In the 1950s, tall, dark and handsome John Baragrey was one of the busiest actors on television, but because early broadcasts often weren't recorded, today he is basically forgotten.
The Haleyville, Alabama, native attended the University of Alabama. He moved to New York to study acting, then toured the South Pacific with the USO, in a play called "Petticoat Fever," from 1943 to 1945. During the tour, he met actress Louise Larabee, whom he later married.
His many Broadway appearances included "The Enchanted" (1950), in which he played an amorous ghost; and "The Devils" (1965-66) with Anne Bancroft and Jason Robards.
In film, Baragrey worked with an impressive variety of actors and actresses including Rita Hayworth in "The Loves of Carmen" (1948), Cornel Wilde in "Shockproof" (1949), and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in "Pardners" (1956). Unfortunately, one of his last movies is widely regarded as one of the worst ever made: 1965's "Gamera," in which a fire-breathing flying turtle menaces Toyko. He also starred in another Sci-Fi thriller that divides audiences; some love "Colossus of New York" (1958), with Baragrey getting top billing as a scientist who transplants his dead son's brain into a robot that goes on a murderous rampage--others think it's on par with "Gamera."
But it was on television that Baragrey found nationwide fame. He appeared on practically every showcase television series in the 1950s, including "Studio One," "U.S. Steel Hour," "Campbell Sound Stage," "Motorola TV Hour," "Omnibus," and "Robert Montgomery Presents." His TV leading ladies included Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Jane Wyman, Judith Anderson, Delores del Rio, and Jane Powell.
From 1962 to 1964 he appeared on the soap "The Secret Storm" as Arthur Rysdale, and in 1966, he appeared on three episodes of the Gothic soap "Dark Shadows," as a shady character in league with bad guy Burke Devlin (Mitch Ryan).
According to Baragrey's "Variety" obituary, the actor had a brush with greatness in the early '60s: "At a patriotic ceremony July 4, 1963, at which the then-president John F. Kennedy was the principal speaker, Baragrey read the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. When they were introduced during the preliminaries, the president told the actor, "I'm one of your admiring fans. When I was hospitalized with a bad back, I used to watch you on television."
Baragrey died of a cerebral hemorage, in 1975, at age 57, in his home: 21 W. 16th Street in New York City. His wife died in 1988