John Bromfield, 83, the jut-jawed actor best known as a contemporary western lawman in the 1950s television series "The Sheriff of Cochise" and "U.S. Marshal," died Sept. 18 in Palm Desert, Calif. He had kidney failure.
On camera a mere dozen years, the actor hit his peak portraying lawman Frank Morgan from 1956 to 1960. For the first two years, Morgan was the sheriff of Cochise County, Ariz.; in 1958, the character was promoted to U.S. marshal, with the series title echoing his new rank.
That change, instigated by Desi Arnaz, whose Desilu Studios produced the show, permitted more varied plots by enabling Mr. Bromfield's character to range all over Arizona and deal with many types of crime.
Unlike many stage and motion picture actors in the 1950s, Mr. Bromfield embraced the relatively new medium of television.
"About 40 million see 'Sheriff of Cochise' or 'U.S. Marshal' every week," Mr. Bromfield told the Los Angeles Times in 1958. "I'd have to do about 25 pictures, major pictures, over a span of eight or nine years for enough people to see me in the theater who see me one week on 'U.S. Marshal.' . . . The show is seen all over the world. Television is a fabulous medium."
Under both titles, Mr. Bromfield's series was memorable for providing guest roles to many young actors who went on to stellar television careers, among them Gavin MacLeod, David Janssen, Michael Landon, Stacy Keach, Charles Bronson, Jack Lord, Doug McClure, Ross Martin and Martin Milner.
Actor and songwriter Stan Jones, who wrote the western classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky," created the show and played Mr. Bromfield's top deputy for the first two years. The real sheriff of Cochise County, Jack Howard, visited the set when the program began in 1956 and made Mr. Bromfield an honorary deputy.
Featuring more car chases and fistfights than gun battles, the half-hour series represented something of an Arizona version of California's "Highway Patrol."
Shortly after the series ended in 1960, Mr. Bromfield left acting to produce sports shows and to fish off Newport Beach, Calif.
He was born Farron Bromfield in South Bend, Ind., on June 11, 1922, and became a football star and a boxing champion in college. He served in the Navy.
He worked as a commercial fisherman off Santa Monica, Calif., and started acting in summer stock at the La Jolla Playhouse. His athletic physique and handsome face inevitably prodded him toward Hollywood.
Mr. Bromfield made his debut in the 1948 documentary "Harpoon," in which he twice harpooned a whale, and the same year earned his first feature film credit as a detective in "Sorry, Wrong Number," starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster.
The next year, he appeared in "Rope of Sand," again starring Lancaster and a young French woman, Corinne Calvet.
Mr. Bromfield soon married Calvet and, until their divorce five years later, they were a much-photographed Hollywood couple.
Mr. Bromfield appeared in a score of films, portraying buff young gunslingers, military men and even a bathing-suit-clad victim in the horror flick "Revenge of the Creature," as looks often dictated casting.
He was also costumed in a bathing suit for the 1953 Cypress Gardens aquatic romp "Easy to Love," starring Esther Williams.
Mr. Bromfield honed his western persona in early television appearances on "The Ford Television Theatre" and the series "Frontier."
Mr. Bromfield married and divorced actress and dancer Larri Thomas. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Mary.