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William Conrad 1920-1994

Country : Louisville, Kentucky
Profession : Actor, Comedian
Date of birth : 1920-09-27
Date of death : 1994-02-11
Cause of Death : Heart Failure

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William Conrad (September 27, 1920 – February 11, 1994) was an American film and television director and an actor and narrator in radio, film, and television known for his baritone voice, as well as his sizable girth.

Early life

Conrad was born William Cann in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a theatre-owner who moved to southern California, where he excelled at drama and literature while at school. Starting work in radio in the late 1930s in California, Conrad went on to serve as a fighter pilot in World War II. He returned to the airwaves after the war, going on to accumulate over 7,000 roles in radio by his own estimate.



Conrad began his career as an announcer, writer and director for the Los Angeles radio station KMPC in the late 1930s. His radio career was briefly interrupted when he served as a fighter-pilot in 1943, serving in World War Two. Two years later, he left the US Army Air Force with the rank of captain, having finished his time in the service as producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Conrad's deep, resonant voice led to a number of noteworthy roles in radio drama, most prominently his originating the role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the Western program Gunsmoke from 1952–61. Dillon was Conrad's longest running role, and he starred on the series for all of its nine years. In addition to starring, Conrad is credited as having penned the June 1953 episode "Sundown". When Gunsmoke was adapted for television in 1955, the network did not appear interested in bringing either Conrad or his radio costars to the new medium, despite a campaign to convince the network.

Conrad estimated that he appeared in over 7,500 roles on radio. He was regularly heard inviting listeners to “get away from it all” on CBS’ Escape. Other radio series to which Conrad contributed his talents included Suspense and The Damon Runyon Theater, The Lux Radio Theater, Nightbeat, and Fibber McGee and Molly. For “The Wax Works,” a 1956 episode of Suspense, Conrad demonstrated his versatility by performing all the roles. One particularly memorable radio piece was the 1957 CBS Radio Workshop broadcast "Epitaphs," an adaptation of the Edgar Lee Masters poetry volume Spoon River Anthology; Conrad both directed and narrated the production. During the early '50s, because of his CBS contract, he sometimes appeared on other network radio shows under the alias "Julius Krelboyne".


Among Conrad's various film roles, where he was usually cast as threatening figures, perhaps his most notable role was his first credited one, as one of the gunmen sent to eliminate Burt Lancaster in the 1946 film The Killers. He also appeared in Body and Soul (1947), Sorry, Wrong Number, Joan of Arc (both 1948), and The Naked Jungle (1954).

As a producer for Warner Brothers, he made a string of feature films, including An American Dream (1966, retitled See You in Hell, Darling for British release), A Covenant With Death (1966), First to Fight (1967) and The Cool Ones (1967), and also directed My Blood Runs Cold, Brainstorm and Two on a Guillotine (all 1965).


Conrad moved to television in the 1960s. He guest starred in NBC's science fiction series The Man and the Challenge. In 1962, Conrad guest starred and directed episodes of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors!. He and Sam Peckinpah directed episodes of NBC's Klondike in the 1960–1961 season. He returned to voice work (most notably as narrator of The Fugitive from 1963–67) and the direction of Brainstorm in 1965. He narrated the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle series from 1959–64 (as "Bill Conrad"), and later performed the role of Denethor in the 1980 animated TV version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Return of the King. Conrad intoned the rhyming narration heard over the credits of the 1970 John Wayne Western Chisum. From 1973 to 1978 Mr. Conrad narrated a nature program titled "The Wild, Wild World of Animals". The 1970s also saw him starring onscreen in the first of three detective series which would bring him an added measure of renown, Cannon, which ran on CBS from 1971–1976. While starring in the show, he weighed a beefy 230, and two seasons later, Conrad ballooned to a portly 260+, and he stated "People who were on weight watchers, were banned from watching the show." He later narrated The Making of Star Wars (1977) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979). He starred in both Nero Wolfe (1981) and Jake and the Fatman (1987–1992), with Joe Penny. He was also the on-camera spokesman for First Alert fire prevention products for many years, as well as Hai Karate men's cologne.

Conrad's credits as a director include episodes of The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, Have Gun – Will Travel, and 77 Sunset Strip, among others.

Later life

Conrad had one son, Christopher, with his first wife, Susie. When Susie died after thirty years of marriage, Conrad married Tippy Stringer Huntley, a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park and the widow of former NBC newscaster Chet Huntley.

On February 11, 1994, Conrad died from congestive heart failure in Los Angeles, California. He is interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in the Lincoln Terrace.


Conrad was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997.

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show Narrator (1961-73)
The Fugitive Narrator (1963)
Cannon Frank Cannon (1971-76)
Jake and the Fatman "Fatman" McCabe (1987-92)
Manimal Narrator (1983)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Narrator

Two on a Guillotine (23-Jan-1965)

Hudson Hawk (24-May-1991) Narrator [VOICE]
The Return of the King (11-May-1980) [VOICE]
Moonshine County Express (1-Jun-1977)
The Macahans (19-Jan-1976) Narrator [VOICE]
The Brotherhood of the Bell (17-Sep-1970)
-30- (11-Nov-1959)
The Conqueror (21-Feb-1956)
Johnny Concho (1956)
The Naked Jungle (3-Mar-1954)
The Desert Song (20-May-1953)
Lone Star (8-Feb-1952)
The Racket (12-Dec-1951)
Cry Danger (21-Feb-1951)
The Milkman (17-Oct-1950)
Tension (11-Jan-1950)
East Side, West Side (22-Dec-1949)
Joan of Arc (11-Nov-1948)
Sorry, Wrong Number (1-Sep-1948)
Four Faces West (3-Aug-1948)
Body and Soul (22-Aug-1947)
The Killers (28-Aug-1946)

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