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Dana James Hutton (May 31, 1934 – June 2, 1979) was an American actor in film and television best remembered for his role as Ellery Queen in the 1970s TV series of the same name and his screen partnership with Paula Prentiss in four films, starting with Where the Boys Are. He is the father of actor Timothy Hutton.
Hutton as Ellery Queen.
Dana James Hutton
May 31, 1934
Binghamton, New York, U.S.
|Died||June 2, 1979 (aged 45)|
Los Angeles, U.S.
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Alma mater||Syracuse University|
(m. 1958; div. 1963)
Lynni M. Solomon
(m. 1970; div. 1973)
|Children||3; including Timothy Hutton|
Hutton was born in Binghamton, New York, the son of Helen and Thomas R. Hutton, an editor and managing editor of the Binghamton Press. Hutton's parents divorced while he was an infant, and he never knew his father.
Hutton was expelled from five high schools due to behavior problems but had excellent grades and test scores. After starting his school newspaper's sports column, he earned a scholarship in journalism from Syracuse University in 1952. He was expelled from Syracuse after driving a bulldozer through a bed of tulips.
Hutton then enrolled at Niagara University, where he began pursuing an acting career. He performed in summer stock in Connecticut and La Jolla, and won state oratory competitions. In 1955 he moved to New York where he became, in his own words, a "beatnik". He struggled to find acting work, and, worried about being able to eat, he joined the US Army.
Hutton served in the United States Army from 1956 and starred in over forty Army training films before going to Berlin to serve in special services. Hutton personally founded the American Community Theater by spearheading the renovation of theaters abandoned during World War II. He established the first English-speaking theater in Berlin. "They turned out to be the kickiest two years of my life", he later said.
Hutton was performing in live theater in Germany, playing Captain Queeg in a production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, while with the United States Army when he was spotted by American film director Douglas Sirk. Sirk offered him in a small role in a film, A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), if he could get leave to join the unit in Nuremberg. Hutton made his debut in the film as a neurotic German soldier who commits suicide. Universal saw footage and expressed interest in offering him a long-term contract.
While in Germany, Hutton also had a small role in Ten Seconds to Hell (1959).
Early television rolesEdit
"But after that they didn't seem to know what to do with me", he said. "I don't fall easily into a mold and they tried different things."
MGM put him in The Subterraneans (1960), a drama about beatniks. The film was a big flop, but Hutton was then cast in a teen comedy for the same studio, Where the Boys Are (1960), where he appeared alongside a number of young players under contract to the studio, including George Hamilton, Connie Francis, Yvette Mimieux and Paula Prentiss. The movie was a huge success.
Due to his tall, gangly frame and the absent-minded quality of his delivery, Hutton was viewed as a successor to James Stewart.
Hutton was romantically teamed in the film with Prentiss, in part because they were the tallest MGM contract players of their time (Hutton at 6'5" and Prentiss at 5'10"), and, public feedback being positive, MGM decided to make them a regular team, along the lines of William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Hutton appeared with Prentiss in The Honeymoon Machine (1961) supporting Steve McQueen, which was a hit. Then they made Bachelor in Paradise (1961) starring Bob Hope and Lana Turner, which lost money. Hutton and Prentiss were given top billing in The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962), which was a box office disappointment.
"We're not being thrown into films together to play the same parts", said Hutton. "Paula and I have spent too much time and money on our careers and if teaming together happens to go hand and glove with advancing our careers then fine."
Hutton and Prentiss were announced for Away from Home to be shot in Mexico by producer Edmund Grainer but the film appears to have not been made. Neither was another announced for them, And So To Bed, to be written and directed by Frank Tashlin.
In February 1962 he and Prentiss made exhibitors list of the top ten "stars of tomorrow" alongside Hayley Mills, Nancy Kwan, Horst Bucholz, Carol Lynley, Dolores Hart, Juliet Prowse, Connie Stevens and Warren Beatty.
Hutton was tired of playing in comedies. In the words of Hedda Hopper, he turned down "one script after another" from MGM for fifteen months before the studio eventually released him from his contract. He signed a one-year contract with Universal and received an offer to make a Western at Columbia, Major Dundee.
He followed it with another expensive Western, The Hallelujah Trail (1965) with Burt Lancaster, directed by John Sturges for United Artists. Both films were financial disappointments, although Dundee's reputation has risen in recent years.
