Open main menu

Joel Dee McCrea, known as Jody McCrea (September 6, 1934 – April 4, 2009),[1] was an American film and television actor. He was the oldest of the three sons of veteran film actors Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

Jody McCrea
Jody and Joel McCrea Wichita Town 1959.jpg
Jody McCrea (left) with father, Joel, in Wichita Town, 1959
Joel Dee McCrea

(1934-09-06)September 6, 1934
DiedApril 4, 2009(2009-04-04) (aged 74)
Other namesJoel D. McCrea
Joel Dee McCrea
Years active1955–1985
Dusty Ironwing McCrea
(m. 1976; her death 1996)
RelativesBrothers David McCrea and Peter McCrea


Early lifeEdit

McCrea went to school in Santa Rosa, California, and at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico. He studied drama at UCLA and served in the United States Army Special Services.

McCrea had small roles in his father's film, Wichita (1955). He was also in Lucy Gallant (1955). While still at UCLA he had the lead role in Johnny Moccasin (1956), a half hour film made for television by Laslo Benedek as a white boy raised by Indians after a massacre.[2] McCrea followed this with a good supporting role in a feature starring his father, The First Texan (1956).

McCrea studied under Sanford Meisner for two years in New York City.[3] He appeared on television in Chevron Hall of Stars ("Flowers for Charlie McDaniels"), The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show ("Return to California", "George's Gray Suit", "Fighting for Happiness"), Conflict ("No Man's Road" with Gig Young and Dennis Hopper), Studio One in Hollywood ("Babe in the Woods" - The New York Times said that "his playing was not too resourceful"[4]), Sergeant Preston of the Yukon ("The Criminal Collie"), and Kraft Theatre ("The Last of the Belles").[5]

He had a supporting role in Naked Gun (1956), and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957). He made Trooper Hook (1957) and Gunsight Ridge (1957) with his father and was one of several young names in Lafayette Escadrille (1958) and The Restless Years (1958).

He later briefly hosted Country Style, USA (1957–59), an Army-produced recruiting television program filmed in Nashville, Tennessee, featuring various country music entertainers.

Wichita TownEdit

In 1959, McCrea costarred with his father in the short-lived NBC western Wichita Town, set in Wichita, Kansas. Joel McCrea appeared as Marshal Mike Dunbar. Jody McCrea did not portray the role of Joel's son on the program but as the deputy marshal, Ben Matheson.[6]

1960s rolesEdit

McCrea had a small role in All Hands on Deck (1961) and could be seen in the episode, "The Wrestler" on the ABC situation comedy, Guestward Ho!, starring Joanne Dru. He toured the country with The Tiger a production from Moral Rearmament.[7] He did The Moon is Blue and Look Homeward Angel in stock.[8]

McCrea was cast as Lieutenant (later General) John J. Pershing in the 1962 episode, "To Walk with Greatness", on the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, three outlaws endanger an Indian treaty, as Pershing sets forth to find the men. Frank Ferguson was cast in the episode as Colonel Carr.[9]

In the early 1960s, McCrea guest starred on the CBS game program, I've Got a Secret with Garry Moore. His appearance was part of a group of entertainers related to famous Hollywood personalities.

McCrea had support parts in Force of Impulse (1961) and The Broken Land (1962). He made Young Guns of Texas (1962) with Alana Ladd, daughter of Alan Ladd, and James Mitchum, son of Robert.

Beach Party filmsEdit

McCrea had a support role in Operation Bikini (1963) at American International Pictures starring Tab Hunter and Frankie Avalon. He impressed the studio enough for them to cast him in a comedic role as dumb-minded "Deadhead" ("Bonehead") in Beach Party (1963) starring Avalon and Annette Funicello.

When cast in the beach pictures, he realized his comedic potential. When first offered the role of "Deadhead", for example, he was quoted at the time as saying that he "wasn't sure what the character would become". McCrea felt that the audience enjoyed Deadhead as they felt superior to him.[10]

McCrea was an avid body builder, and the only actor appearing in the American International Pictures beach movies who could actually surf.

The film was a big hit and after appearing in Law of the Lawless (1964) and The Greatest Show on Earth ("Clancy"), McCrea reprised his performance as Deadhead in Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Bikini Beach (1964).[11]

He recorded a 45 rpm single in 1964 for Canjo Records to coincide with the film Bikini Beach (Side A: "Chicken Surfer"/Side B: "Looney Gooney Bird"). He also wrote a script Stage to Nowhere[12] which appears not to have been made.

McCrea played the "Big Lurch" in the 1964 film, Pajama Party, with Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello in the lead parts.

McCrea had a small part in Young Fury (1965) and played Lieutenant Brannin, a cocky cavalry officer based loosely on George Armstrong Custer, in Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee (1965), but his scene was deleted from the final cut. He also appeared in Wagon Train ("The Betsy Blee Smith Story"), before returning to AIP beach movies with Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). McCrea played "Bonehead", again the same character - but it was his biggest role in the series, having a romance with a mermaid.

