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Eddie Albert 1906-2005
 


Country : Rock Island, IL
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1906-04-22
Date of death : 2005-05-26
Cause of Death : Pneumonia

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Edward Albert Heimberger (April 22, 1906 – May 26, 2005), better known as Eddie Albert, was an American actor, gardener, humanitarian, activist and World War II veteran. In an acting career that spanned nearly seven decades, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1954 for his performance in Roman Holiday and again in 1973 for The Heartbreak Kid. Among his other well-known roles are Bing Edwards in the Brother Rat films, Oliver Wendell Douglas in the popular 1960s television situation comedy Green Acres and Frank MacBride on the 1970s crime drama Switch. He also had a recurring role as Carlton Travis on Falcon Crest opposite Jane Wyman.

Early life

Edward Albert Heimberger was born on April 22, 1906 in Rock Island, Illinois. His year of birth was frequently shown as 1908, but this is incorrect. While many Hollywood figures have often given years of birth later than their true ones (in order to present themselves as being younger than they are), the motivation in this case was that Albert's parents were unmarried when Albert was born but had married by 1908. His mother altered his birth certificate to 1908 at some point. Albert was the oldest of five children born to Julia M. (née Jones), a homemaker, and Frank Daniel Heimberger, a realtor.

Just one year after he was born, Albert and his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. They had a difficult time adjusting to life in the city, and tempers flared between Eddie and his family. When he was six, he was forced to get his first job as a newspaper boy. During World War I, he was taunted as "the enemy" by his classmates in the third grade. At age 14, he enrolled at Central High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he joined the school's drama department. He also went to the same school with a then-unknown actress named Harriette Lake (better known as Ann Sothern), who was a few years Albert's junior. His interests were restricted to the stage, but he had a strong appetite for reading – everything from philosophy to science. After graduating from high school in 1924, he entered the University of Minnesota, where he majored in business, and subsequently looked for a business job. However, all that changed when the stock market crashed in 1929. He took several odd jobs, working as an amateur singer, a trapeze performer, an insurance salesman, and a nightclub singer.

He dropped his last name because it was almost invariably mangled into "Hamburger". In 1933, he traveled to New York City, where he co-hosted the popular radio show The Honeymooners - Grace and Eddie Show, which ran for three years. Due to his success on the show, in 1936 he was offered a film contract by Warner Bros.

Career

In the 1930s, Albert performed in Broadway stage productions, including Brother Rat, which opened in 1936. He had lead roles in Room Service (1937–1938) and The Boys from Syracuse (1938–1939). In 1936, Albert had also become one of the earliest television actors, performing live in RCA's first television broadcast, a promotion for their New York City radio stations.

In 1938, he made his feature film debut in the Hollywood version of Brother Rat with Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, reprising his Broadway role as cadet "Bing" Edwards. His contract with Warner Bros. was abruptly terminated in 1941, purportedly because of an affair he was having with studio head Jack L. Warner's wife. (Warner had previously pulled him off a picture as it was being shot and kept him under contract for a period afterwards, primarily as a way of preventing him from getting other work.) The next year, he starred in On Your Toes, adapted for the screen from the Broadway smash by the "hot" playwright of the day Lawrence Riley et al.. Another example of the pictures he was doing during this period is Treat 'Em Rough (1942) with William Frawley and Peggy Moran, in which he played a boxer called "the Panama Kid".

World War II

Albert served as a lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard in the Pacific during World War II. A genuine war hero, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943, when, as a landing ship pilot, he rescued multiple wounded Marines while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire. He later described some of these events during a short interview in a segment of a program about the war, which appeared on the History Channel. He also discussed it with Col. Ollie North on his series, War Stories (FOX). Albert returned from the war a different actor with a darker screen persona, although it would take another ten years before he became better known to audiences.

Prolific character actor

Since 1948, Albert enjoyed being both a popular and beloved character actor and guest-starred in over ninety TV series. He made his guest-starring debut on an episode of The Ford Theatre Hour. This part led to other roles such as Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, Suspense, Lights Out, Somerset Maugham TV Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Studio One, Danger, Philco Television Playhouse, The Phillip Morris Playhouse, Your Show of Shows, General Electric Theater, Front Row Center, The Eleventh Hour, The Reporter, The Alcoa Hour, among others. He also starred as lawyer, Oliver Wendell Douglas, on Green Acres, a spin-off of Petticoat Junction, in 1965.

