Roy Jenson

d. April 24, 2007

Roy Jenson, stuntman turned actor who specialized in playing hulking henchmen and taciturn killers, died April 24 from cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 80.

Jenson was born in Alberta and moved to Los Angeles as a child with his family. After a hitch in the Navy during World War II, he played football at UCLA and graduated in 1951 with a degree in geography. He returned to Canada to play professional football.

He was recruited in 1953 as a stunt double for Robert Mitchum in the Otto Preminger picture “River of No Return,” shot on location in the Alberta wilderness. Jenson soon was back in Los Angeles to find more film work during the off-season. He continued to play football for the Calgary Stampeders and the B.C. Lions until 1959.

His stunt jobs developed into small, unbilled roles in films such as “The Caine Mutiny” and “Operation Mad Ball,” and then to real acting jobs in many movie and TV westerns, including The Restless Gun, Yancy Derringer, Wagon Train, “Flaming Star” and “North to Alaska.”

By the mid-1960s, Jenson was becoming a familiar face in popular TV adventure shows, playing tough cops, thugs and gunslingers in episodes of Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, The Rogues, Kraft Suspense Theater, Honey West, 12 O’Clock High, The Fugitive, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, The Invaders, The FBI and others. But at the same time he was advancing as an actor, Jenson continued to get stunt work and non-speaking day roles. He was unbilled in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot as one of the Thrush agents who invade U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters in the show’s memorable opening sequence. In 1965, he played blink-and-you’ll-miss-him bits in “Our Man Flint” and an

I Spy episode, but also had a meaty featured role as a frighteningly vicious killer in the pilot for T.H.E. Cat.

Occasionally, Jenson got lighter roles: in The New Bob Cummings Show, in a sketch on Red Skelton’s show, as a state trooper in The Andy Griffith Show, a comic villain in Get Smart and a member of the Riddler’s gang in an early Batman episode.

Jenson’s run in 1960s spy shows started way back in an episode of the short-lived Five Fingers in 1959. He went on from his brief I Spy stunt job to play both villains and American agents in later episodes of that series. In 1967, he played a somewhat whimsical henchman to Bradford Dillman’s villain in the U.N.C.L.E. two-parter, “The Prince of Darkness Affair” (also released as the feature, “The Helicopter Spies”). He also appeared in episodes of The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Get Smart, Search, the Matt Helm pic “The Ambushers,” and in the third of three unsuccessful “Call to Danger” pilots, this one produced as a 1973 TV-movie.

Jenson is also remembered as Cloud William, leader of the survivors of an alien “America” destroyed by his world’s Red China in “The Omega Glory,” one of the more preposterous episodes of Star Trek.

His film roles took a turn for the better beginning in “Harper,” Paul Newman’s 1966 take on the Lew Archer private eye novels, and peaked with his portrayal of the thug in “Chinatown” who holds Jack Nicholson in a steely grip as weaselly gangster Roman Polanski slices Nicholson’s nose. His other billed movie roles include “Will Penny,” “Five Card Stud,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Big Jake,” “Sometimes a Great Notion,” “The Getaway,” “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” “Soylent Green,” “The Way We Were,” “The Wind and the Lion,” “The Gauntlet,” “Every Which Way But Loose,” “Tom Horn,” “Bustin’ Loose” and “Red Dawn.”

Jenson continued to appear on television in episodes of Kung Fu, Mannix, Kojak, Baretta, The Rockford Files, Charlie’s Angels, The Dukes of Hazzard, Fantasy Island, Bret Maverick, Quincy, The A-Team, Dallas and Magnum P.I., among others. He also turned up in some of the better TV-movies and mini-series of the 1970s and 1980s, including “The Glass House,” “The Red Pony,” “Rich Man, Poor Man,” “Helter Skelter,” “How the West Was Won” and “King.”

His last film role was the small part of an aging prison guard in 1995’s “The Set Up,” with James Coburn and Billy Zane.


Roy Jenson in one of his many western roles, top; as Cloud William on “Star Trek,” above; with Roman Polanski on the set of “Chinatown,” left.

Below left: Jenson and Robert Brubaker as Thrush invaders in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” pilot. Below: with Robert Vaughn in U.N.C.L.E.’s “Prince of Darkness Affair.”