McCrea was back as Bonehead in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the last Beach Party movie in which he appeared. He was replaced by Aaron Kincaid for Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.

Later filmsEdit

McCrea guest starred on Vacation Playhouse ("Three on an Island") and Pistols 'n' Petticoats ("The Pilot").[13] He had a lead role as a biker in The Glory Stompers (1967), and starred in Sam (1967) for Larry Buchanan. He was a judge on Dream Girl of '67.

McCrea had a supporting role in Scream Free! (1968) and the lead in The Girls from Thunder Strip (1970).

McCrea starred in a Western Cry Blood, Apache (1970) which he also produced. He retired after November Children (1972).

Later career and deathEdit

McCrea became a rancher in Roswell, New Mexico. He came out of retirement to appear in 1981 in Lady Street Fighter.

He died in 2009 of a heart attack at the age of seventy-four. He was married to the former Dusty Ironwing from 1976 until her death in 1996.[14] He is survived by brothers David and Peter.


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Wichita Gunmman Uncredited
Lucy Gallant Tom Dunning Uncredited
Alternative title: Oil Town
1956 The First Texan Lt. Baker
Naked Gun Young man Alternative title: The Hanging Judge
1957 The Monster That Challenged the World Seaman Fred Johnson
Trooper Hook Trooper Whittaker Uncredited
Gunsight Ridge Groom
1958 Lafayette Escadrille Tom Hitchcock Alternative titles: C'est la guerre
Hell Bent for Glory
With You in My Arms
The Restless Years Bruce Mitchell Alternative title: The Wonderful Years
1961 All Hands on Deck Lt. J.G. Schuyler
Force of Impulse Phil Anderson
1962 The Broken Land Deputy Ed Flynn
Young Guns of Texas Jeff Shelby
1963 Operation Bikini Seaman William Sherman Alternative title: The Seafighters
Beach Party Deadhead
1964 Law of the Lawless George Stapleton Alternative title: Invitation to a Hanging
Muscle Beach Party Deadhead
Bikini Beach
Pajama Party Big Lunk
1965 Young Fury Stone
Major Dundee Lt. Brannin Uncredited
Beach Blanket Bingo Bonehead
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
1967 The Glory Stompers Darryl
Sam Alternative title: The Hottest Fourth of July in the History of Brewster County
1969 Scream Free! Agent No. 1 Credited as Joel Dee McCrea
Alternative titles: Free Grass
Street Drugs
1970 The Girls from Thunder Strip Pike
Cry Blood, Apache Pitcalin Producer
Sioux Nation
1972 November Children
1977 Nightmare County
1981 Lady Streetfighter Pollitt Credited as Joel D. McCrea, (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1956 Chevron Hall of Stars Danny 1 episode
1957 Studio One Bobby Applegate 1 episode
1958 Sergeant Preston of the Yukon Jerry Turner 1 episode
Kraft Television Theatre 1 episode
1959 Wichita Town Deputy Ben Matheson 4 episodes
1959 Jukebox Jury "Juror" commenting on latest release by the Kingston Trio—Raspberries, Strawberries 1 episode
1961 Guestward, Ho! Danny "Brave Eagle" 1 episode
1962 Death Valley Days Lt. John F. Pershing 1 episode
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Patrick Kelly 1 episode
1965 Wagon Train Calvin 1 episode
Vacation Playhouse Julius "Bulldog" Sweetley 1 episode


  1. ^ "Jody McCrea, Actor in 'Beach Party' Films, Dies at 74". The New York Times. April 17, 2009.
  2. ^ By, C. D. (1956, Jun 17). Disney's got fans talking. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
  3. ^ Anderson, R. (1959, Nov 15). His career is at crossroads. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  4. ^ By, J. G. (1957, May 14). TV review. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. ^ By, J. P. (1958, Jun 05). TV review. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. ^ Tepper, R. (1959, Sep 27). Jody McCrea hitches up with dad. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. ^ Hopper, H. (1961, Apr 11). Looking at hollywood. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  8. ^ Hopper, H. (1960, Oct 01). Metro sets three cinerama movies. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. ^ "To Walk with Greatness on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  10. ^ "The Tide Goes Out for 'Beach Party'". Cinema Retro. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  11. ^ SEIDENBAUM, A. (1964, Apr 01). SPECTATOR, 1964. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  12. ^ Hopper, H. (1964, Nov 20). Son of mel ferrer has 'boaring' job. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  13. ^ Ann Sheridan due in western spoof. (1965, Dec 08). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. ^ From Journal staff, a. w. (1996, Apr 04). 'WINDWALKER' ACTRESS MCCREA DIES AFTER 20 YEARS OF DIABETES. Albuquerque Journal Retrieved from

External linksEdit