Stage actor

The 1950s also saw a return to Broadway for Albert, including roles in Miss Liberty (1949-1950) and The Seven Year Itch (ran 1952-1955). In 1960, Albert replaced Robert Preston in the lead role of Professor Harold Hill, in the Broadway production of The Music Man. Albert also did some Regional Theater. He performed at The Muny Theater in St. Louis in roles like Harold Hill in The Music Man in 1966 and Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady in 1968.

1950s and 1960s movie career

The 1950s saw Albert appear in film roles, such as Lucille Ball's husband in The Fuller Brush Girl (1950), as Bill Gorton in The Sun Also Rises (1957) and a traveling salesman in Carrie (1952). He was nominated for his first Oscar as Best Supporting Actor with Roman Holiday (1953). In Oklahoma! (1955), he played a womanizing peddler, and in Who's Got the Action? (1962), he portrayed a lawyer helping his partner (Dean Martin) cope with a gambling addiction. In Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) he played a psychiatrist with an enthusiasm for farming. He appeared in several military roles, including The Longest Day (1962), about the Normandy Invasion. The film Attack! (1956) provided Albert with his most serious role as a cowardly, psychotic Army captain whose behavior threatens the safety of his company, including a wounded lieutenant played by Jack Palance. In a similar vein he played a psychotic United States Army Air Force colonel in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), opposite Gregory Peck.

Television series

Green Acres

In 1965, after turning down the lead roles in Mister Ed and My Three Sons, Albert was approached by producer Paul Henning to star in a new sitcom for CBS called Green Acres. His character, Oliver Wendell Douglas, was a lawyer who left the city to enjoy a simple life as a farmer. The character had similarities to his 1956 role in the movie Teahouse of the August Moon. Co-starring on the show was Eva Gabor, who had good chemistry with Eddie. Also starring on the show were familiar actors (some of whom are currently surviving since Albert's death in 2005): Frank Cady, who played the role of storekeeper Sam Drucker (also a recurring role on its parent show, Petticoat Junction); Sid Melton, who had a recurring role as the incompetent carpenter Alf Monroe; and Mary Grace Canfield, who also had a recurring role as Alf's sister, Ralph Monroe. Unfamiliar actor Tom Lester was cast in the role of Oliver's and Lisa's farmhand, Eb Dawson, who also called them his parents. The show was an immediate hit, achieving fifth place in the ratings in its first season. By 1971, Green Acres was still reasonably popular but was canceled when CBS decided to discontinue their lineup of rural-themed programs due to changing tastes and because they were sensitive to the fact that they had been disparagingly referred to in the press as the "Country Broadcasting System".

Switch

After a four-year-absence from the small screen, and upon reaching age 69 in 1975, Albert signed a new contract with Universal Television, and starred in the popular 1970s adventure/crime drama, Switch for CBS, as a retired police officer, Frank McBride, who goes to work as a private detective with a former criminal he had once jailed. Co-starring on the show was another veteran movie, television star and a devoted fan of Albert's and another Universal contract player from the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, Robert Wagner, who played the ex-con man and now McBride's friendly partner, Det. Pete T. Ryan. A very young and unfamiliar actress, a third Universal contract player and another Los Angeles native, Sharon Gless (who had previously co-starred on Marcus Welby, M.D.), was cast as Frank's and Pete's classy and charismatic receptionist, Maggie. New York comedian Charlie Callas played the role of a restaurant owner, Malcolm Argos, who also had a history as a thief and con man and was an informant for Pete and Frank. By all reports, the entire cast got along well with Albert; and during its first season, Switch became a hit. By late 1976, the show became more serious and traditional, as Switch's storylines turned into a crime drama, whose shows played second in ratings success and popularity only to Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, McMillan and Wife, The Rockford Files, Police Woman, The Streets of San Francisco, Barney Miller, among many other detective series. At the end of its third season in 1978, ratings were beginning to drop, and the show was cancelled after 70 episodes.

