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William Conrad

William Conrad

73 (passed away Feb. 11th, 1994)
Sep. 27th, 1920
Born in
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
5' 7 1/2

William Conrad's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Jake and the Fatman TV Show
Jake and the Fatman
The Highwayman TV Show
The Highwayman
Cannon TV Show
Manimal TV Show
The Fugitive (1963) TV Show
The Fugitive (1963)
Police Squad! TV Show
Police Squad!
How the West Was Won TV Show
How the West Was Won
Nero Wolfe (1981) TV Show
Nero Wolfe (1981)
The Rough Riders TV Show
The Rough Riders
Tales of the Unexpected  TV Show
Tales of the Unexpected
This Man Dawson TV Show
This Man Dawson
Trauma Center TV Show
Trauma Center
Storefront Lawyers TV Show
Storefront Lawyers

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


William Conrad (born John William Cann, Jr.; September 27, 1920 – February 11, 1994) was an American actor, producer and director whose career spanned five decades in radio, film and television. A radio writer and actor, he moved to Hollywood after his World War II service and played a series of character roles in films beginning with the quintessential film noir, The Killers (1946). He created the role of Marshall Matt Dillon for the popular radio series, Gunsmoke (1952–1961), and narrated the television adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959–1964) and The Fugitive (1963–1967). Finding fewer on-screen roles in the 1950s, he transitioned from actor to producer-director with television work and a series of Warner Bros. films in the 1960s. Conrad found stardom as a detective in the TV series Cannon (1971–1976) and Nero Wolfe (1981), and in the crime drama Jake and the Fatman (1987–1992).

Early life
Conrad was the son of a theatre owner who moved his family to California when William was a boy. Excelling at drama and literature at school, he began his career as an announcer, writer, and director for Los Angeles radio station KMPC in the late 1930s. Conrad served as a fighter pilot in World War II. On the day he was commissioned in 1943 at Luke Field, he married June Nelson. He left the US Army Air Force with the rank of captain, and as a producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service.


A gift to William Conrad from Warner Bros. in the 1960s, one of the original figures of the Maltese Falcon sat on a bookshelf in Conrad's West Coast home until his death in 1994.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 Killers. He also appeared in Body and Soul, Sorry, Wrong Number, Joan of Arc, and The Naked Jungle.

Conrad moved to the production end of the film business in the 1960s, producing and directing for Warner Bros. His most notable film was Brainstorm (1965), a latter-day film noir that has come to be regarded as "a minor masterpiece of the 1960s" and "the final, essential entry in that long line of films noirs that begins at the end of the Second World War." Conrad was the executive producer of Countdown (1968), a science-fiction thriller starring James Caan and Robert Duvall that was the major-studio feature debut of Robert Altman.

Conrad received one of the two original lead falcon statues used in the classic 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon, as a token of appreciation from Warner Bros. The falcon sat on a bookshelf in Conrad's den since the 1960s, after it was given to him by Jack Warner, head of the studio. Standing 11.5 inches high and weighing 45 pounds, the figurine had been slashed in the film by Sydney Greenstreet's character Kasper Gutman, leaving deep cuts in its bronze patina. After Conrad's death the falcon was consigned by his widow Tippy Conrad to Christie's, which estimated it would bring $30,000 to $50,000 at auction. In December 1994 the falcon was sold for $398,500.

Conrad moved to television in the 1960s.

He guest starred in NBC's science fiction series The Man and the Challenge. In 1962, Conrad starred in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and guest starred in episodes of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors!.

The 1970s also saw him starring in the first of three television 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 pounds (104 kg), and two seasons later, Conrad ballooned to a portly 260 pounds (118 kg) or more; he joked, "People who were on Weight Watchers were banned from watching the show." 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.

He and Sam Peckinpah directed episodes of NBC's Klondike in the 1960–1961 season. 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. The directed the Brainstorm in 1965. He directed episodes of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors!.

Later life
Conrad had one son, Christopher, with his first wife, who died in 1977 after over 30 years of marriage. Conrad married Tippy Stringer (1930–2010), TV pioneer and the widow of NBC newscaster Chet Huntley, in 1980.

Conrad died from congestive heart failure, and is buried in the Lincoln Terrace section, at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

  • Inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in the Lincoln Terrace Plot # 4448. He is surrounded by his fellow TV detectives at this cemetery who are either in the same section or within very close proximity. They include 'Telly Savalas' (qv) and 'George Savalas' (qv) from _"Kojak" (1973)_ (qv) and 'William Talman' (qv), 'Wesley Lau' (qv), and 'Ray Collins (I)' (qv) of _"Perry Mason" (1957)_ (qv) fame and _"Dragnet" (1951)_ (qv)'s 'Jack Webb (I)' (qv).
  • He was the voice of the original "Matt Dillon' character, in the radio version of "Gunsmoke". When the program converted to television, the part was given to 'James Arness' (qv).
  • There were several 11-1/2" tall falcon props made for use in _The Maltese Falcon (1941)_ (qv). Some were cast of plastic resin, some of lead. Only two 45 lb. lead falcons and two 5 lb., 5.4 oz resin falcons are verified to be in existence today. One lead Falcon has been displayed for years at various venues. The second, which was marred at the end of the movie by 'Sydney Greenstreet' (qv), was a gift to 'William Conrad (I)' (qv) by studio chief 'Jack L. Warner' (qv). It was auctioned in December 1994, nine months after Conrad's death for $398,500 to Ronald Winston of Harry Winston, Inc. At that time, it was the highest price paid for a movie prop ever sold for. It was used to model a 10 lb. gold replica displayed at the 69th Academy Awards. The replica has Burmese ruby eyes, interchangeable claws (one set of gold, one set of coral) and holds a platinum chain in its beak with a 42.98 flawless diamond at the end. It's valued at over $8 million. The lead and resin falcons are valued in excess of $2 million - coincidentally the value placed on the "real" Maltese Falcon by Kasper Gutman, Greenstreet's character in the 1941 classic movie.
  • Provides the voice-over for a 1970's television commercial for "Hai Karate", a men's cologne.
  • He was nominated for a 1976 Joseph Jefferson Award for Guest Artist for his performance in "That Championship Season" at the Arlington Park Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

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