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Myron Healey, 82; One of the Best Badmen in Film and TV Westerns

Obituaries

March 27, 2006|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Myron Healey, a movie character actor whose deep rich voice and sly smile helped make him one of the top-10 badmen of westerns in films and television, has died. He was 82.

Healey, a longtime resident of Simi Valley, died of respiratory failure at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank on Dec. 21, his family said. His death was not made public until an obituary appeared in the current issue of Western Clippings, a western film publication.

Healey played his first western heavy in 1948 -- opposite western star Johnny Mack Brown -- in "Hidden Danger," which launched Healey as a regular in low-budget Monogram westerns starring Brown, Whip Wilson and Jimmy Wakely.

Healey quickly became "one of the best, most recognizable and most frequently seen heavies in the waning days of the B-western and the burgeoning days of the TV western," according to Boyd Magers, editor and publisher of Western Clippings.

On television, he appeared regularly on dozens of western series, including "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok," "Range Rider," "Bonanza," "Maverick" and "Rawhide." In the late '50s, Healey replaced Douglas Fowley in the role of Doc Holliday for a year on "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."

Although he also showed up in "Perry Mason," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" and other series set in contemporary times, Healey was recognized primarily as a western heavy.

"Whenever you see any [Top 10] ranking, it always includes Charlie King, Roy Barcroft, Harry Woods and Myron Healey," said Magers, coauthor of "Best of the Badmen."

Healey was no run-of-the mill, bullying western villain.

"To me, he just brought a different presence," Magers said. "He wasn't the grungy, dirty, mean type of heavy. Certainly, he could do that, but he just had a little slicker image, a little smoother finesse to his evilness. He had that sly smile that, if you knew him when he smiled like that, it was a warm, loving smile. But when he was playing a badman, it was just an evil smile."

Healey was born June 8, 1923, in Petaluma, Calif. As a teenager, he sang on local radio, gave violin and piano recitals and appeared in stage productions in high school in Santa Rosa. After arriving in Hollywood in the early '40s, he studied acting and appeared in musicals for the Armed Forces Victory Committee, the forerunner of the USO.

Healey, who landed a contract with MGM in 1942, enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943 and saw combat in France and Germany while serving as a navigator and bombardier on a B-26 Marauder. After the war, he continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve until 1962.

While appearing in B-westerns, Healey wrote several screenplays, including the 1951 western "Colorado Ambush," in which he appeared.

As for playing badmen on screen, Healey told Magers that in terms of character and personality, he had "much more leeway in playing a heavy." And, he said, "it's just plain interesting, the fact that you're not a nice guy. I enjoyed that much more than playing a hero."

In 2000, he received a Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture & Television Fund for his work in westerns.

Healey, who was divorced four times, is survived by his daughters, Christine Ann Grissam and Mikel Healey; a grandson and a great-grandson.

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