R.I.P. Peter Mark Richman, prolific TV and film actor in everything from The Twilight Zone to Three’s Company
He acted professionally on stage and screen for over six decades.
Though his name may not be instantly recognizable, all classic TV fans have almost certainly seen Peter Mark Richman in one of his many roles over his six-decade career. He played lawyer Andrew Laird on Dynasty, was Suzanne Somers’ father on Three’s Company and acted in films as varied as 1956’s Friendly Persuasion to 1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.
Richman, who passed away this week at the age of 93, had so many credits to his name that it’s easier to divide them into genres. Westerns? He was in Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian and The Wild Wild West. What about anthology series? He starred in classics like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents along with lesser-known titles from that era like The Outer Limits and Moment of Fear. Action dramas like The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. also dot his resume.
His Twilight Zone role saw him and costar Hazel Court battle a mysterious giant in “The Fear.” His first of two Alfred Hitchcock episodes “Man with a Problem” also starred Elizabeth Montgomery (six years before she became Samantha Stephens on Bewitched). Other notable parts include his lead role as a former mafia lawyer who works with the Feds in the early '60s series Cain's Hundred and his regular role a decade later in the shortlived show Longstreet, which featured recurring appearances by Bruce Lee. Not bad for someone who almost never became an actor in the first place!
Peter Mark Richman was born in Philadelphia in 1927. He went to college to be a pharmacist and accomplished his goal, becoming licensed in two states. But he was drawn to performing. He soon won roles on Broadway and broke into Hollywood after playing Gard Jordon in the Gary Cooper Civil War drama Friendly Persuasion.
Acting wasn’t Richman’s only love. He was awarded the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Silver Medallion for his humanitarian work in 1990. He also enjoyed painting and wrote his own one-man play, 4 Faces, which he adapted into a movie. To top it all off, he published an autobiography at 91-years-young titled I Saw a Molten White Light…: An autobiography of my artistic and spiritual journey.
A true renaissance man, Peter Mark Richman’s memory will live on in his abundant artistic contributions, especially his time on television.
However for a project I looked at TSWOTWA again, carefully. And it actually had a lot of production value (including lots of scene changes, dramatic emotions, futuristic location shooting at LA Int’l Airport, and plenty of action! While a lot of episodes were intentionally campy and took shortcuts, this one was seriously futuristic. A fairly bold entry into the MFU library. The rarely seen blood (effect) happened because the show was constantly under fire for being too violent in Prime Time. (It actually belonged in the 10pm timeslot, where it should’ve attracted more college aged viewers and action fans). But it’s sense of fantasy and hero vs. evil conflicts attracted the imaginations of young kids too. If you’re going to dive in, start with Season One. With seriously interesting (more traditional) characters. I give the series credit for experimenting every new season. Very few shows of the time ever tried to do it, so radically. This was a quality oriented production team, with plenty of craft talent offered behind the scenes. Especially lighting and photography (pioneering quite a few techniques for the decades to follow).
In the Sixties television was still new and 3.5 years was actually a good run. Certainly enough for syndication. People only credit long standing shows like Gunsmoke & Bonanza. But MFU was an expensive, innovative series. An episode was close to making a made-for-TV movie every week. (Like Columbo). However a constantly moving timeslot frequently lost casual viewers because they were already watching another favorite show in that time period. And only 3 networks were always in competition to be on top! Like ST, only dedicated fans hung on, while the show wasn’t consistent enough to lock in a new (trendier) audience. Batman (a newer novelty) drove the campiness element, never meant to be serious! James Bond drove MFU which only got into homes because of Goldfinger success! But the show (established the new genre on TV) certainly triggering more action/adventure/fantasy shows to follow (like WWW and MI) for which MFU never gets much credit either!
Gard JORDAN, with an "a."
Richman appeared twice on The Fugitive, a whopping EIGHT TIMES on The FBI, at least once on 12 O'Clock High, twice on The Invaders (including the very last episode), twice on Barnaby Jones, and once on both The Streets of San Francisco and Cannon (in the final episode of the latter). He also appeared on the short-lived Streets of San Francisco spin-off Bert D'Angelo: Superstar and in the pilot for Dan August, "The House on Greenapple Road".
My friend Jon Etter, who wrote the book, Quinn Martin, Producer, was in contact with Mr. Richman and interviewed him extensively for the book. I always wondered whether his character in the final Invaders episode would have become a regular had the series continued, and I asked Jon to ask him if that were the case. Not sure if he ever asked about that. I guess we'll never know.