Richard Hanley Jaeckel (10 October 1926 to 14 June 1997) was an American actor of film and television.
Jaeckel became a well-known character actor in his career, which spanned six decades. He received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role in the 1971 adaptation of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.
Jaeckel was born 10 October 1926, in Long Beach, New York, the son of Richard Jaeckel and Millicent Hanley. His father was active in the family’s fur business, and his mother was a stage actress. His birth name was R. Hanley Jaeckel, with only the initial rather than a first name. He attended The Harvey School and other private schools. The family lived in New York until 1934, when they moved to Los Angeles, where his father operated a branch of the family business. He graduated from Hollywood High School.
A short, tough man, Jaeckel played a variety of characters during his 50 years in films and television. Jaeckel got his start in the business at the age of seventeen while he was employed as a mailboy at 20th Century Fox studios in Hollywood. A casting director auditioned him for a role in the 1943 film Guadalcanal Diary; Jaeckel won the role and settled into a lengthy career in supporting parts.
He served in the United States Merchant Marine from 1944 to 1949, then starred in two of the most remembered war films of 1949: Battleground and Sands of Iwo Jima with John Wayne. One of Jaeckel’s shortest film roles was in The Gunfighter, in which his character is killed by Gregory Peck’s character in the opening scene. He played the role of Turk, the roomer’s boyfriend, in the Academy Award-winning 1952 film Come Back, Little Sheba, with Shirley Booth, Burt Lancaster, and Terry Moore. In 1960, he appeared as Angus Pierce in the western, Flaming Star, starring Elvis Presley. He played Lee Marvin’s able second-in-command, Sergeant Bowren, in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen for director Robert Aldrich, and reprised the role in the 1985 sequel, The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission. Jaeckel appeared in several other Aldrich films, including Attack (1956), Ulzana’s Raid (1972), and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977).
Jaeckel also guest-starred in many television programs. He was cast as a boxer in a 1954 episode of Reed Hadley’s CBS legal drama, The Public Defender. Also in 1954, Jaeckel portrayed Billy the Kid in an episode of the syndicated western anthology series, Stories of the Century, with Jim Davis as the fictitious Southwest Railroad detective Matt Clark.
Seven years later, Jaeckel played Denver in “The Grudge Fight” episode of the NBC western series The Tall Man.
In 1957, he appeared as Mort Claffey in two episodes, “Paratroop Padre” and “The Light,” of the syndicated religion anthology series, Crossroads. That same year, he portrayed Lieutenant Bradshaw in episode “War of the Whale Boats” of the military drama, Navy Log (S02E22). In 1956 and 1957, he appeared in three episodes of another military drama, The West Point Story.
In 1955 and 1958, Jaeckel appeared in different roles on two episodes of CBS’s fantasy drama The Millionaire. In 1958, Jaeckel guest-starred as Webb Martin in the episode “The Bloodline” of NBC’s western series Cimarron City. That same year, he appeared in the syndicated drama of the American Civil War, Gray Ghost in the episode entitled “The Hero” (S01E33). In 1959, Jaeckel was cast as Clint Gleason in episode “The Man Behind the Star” of CBS’s The Texan western series, starring Rory Calhoun.
In 1960, Jaeckel appeared twice on Nick Adams’s ABC western series, The Rebel, as Marshal Roader in “The Rattler” and as Clyde Traskel in “Run, Killer, Run”.
In 1963, Jaeckel played Willie the murderer in “The Case of the Lover’s Leap” on CBS’s Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr. That same year he was among the guest stars on the short-lived ABC/Warner Brothers western series, The Dakotas and in “The Predators” episode of Have Gun – Will Travel, Season 6 (1962). Also in 1963, Jaeckel, speaking in German, played the role of Wehrmacht Sergeant Buxman in the Combat! TV series episode “Gideon’s Army” (S02E16). Finally in that year, he guest starred in the TV Western Series Gunsmoke in the S8E27 episode “Two of a Kind”, playing Irish immigrant mine owner O’Ryan, who was feuding with his partner. Jaeckel appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents “Incident in a Small Jail” (1961) as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes , “Low Clouds and Coastal Fog” (1963), “Death of a Cop (1963), and “Off Season” (1965).
In 1964, Jaeckel appeared as Danny in the episode “Keep Cool” of The New Phil Silvers Show and as Mitch Devlin in an episode of Bonanza, ″Between Heaven and Earth″.
In 1966, Jaeckel made a second guest appearance on Perry Mason as Mike Woods in the episode “The Case of the Bogus Buccaneers.” That same year he also co-starred as Christopher Cable in an episode – “The Night of the Grand Emir” – of The Wild Wild West. He guest-starred in 1967 as Dibbs in the episode “Night of Reckoning” on Bonanza.
Jaeckel’s most famous film appearances of the 1950s are in 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and The Naked and the Dead (1958). His film career achieved its greatest success in the period 1967 to 1975, in such features as The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Devil’s Brigade (1968), Chisum (1970), Sometimes a Great Notion (1971) (for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Ulzana’s Raid (1972), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), The Outfit (1973), The Drowning Pool (1975), and Walking Tall Part 2 (1975). “Chisum” was a John Wayne vehicle in which Jaeckel, Christopher George and Andrew Prine all co-starred in prominent supporting roles. The three would re-team six years later in Grizzly (1976) (an amiable “Jaws” ripoff reset in the forest), and Jaeckel and George would team again in another “nature strikes back” story, Day of the Animals (1977).
In 1976 he starred in the B movie Mako: The Jaws of Death.
On television, in 1975 he starred as the title character “Larkin” on the Gunsmoke (S20E17). In 1977, Jaeckel appeared with Donna Mills, Bill Bixby, and William Shatner in the last episode, entitled “The Scarlet Ribbon”, of NBC’s western series The Oregon Trail, starring Rod Taylor and Andrew Stevens. The following year he played Sergeant Lykes in the epic TV miniseries Centennial.
He had a recurring role in the short-lived Andy Griffith vehicle Salvage 1 (1979).
The later films in his career included a major role in John Carpenter’s 1984 film Starman as a NSA agent hunting an alien life form played by Jeff Bridges, as well as in the action films Black Moon Rising with Tommy Lee Jones and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990) with Chuck Norris. In his later years, Jaeckel was known to television audiences as Lieutenant Ben Edwards on Baywatch. He also co-starred on Robert Urich’s ABC series Spenser: For Hire in the role of Lieutenant Martin Quirk.