Long before Wagner co-starred with Albert on Switch, he said of his idol and friend about a movie he watched as a mere eight-year-old, "The first impression I ever had of Eddie, when I was a kid and went to see 'Brother Rat,' and he was absolutely fantastic in that picture. His humor and his wit and the things that he did were so profound for that time as they kept growing and growing." Robert also said, during his tenure on Switch, how much he respected Eddie after years of watching his mentor's classic movies, "It was an interesting premise: I was always doing it in an illegitimate way and he was doing it in a legitimate way. He always was striving to do better and more and take another look at it, and approached it in a different way, and I learned a lot from him. He was one of the highlights of my life, because I liked him so much. We became friends, as it [working together] was a very joyful experience." The following year, after the demise of Switch, Wagner would be reunited with Albert for one last time to star in The Concorde: Airport '79, before he went on to gain greater fame starring in the successful 1980s crime drama Hart to Hart. After Albert's wife, Margo's death in 1985, Albert and Wagner grew closer, as he was one of the people to pass his condolences to the grief-stricken star, who had lost his beloved wife. After the show's cancellation, Wagner kept in touch with him for the next 27 years until Albert's death.

Later work

In 1970 Albert appeared in a "documentary' film sponsored by Weyerhaueser Co. touting the benefits of clear-cutting old-growth forests in the Northwestern United States. (See "Activism" below for citations.)

In 1972, Albert resumed his film career and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as an overprotective father, in The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and delivered a memorable performance as an evil prison warden in 1974's The Longest Yard. Albert gained a huge kiddie audience after appearing as the gruff though soft-hearted Jason O'Day in the successful Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain in 1975.

Albert was later reunited with former Switch co-star (Robert Wagner) in the movie The Concorde: Airport '79, and also appeared in such '80s films as How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980), Yesterday (1981), Take This Job and Shove It (1981), Goliath Awaits (1981 TV movie), Yes, Giorgio (1982), and as the president in Dreamscape (1984). His final film role was as the chairman in Head Office (1985).

In the mid-1980s, Albert was known for endorsing the popular public service message the National Arbor Day Foundation and was reunited with longtime friend and co-star of the Brother Rat and An Angel from Texas movies Jane Wyman in a recurring role as the villainous Carlton Travis in the popular 1980s soap opera Falcon Crest. He also guest starred on a popular episode of the '80s television series Highway to Heaven, as well as Murder She Wrote, and in 1990 he reunited with Eva Gabor for a Return To Green Acres. In 1993, he guest starred for several episodes on the popular ABC daytime soap opera General Hospital as Jack Boland and also made a guest appearance on the Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace the same year.

Activism

Albert was an outspoken environmental and humanitarian activist, supporting issues such as creating of gardens in inner cities. He was one of the first people to call for a ban on the pesticide DDT. In 1969, he and his son (Edward Albert) sailed to Anacapa Island off the coast of California to examine the effects of DDT on the pelican population.

Albert helped to launch the first Earth Day in 1970, which was designated on April 22 partly in honor of his birthday[citation needed]. He was also a special consultant at the World Hunger Conference in Rome in 1974 and a director to the U.S. Commission on Refugees.

Also in 1970, Albert starred in a documentary film sponsored by Weyerhaeuser Co. highlighting the benefits of old-growth logging and so-called high-yield forestry.

In the film, entitled "To Touch the Sky," Albert stands beneath old-growth conifers of the Northwest and proclaims: "This forest is dying. The enchanted forest of yesterday is being replaced [here the camera pans one of Weyerhauer's tree plantations] by the fast-growing forest." Albert then effuses about "remarkable" machines that fell a tree with "one bite" and explains that each American consumes a ton of wood products per annum.

Personal life

Albert was married to Mexican actress María Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell (better known by her stage name Margo). Albert and Margo married on December 5, 1945, and they remained together until her death of a brain tumor on July 17, 1985.