"The Major Dundee and Hallelujah Trail parts were good", he said in an interview around this time, "but they were peripheral. I'm ready for a take charge part. In all immodesty I don't believe there are many guys my age who can play comedy. Jack Lemmon is the master but who among the younger guys can you think of? A lot of them can clown and laugh at their own jokes."
He was the second male lead in Walk, Don't Run (1966), a comedy with Samantha Eggar and Cary Grant (in Grant's last feature-film appearance) at Columbia. Director Charles Walters says Hutton was Grant's personal choice for the role. "Cary identifies with Hutton", he said.
The success of this film saw Hutton given the lead in Columbia's comedy Who's Minding the Mint? (1967) but it was not widely seen. He was announced for the lead in A Guide for the Married Man but when the script changed he ended up asking to be released from it.
In November 1966 Hutton signed a non-exclusive two-year deal with 20th Century Fox. However, he did not appear in any Fox films.
In July 1967 Hutton signed to appear in the John Wayne war drama, The Green Berets, in which Hutton played a Special Forces sergeant in a mix of comedy and drama, with a memorable booby trap death scene.
Return to televisionEdit
In the early 1970s, Hutton began working almost exclusively in television, guest starring on such shows as The Psychiatrist; Love, American Style (several times) and The Name of the Game. He was in two TV movies, the thriller The Deadly Hunt (1971) and a war film The Reluctant Heroes of Hill 656 (1971).
He co-starred with Connie Stevens in Call Her Mom (1972), a TV movie that was a pilot for a series that was not picked up. He and tried three failed sitcom pilots, Wednesday Night Out, Call Holme, and Captain Newman, M.D. (the latter, written by Richard Crenna, screened as a TV movie).
"Much of my career downfall was my own fault," he said around this time.
Hutton had not auditioned since Period of Adjustment but agreed to do it for the role of fictional amateur detective Ellery Queen in the 1975 made-for-television movie and 1975–1976 television series, Ellery Queen. Hutton's co-star in the series (set in 1946–1947 New York City) was David Wayne, who portrayed his widowed father, an NYPD homicide detective. Ellery, a writer of murder mysteries, assisted his father as an amateur, each week solving an "actual" murder case. Near the end of each story before revealing the solution, he would "break the fourth wall" by giving the audience a brief review of the clues and asking if they had solved the mystery.
"It's the first opportunity I've had in a long time to show people I can give a good performance," he said.
It ran for 23 episodes.
One of Hutton's memorable television appearances was appearing as a guest star in the 1977–1978 third-season premiere of the Norman Lear sitcom One Day At A Time. The episode, titled "The Older Man", was a four-part story arc in which Hutton portrayed Dr. Paul Curran, a forty-two year old veterinarian who falls in love with seventeen-year old Julie Cooper (played by Mackenzie Phillips).
Hutton was married to Maryline Adams (née Poole), who was a teacher. They divorced in 1963. They had two children: a daughter, Heidi (born 1959), and a son, Timothy (born 1960). Timothy also became an actor and appeared with his father in a summer stock production of Harvey. In 1970, he married Lynni Solomon, and they had daughter Punch Hutton (former deputy fashion editor of Vanity Fair). Hutton also had an intermittent 15-year relationship with actress and model Yvette Vickers.
- A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) — Hirschland
- Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) — Workman at Bomb Site (uncredited)
- The Subterraneans (1960) — Adam Moorad
- Where the Boys Are (1960) — TV Thompson
- The Honeymoon Machine (1961) — Jason Eldridge
- Bachelor in Paradise (1961) — Larry Delavane
- The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) — Second Lt. Merle Wye
- Period of Adjustment (1962) — George Haverstick
- Sunday in New York (1963) — Man in Rowboat with Radio (uncredited)
- Looking for Love (1964) — Paul Davis
- Major Dundee (1965) — Lieutenant Graham
- The Hallelujah Trail (1965) — Captain Paul Slater
- Never Too Late (1965) — Charlie Clinton
- The Trouble with Angels (1966) — Mr. Petrie (uncredited)
- Walk, Don't Run (1966) — Steve Davis
- Who's Minding the Mint? (1967) — Harry Lucas
- The Green Berets (1968) — Sgt. Petersen
- Hellfighters (1968) — Greg Parker
- Psychic Killer (1975) — Arnold James Masters
- The Sky Trap (1979) — Joe Reese
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- Timothy Hutton Oscar acceptance speech
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