 1962 through 1967. Vic Morrow died on July 23, 1982 while filming a scene for "Twilight Zone: The Movie". As he waded across the Santa Clara River carrying two Vietnamese children, a helicopter crashed beside them. All three actors were killed - Morrow and one of the children were decapitated. His daughter is Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Vic Morrow was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on February 14, 1929. He, along with a bother and sister, were raised in a typical, middle class, Jewish family. Vic's father was an electrical engineer.

At age 17, feeling "restless, rebellious, and stifled" , Vic Morrow quit high school and joined the Navy. After completing his hitch, he earned his diploma at night school. He then enrolled under the GI Bill, as a pre-law student at Florida Southern College a decision, which he said, "had more to do with the drama of a great courtroom performance than any love of the law" . However, after taking part in a school play (I REMEMBER MAMA), he dropped law and began to pursue a career on the stage.

Instead of heading directly to Hollywood, Morrow chose to learn his craft the hard way. He first studied at Mexico City College (1950) where he, "performed in bilingual productions of Shakespeare, Moliere and Shaw". He then returned to New York to do little-theatre work before committing himself to a 2-year stint at the Actors' Workshop under Paul Mann. Abiding by his instructors' wishes, Vic agreed not to act professionally until his training was over. In order to make ends meet, he drove a cab for a living.

His first role after graduation was as Stanley Kowalksi in a summer stock production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. His big break however, came when he turned up without an agent, an appointment or lunch money, to audition for MGM's THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. After beating out the likes of Steve McQueen and John Cassavetes, he was immediately signed and was Hollywood

bound. Critics raved about his portrayal of the tough-talking, knife-wielding, street-wise, New York kid Artie West but Morrow took it all in stride:

Pushing Vic's sex-appeal and leading man qualities, Bloom engineered a screen test for a proposed new television series about the exploits of American infantry soldiers in Europe during World War II: "Combat!" At first, he was considered for the officer role (Lt. Hanley) but both Morrow and his manager declined on the basis that, "no one sympathizes with an officer". The result was a 5-year starring stint (1962-67) as the heroic and highly respected Sgt. Chip Saunders.

In 1958, Vic Morrow finally married New York actress and writer, Barbara Turner (they had been together for seven years). Together they worked on several projects including the satirical musical WILLIE LOVED EVERYBODY, and the screen adaptation of Jean Genet's play, DEATHWATCH. Morrow had both appeared in the latter off-Broadway in 1958 as well as directing a little theatre production of it in Los Angeles. The couple had two children, Carrie Ann (b: 1959) and Jennifer Leigh (b: 1962). Only five years later and on Barbara's initiative (she had been involved in an affair with then "Combat!" director Robert Altman), the couple separated and was officially divorced in 1965. Morrow took it all very hard, especially the estrangement from his children. This, plus the cancellation of "Combat!" in 1967, sent him into a personal and professional decline from which he was never able to fully recover.

By the late 70s, Vic was lonely and despondent. A failed second marriage (1975), the death of his beloved mother (1978), a reputation as a hard drinker, the failure of a pet project (A MAN CALLED SLEDGE) and anonymity as a actor, left him distraught. He also found it distressing to watch his own performances and reputation being quickly eclipsed by those of his daughter, Jennifer. While she had changed her name to Jennifer Jason Leigh in an effort to escape the "Vic Morrow's kid" label, Vic saw this as the ultimate act of disloyalty. Driven by the need to keep busy, Vic found solace in a string of roles in low-budget films, building a new house and playing the commodities market. When, in 1982, the chance came to appear in Steven Spielberg’s latest project, a film adaptation of the classic TV. Series THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Vic eagerly accepted. He saw it as a way to revive his career in mainstream films.

Vic Morrow died tragically in the early morning hours of July 23, 1982 while filming a scene for "Twilight Zone: The Movie". As he waded across the Santa Clara River carrying two Vietnamese children, a helicopter crashed beside them. All three actors were killed-- Morrow and one of the children were decapitated. In his will, written in purple felt-pen on yellow paper, just seven months before his death, he left the bulk of his million-dollar estate (house, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, personal effects and "Macho" the dog) to Carrie. Jennifer, who had remained estranged from her father, received the token sum of $100 while his SAG insurance and some cash went to a female friend (Weiss 72)

 

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