Sunday, August 11, 2013

R.I.P. Michael Ansara

Actor Michael Ansara passed away on July 31, 2013 at the age of 91.

Mr. Ansara was another of those special actors who turned up in almost everything that I liked! 

His stark, severely-rugged visage allowed him to specialize in playing “The Other”… be his characters from “Other Lands”, “Other Worlds” or, as "Quarlo" in the Harlan Ellison penned episode of THE OUTER LIMITS “Soldier” (1964), a future-Earth warrior from “Other Times”. 
He was known for the role of “Cochise” in TV’s BROKEN ARROW but, unfortunately (even in the wondrous age of DVD), I’d never had the opportunity to see that series. 
To me, Michael Ansara was:
"Kang", the BEST of the original Klingons on STAR TREK TOS.  A role he revisited on the later TREK series DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER.  
An alien warrior chieftain (and father to warrior prince Kurt Russell) on LOST IN SPACE.
An iron curtain military official in 1956 AND a silver-skinned, ruthless alien "historian and collector" from the year 8433 (!) on THE TIME TUNNEL.
Beyond Klingon Kang, one of his very best roles was as enemy submarine commander "Tomas Ruiz" on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and previously as a Russian scientist (not to mention a key player in the feature film version of VOYAGE in 1961)...

...And many more such roles during the golden fantasy-adventure period of 1960s television. 


Later, in the ‘90s, Ansara lent his distinctive, almost chill-inducing voice to Mister Freeze in BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES. 

At one time, he was even married to Barbara Eden and appeared on I DREAM OF JEANNIE and, before that, the VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA movie with her.  

But why take it from me, when you can read a complete list of his many credits HERE.  ...Just LOOK at all the great things he was in!    
I once referred to actor James Arness as "Television's John Wayne".  If so, then Michael Ansara was its "Yul Brenner".  

Rest In Peace, Michael Ansara!   
Only a fool fights in a burning house!”   One of the wisest things a Klingon has ever said – echoing in immortality, thanks to the talents of a fine actor! 


Chris Barat said...


Ansara no doubt benefited from very good timing. An actor with a distinctive voice and "exotic" looks would have been VERY much in demand during the "Era of Fantastic Television."


Joe Torcivia said...

I’ve gotta agree with you on “timing”, Chris.

And, in support of that, I’ll offer Michael Ansara’s appearance on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (“The Western” – look it up in the IMDB link in the post), the next-to-last episode of the series’ original run in 1973 – which I just happened to watch last night, as part of my practice of “reviewing an actor’s various appearances” when creating these tributes.

In it, Ansara was no more than “stark muscle with a gun”, in the service of Ed Nelson’s international thief character (IMF’s quarry of the week). It was not a role that in any way benefited from his unique appearance and vocal talents. Though I was glad for the appearance, as I’d imagine Ansara was equally appreciative of the check.

And, so things were in 1973 when, except for the upcoming KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER, the era of “Fantastic Television” was unfortunately over.

If Anasra had appeared on MI during its first 2 or 3 seasons, I’m certain he would have at least been a foreign dictator, or something more resembling his first role on TIME TUNNEL. A part that would have better capitalized on his singular attributes than a mere security guard with a harsh attitude.

Chris Barat said...


A related question: Would there be a place for Ansara in TODAY's TV environment? And if so, where would he be the most likely to appear?


Joe Torcivia said...

Good question!

And, my quick answer would be as part of the cast of LOST. I’d say the character of Sayid could have been reconfigured to accommodate Michael Ansara in his younger days.

If not, there would be some other place for him. Perhaps a more aggressive and less handicapped variation on John Locke. An actor with his attributes could certainly be utilized somewhere in the vast pantheon of LOST. At the very least, he could be cast as one of “The Others” (…and I HAVE been framing many of Anasra’s roles as being of the nature of “The Other”) – but that would have cramped Ben Linus’s style, and maybe Ben wouldn’t have grown into (in my opinion) the greatest “modern villain character” of all!

LOST remains something you should experience in its entirety, at least once, Chris. I’ve said before that so much of it is a modern spin on “Irwin Allen’s old bag of tricks” – starting out with “basic survival” and then moving on to increasingly bizarre and intriguing elements like alternate character versions, time travel, and the ultimate confrontation between Good and Evil. There would be a feeling of sheer agony in me, every time an episode came to an end. “NO! NOT NOOOW! I WANT MORE!” And, considering how many times Ansara crossed paths with Allen, anything that followed such an Allen-esque (!) trajectory would seem a natural for him.

I’ll leave it to others, who may have a greater familiarity with the products of contemporary entertainment, to offer additional suggestions, but I will say that there are probably MORE productions at the present time that could potentially accommodate such an actor than the entire non-imaginative TV period of the seventies and eighties combined.

And, even so, a look at his IMDB resume shows that he worked pretty regularly in various things until the 21st century.