Ford Rainey

d. July 25, 2005

Ford Rainey, stalwart and dependable character actor who became one of the most familiar faces on television’s first five decades, died July 25 in Malibu following a series of strokes. He was 96.

Rainey first ventured on stage in high school dramas in his native Idaho. He attended drama school in Seattle, then worked in regional theater and local radio before making his Broadway debut in 1939.

He served in the Coast Guard during World War II, patrolling the coast of Oregon, and returned to stage and radio work after the war.

Rainey made his movie debut in 1949 with an uncredited appearance in James Cagney’s famed picture “White Heat.” He went on to play supporting roles in such films as “The Robe,” “The Human Jungle,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “John Paul Jones,” “Flaming Star,” “Two Rode Together,” “Parrish,” “40 Pounds of Trouble,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “The Gypsy Moths,” “The Parallax View” and “Halloween II.”

At the same time he ventured into early TV with appearances on kids adventures such as Ramar of the Jungle and Cowboy G-Men, as well as the quality drama series such as Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One. By 1961, he was a regular on Robert Young’s short-lived Window on Main Street series. He was also a member of the repertory troupe that appeared nearly every week on The Richard Boone Show (1963-64).

In Search (1972-73), Rainey had a recurring role as Dr. Barnett, chairman of the corporation that owned the show’s futuristic Probe private-spy agency. In The Manhunter (1974-75) he played the father of the Depression-era bounty hunter portrayed by Ken Howard. And he turned up in a number of episodes of both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman as Jim Elgin, stepfather of cyborg Steve Austin and former guardian of femborg Jaime Sommers.

Rainey’s stern yet genial demeanor gave him an affinity for presidential roles. Irwin Allen cast him as fictional, future U.S. presidents in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space, and as Abraham Lincoln in an episode of The Time Tunnel. Rainey also played Lincoln in a 1960 play on NBC’s Sunday Showcase, in the 1976 mini-series “Captains and the Kings” and in “Guardian of the Wilderness,” a 1976 TV-movie.

From the early 1960s onward, Rainey also had guest shots in what sometimes appeared to be every show on the air, including Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Tall Man, Have Gun Will Travel, Laramie, Checkmate, The Untouchables, Cain’s Hundred, Route 66, Empire, The Outer Limits, Stoney Burke, Mr. Novak, The Nurses, Dr. Kildare, Profiles in Courage, Lassie, Perry Mason, Slattery’s People, Daniel Boone, The Virginian, The FBI, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Big Valley, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, The Fugitive, Run for Your Life, The Invaders, Cimarron Strip, and others.

He was equally busy in the 1970s, appearing in episodes of The Mod Squad, Dan August, Ironside, Night Gallery, The Bold Ones, Alias Smith and Jones, Kung Fu, The Rookies, Mannix, Cannon, The Rockford Files, The Streets of San Francisco, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, Barnaby Jones, Quincy and The Waltons, among others.

He slowed down just a little in the 1980s and 90s, with roles in St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele, Newhart, Falcon Crest, Matlock, Moonlighting, Wiseguy, China Beach, Picket Fences and ER. He was still working after reaching age 90, in a recurring role on the sitcom The King of Queens.

Rainey also appeared in many of the made-for-TV movies and mini-series that proliferated in the 70s and 80s, including “My Sweet Charlie,” “The Andersonville Trial,” “A Howling in the Woods, “The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Strange New World,” “Babe,” “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln,” “Backstairs at the White House,” “Friendly Fire,” “J. Edgar Hoover” and “Amerika.”

Ford Rainey, top to bottom: in 1960s publicity shot; as the president in

“Lost in Space” pilot; as Jim Elgin

in “The Bionic Woman.”

Below: Rainey, at right, has the drop

on Glenn Ford in “3:10 to Yuma.”