Richard Donald Crenna (November 30, 1926 – January 17, 2003) was an American motion picture, television, and radio actor and occasional television director. He starred in such motion pictures as The Sand Pebbles, Wait Until Dark, Body Heat, the first three Rambo movies, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and The Flamingo Kid. Crenna played “Walter Denton” in the CBS radio and CBS-TV network series Our Miss Brooks, and “Luke McCoy” in ABC's TV comedy series, The Real McCoys, (1957–63), which moved to CBS-TV in September 1962. Crenna was in one of the few TV political dramatic series Slattery's People on CBS. Crenna played “Colonel Trautman” in the first three Rambo movies. He also played “Frank Skimmerhorn” in the critically acclaimed mini-series Centennial.
Crenna was born in Los Angeles, the only child of Edith J. (née Pollette), who was a hotel manager in Los Angeles, and Dominick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian ancestry. Crenna attended Virgil Junior High School, followed by Belmont High School in Los Angeles. Following High School Crenna participated in WWII serving in the infantry as a Radioman - where he saw combat duty in the European theater at the Battle of the Bulge. Crenna also served in the Pacific theater decoding Japanese intercepts. Following WWII, Crenna attended the University of Southern California where he Majored in English. Crenna served in the US Army during World War II.
Crenna got his acting start on radio, appearing in My Favorite Husband, Boy Scout Jamboree, A Date With Judy, The Great Gildersleeve, and Our Miss Brooks. He remained with the cast of the last show when it moved to television.
He guest starred on I Love Lucy with Janet Waldo and on NBC's 1955-1956 Frontier anthology series in the lead role of the episode entitled “The Ten Days of John Leslie”.
When the Our Miss Brooks TV series, which starred the actress Eve Arden, underwent a change in format, his character “Walter Denton” was written off this series. Then, Crenna joined the cast of the comedy series, The Real McCoys as “Luke McCoy”. The actress Kathleen Nolan was cast as his young wife, “Kate McCoy” in this series. Later, Crenna became one of the four directors of the series during its six-year run.
Crenna portrayed the state senator James Slattery of California in the TV series Slattery's People (1965–66), and for his acting in this series, he was twice nominated for Emmy Awards with slightly different names: for “Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment”, in 1965, and for “Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series”, in 1965. Crenna was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for “Best TV Star - Male” in 1965, for this same role. During the 1970s Crenna continued his acting in such Western dramas such as Catlow, Breakheart Pass, and A Man Called Noon. He made a notable performance in Jean-Pierre Melville's final film 'Un Flic' in 1972.
Crenna was rewarded with an Emmy Award, and a nomination for a Golden Globe Award, for his performance as the main character in the movie The Rape of Richard Beck.
Crenna portrayed the character of New York City Police Lieutenant of Detectives Frank Janek in a series of seven popular made for television films starting in 1988 and ending in 1994.
Crenna is perhaps best known today for his role as John Rambo's ex-commanding Officer “Colonel Sam Trautman” in the first three Rambo films, a role for which he was hired after the actor Kirk Douglas left the production just one day into the filming of the first movie of the series. Crenna himself also spoofed this character in the movie Hot Shots! Part Deux, in 1993.
Crenna was awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard. Crenna's performances were also reportedly the inspiration for the character “Colonel Roy Campbell” in the Metal Gear series of games.
Illnesses and death
Crenna suffered from pancreatic cancer during his later years, but he reportedly died of heart failure in 2003. His remains were cremated. At the time of his death, Crenna was portraying the recurring character of “Jared Duff” in the series Judging Amy on CBS-TV. During this series, Crenna's death was acknowledged also by the death of “Jared Duff”, shortly before he had planned to marry the title character's mother (played by Tyne Daly). Crenna, in 1997, also suffered with thyroid cancer, which nearly claimed his voice.