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Ford Rainey.FORD RAINEY

Tall, austere, authoritative-looking character actor Ford Rainey was always believable and gave a winning performance in every TV show or movie he was in, be it doctor, reverend, lawman, rancher, warden, judge, storekeeper or military man—he even played President Lincoln several times.

Born August 8, 1908, in Mountain Home, Idaho, Ford was a painfully shy youngster who found an outlet when he was coaxed onto the stage by a high school drama teacher. He graduated from Centralia Jr. College in Washington State and the Cornish Drama School in Seattle. Growing up in small town Idaho he learned to ride at an early age which helped him in his later film work.

While working to support himself as an actor in regional touring companies he worked as a logger, fisherman, fruit picker, carpenter, clam digger and oil tanker laborer. Rainey served with the U.S. Coast Guard off the Oregon Coast during WWII. He then went to NY to study acting with the legendary Michael Chekhov and made his Broadway debut in “Possessed”. He made his film debut, unbilled, in James Cagney’s “White Heat” in ‘49.

Already 41, acting jobs were few until he became more established in the mid-‘50s. His first Westerns were badguy roles on “Kit Carson” and “Cowboy G-Men”. A good role as the Bisbee Marshal in Glenn Ford’s “3:10 to Yuma” helped establish his credibility and led to more prominent parts in other films such as “The Badlanders”, “Flaming Star”, “Two Rode Together” and especially on TV in “Tall Man”, “Stoney Burke”, “Wide Country”, “Empire”, “Laramie”, “Have Gun Will Travel”, “Rawhide”, “Big Valley”, “Iron Horse”, “Cimarron Strip”, “Dundee and the Culhane”, “Wild Wild West”, “Virginian”, “Daniel Boone”, “Bonanza”, “Alias Smith and Jones” (a recurring role as Deputy D. A. Collins) and “Gunsmoke”.

As Westerns faded from TV, Rainey continued to work on all the major shows—“Mannix”, “Cannon”, “Ironside”, “F.B.I.”, “Six Million Dollar Man”, “Bionic Woman” (a recurring role as Jim Elgin on both the latter two), “Newhart”, “Matlock”, etc. His final work was on “The King of Queens” in 2003.

A bachelor until age 46, he married Sheila Hayden in ‘54. Sons Robert and James were born as the couple settled in Malibu where their daughter Kathy was born. Late in life Rainey became a beekeeper and bird breeder, owning his own solar heater and earning the name ‘The Wizard’ from neighborhood children. At 90 he won trophies in bird breeding from several Southern California competitions.

A more than competent character player who lent much to our enjoyment was 96 when he died July 25, 2005, in Malibu after a series of strokes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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