Eddie and Margo Albert lived in Pacific Palisades, California. Their home was described as unpretentious. It was a Spanish-style house on 1-acre (4,000 m2) of land with a cornfield in the front yard. Eddie grew organic vegetables in a greenhouse he had in the back yard and fondly remembered how his parents had a "liberty garden" at home during World War I.

The Alberts had two children, Edward and Maria.

  • Edward Albert (1951–2006) was an actor, musician, singer, and linguist. He put his acting career aside for eight years to care for his father in his last years. He died at age 55, only one year after his father. He had been suffering from lung cancer for 18 months.
  • His adopted daughter, Maria Albert Zucht, who is married and has one daughter, Mia, worked as her father's business manager.

Eddie Albert suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his last years. Although unusual for Alzheimer's patients, he exercised regularly until shortly before his death. His hobbies included boating, jogging, swimming, winemaking, beekeeping, sculpting, organic gardening and world travel. Eddie Albert was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6441 Hollywood Boulevard.[3]

On May 26, 2005, he died of pneumonia at the age of 99 at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California. He was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, next to his wife, Margo and his Green Acres co-star Eva Gabor. Eddie's family was joined by many mourners at a private funeral, including Nanette Fabray, Shirley Jones, Jane Wyman, Robert Wagner, Charlie Callas, Sharon Gless, and several of Eddie's Green Acres co-stars, including Sid Melton, Mary Grace Canfield, and Frank Cady.

Quotes

  • "I don't really care how I am remembered as long as I bring happiness and joy to people." (Source: IMDB.com)
  • "By the time I leave this Earth, I hope to have improved our relationships here and now, so that in the next generation my son, daughter and friends have my shoulders on which to stand, so it's easier to make their contribution." (Source: ABC News)
  • "I always thought I was a singer, but I really am not." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
  • "Right now in California, we gain 40,000 new acres [160 km²] of desert every year, with all the building and the people coming in... housing going up like crazy." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
  • Edward Jr. about his father: "With Papa, the thing that was most important was the quality of love and, almost equal to love, growth. Since I was little, he emphasized growth. That's something he passed on to me." (Source: Grandtimes.com)
  • "What's the most important thing in the world? It's love, and I look at that as an energy, not a sentiment." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
  • On why he accepted the role on Green Acres: "Everyone gets tired of the rat race. Everyone would like to chuck it all and grow some carrots. It's basic. Sign me. I knew it would be successful. Had to be. It's about the atavistic urge, and people have been getting a charge out of that ever since Aristophanes wrote about the plebes and the city folk." (Source: IMDB.com)
  • When asked about delivering newspapers at an early age: "You throw a paper on the porch, but you don't sit down and have a talk...and that's where the real education comes from. And so I missed those best years and I find it difficult for me, in groups, to be comfortable. It's a little late to find that out." (Source: Grandtimes.com)

Filmography

  • The Roots of Heaven (1958)
  • The Gun Runners (1958)
  • Beloved Infidel (1959)
  • The Young Doctors (1961)
  • Madison Avenue (1962)
  • The Longest Day (1962)
  • Who's Got the Action? (1962)
  • The Two Little Bears (1963)
  • Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
  • Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)
  • The Party's Over (1965)
  • 7 Women (1966)
  • The Lorax (1972) (TV) - Narrator (voice)
  • The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
  • The Borrowers (1973) (TV)
  • The Longest Yard (1974)
  • McQ (1974)
  • The Take (1974)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Devil's Rain (1975)
  • Whiffs (1975)
  • Hustle (1975)
  • Moving Violation (1976)
  • Birch Interval (1977)
  • The Border (1979)
  • The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979)
  • How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980)
  • Foolin' Around (1980)
  • Yesterday (1981)
  • Take This Job and Shove It (1981)
  • Goliath Awaits (1981 TV movie)
  • The Act (1982)
  • Yes, Giorgio (1982)
  • Dreamscape (1984)
  • Stitches (film) (1985)
  • Head Office (1985)
  • Turnaround (1987)
  • Brenda Starr (1989)
  • The Big Picture (1989) (Cameo)
  • thirtysomething (1989)
  • General Hospital (1993)
  • Headless! (1994) (short subject)
  • Death Valley Memories (1994) (documentary) (narrator)

 

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