July 27, 2011


G.D. Spradlin, Prolific Character Actor, Dies at 90 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 7/26/11, NY Times)

Gervase Duan Spradlin was born on Aug. 31, 1920, in Pauls Valley, Okla., and grew up on a farm. A son of schoolteachers, he earned a degree in education from the University of Oklahoma in 1941 and then taught history. In World War II he served in the Army Air Forces in China as an air traffic controller. After his discharge he returned to the University of Oklahoma and earned a law degree in 1948.

He went to work for the Phillips Petroleum Company, first as head of its legal department in Caracas, Venezuela, then in Oklahoma City. In 1951, he teamed up with a geologist to drill their own oil wells. Mr. Spradlin made a fortune, retired in 1960 and spent a year and a half sailing in the Bahamas with his family.

It wasn't enough. "Being rich changes surprisingly little," he said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1967. "You still have to have an absorbing interest in life, something to do to make you feel alive."

He ran Senator John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in Oklahoma in 1960, and he himself ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oklahoma City in 1965. That year he earned a master's degree in Latin American studies from the University of Miami.

But the passion he longed for turned out to be acting. He developed an interest in it by watching his teenage daughter Wendy perform in local drama productions. Soon he was acting in plays himself. He moved to Los Angeles and began to audition. Fred Roos, a prominent casting director and producer, cast him in "I Spy," "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." and other television series. Mr. Roos was later co-producer of "The Godfather, Part II" and "Apocalypse Now." [...]

His grandson said Mr. Spradlin had often remarked that the hardest job he ever had was going door to door selling life insurance when he was a law student. But he learned salesmanship skills that served him well in Hollywood: he would arrive for appointments with producers, directors and casting directors in an expensive suit, exuding polished charm. Receptionists would usher him in to their bosses under the impression that he must be a well-heeled investor, not just another eager actor.

Posted by at July 27, 2011 7:30 AM

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