Eddie Albert, Star of 'Green Acres,' Dies at 99
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Eddie Albert, a versatile actor best known to '60s-era TV viewers as the befuddled lawyer-turned-farmer on the comedy "Green Acres," died of pneumonia May 26 at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. He was 99 and suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Fans who knew Mr. Albert as Oliver Douglas, a New York lawyer who settles in a farm town with his glamorous wife, played by Eva Gabor, may not have known that the white-haired fellow with the congenial face and distinctive tenor voice was a distinguished actor with a long career in radio, on Broadway, in the movies and on TV.
He appeared in more than 100 movies, beginning with the film adaptation of the Broadway play "Brother Rat" (1938) with Ronald Reagan, a comedy about life at Virginia Military Institute. He was nominated for Academy Awards as best supporting actor in "Roman Holiday" (1953), in which he played Gregory Peck's pal with a camera, and "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972).
In "Oklahoma!" (1955), he was the shifty Persian peddler, Ali Hakim, who romances Ado Annie, and in the original version of "The Longest Yard" (1974), he was the coldhearted prison warden.
In addition to his six-year run on "Green Acres," he co-starred with Robert Wagner in "Switch" from 1975 to 1978 and was a semi-regular on "Falcon Crest" in 1988.
He was born Eddie Albert Heimberger on April 22, 1906, in Rock Island, Ill., and grew up in Minneapolis. According to his son, Mr. Albert's mother was not married when he was born and changed his birth certificate to read 1908. He attended the University of Minnesota but left before graduating to work as a "song-dance-and-patter man" with a trio called the Threesome on a Minneapolis radio station. Radio announcers kept calling him Eddie Hamburger, so he changed his name to Eddie Albert.
After the Threesome broke up, he became part of a singing duo on NBC radio in New York City with a young woman named Grace Bradt; they were known as Grace and Eddie, "The Honeymooners." He made his Broadway debut in a play that lasted only a week but then found success in the play "Brother Rat" in 1936.
His Broadway notices led to a contract with Warner Brothers, where he appeared in such films as "Four Wives," "An Angel From Texas" and "A Dispatch From Reuters."
While living in Hollywood in the late 1930s, he began taking long sailing trips on a boat he had fitted out himself. On one of his voyages, he heard rumors of secret submarine fueling stations and of Japanese "fishermen" making hydrographic surveys along the Pacific coast. He reported what he had heard to Army intelligence and then went to Mexico, where he turned up information about Nazi spying in the country.
He joined the Escalante Brothers' Circus and toured Mexico as a clown and as a member of a trapeze act, sometimes as the "flier," sometimes as the "catcher."
He joined the Navy in 1942 and saw action in the South Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his rescue of wounded Marines at Tarawa who had been abandoned under heavy fire.
In 1944, he was recalled for assignment in the training films branch. After the war, he founded Eddie Albert Productions, which made educational films. One of them, a 20-minute sex education film for 11-year-olds, made in collaboration with the University of Oregon, drew the ire of Catholic leaders, who contended that such material might better be shown at home than in the classroom.