Larry Pennell

Lawrence Kenneth Pennell (February 21, 1928 – August 28, 2013) was an American television and film actor, often remembered for his role as "Dash Riprock" in the television series The Beverly Hillbillies.[5] His career spanned half a century, including starring in the first-run syndicated adventure series Ripcord in the leading role of Skydiver Theodore "Ted" McKeever, as well as playing Keith Holden in Lassie.[6] He was also a baseball player, playing on scholarship for the University of Southern California (USC) and later professionally for the Boston Braves organization.[2][7]

Larry Pennell
Larry Pennell Headshot Suit.png
Lawrence Kenneth Pennell

(1928-02-21)February 21, 1928
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA
DiedAugust 28, 2013(2013-08-28) (aged 85)
Other namesBud Pennell
OccupationFilm and television actor
Professional baseball player[2]
Years active1955–2011
Spouse(s)Patricia Throop[3][4]

Early life and educationEdit

Pennell was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania to entrepreneur Harold Pennell and homemaker Ruth Pennell.[5] His parents moved to Niagara Falls, New York during the Great Depression in search of better opportunities. After a short time in New York, the family moved to California. They lived in a studio apartment overlooking Angels Flight in Downtown Los Angeles.[8] His family moved again when he was still young, purchasing a home near Paramount Studios in Hollywood. He became a newsboy on the studio lot, but athletics distracted him from any early interest in film.[8]

Pennell played baseball throughout his youth. He attended Hollywood High School,[9] at which he played first base and was later inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame. He was recruited by Rod Dedeaux to play baseball at USC, where he began playing in 1947.[2] Pennell attended the university on a full baseball scholarship and became one of the school's all-time letter winners.[10] He left school early to play professionally for the Boston Braves organization, from 1948-53.[11]

Baseball careerEdit

Larry Pennell playing with the Evansville Braves in 1949.

Just shy of graduating from USC, Pennell left the university to play professionally for the Boston Braves. During his time with the Braves, his teammates often referred to him as "Bud", a nickname that stuck with him throughout his life. He was with the organization for a total of seven seasons between 1948 and 1954, playing first base and outfield for the Evansville Braves, Boston's minor league affiliate.[12]

In his first year in professional ball, he broke the Appalachian League record for runs batted in with 147 and hit .338 for the season while belting 18 home runs.[2] He was portrayed in Hall of Famer, Eddie Mathews' autobiography, as a "fun-loving teammate."[13] He did not play during the 1950–1953 seasons due to his service during the Korean War.[14] He served in counter intelligence in the United States Army and received an honorable discharge upon completion of his service. Upon his return home, his baseball contract was purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pennell never reported to spring training for the Dodgers and instead decided to pursue acting, a career he dabbled in during the off seasons.[14] Regarding his retirement from baseball, sportswriter Furman Bisher was quoted as saying "his future seemed unlimited...I shall always be frustrated by a desire to know how great a star he might have become."[15][16]

Acting careerEdit

Larry Pennell as General Jack O' Neal in Old Surehand

In the baseball off-seasons, Pennell returned home to Hollywood.[14] Shortly after his contract was purchased by the Brooklyn organization, he decided not to report spring training and instead began his career in films. After being seen by a talent scout, Pennell got a screen test at Paramount Pictures where he went under contract.[17] Then he traveled to New York City to learn his new craft from drama icons such as Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler.[14]

It was in 1955 when Pennell's acting career was launched. He appeared in his first role as Oliver Brown in the movie Seven Angry Men, a film about abolitionist John Brown, starring Raymond Massey.[5] That role led him to a lead in Hell's Horizon, which was followed by The Far Horizons, starred Charlton Heston and Donna Reed. His next film role was as George Crandall opposite James Stewart in 'The FBI Story.[18]

Other roles followed, including the leading role as Johnny Jargin in the car racing adventure movie The Devil's Hairpin. Early in his acting career, Pennell went to Europe to appear in films, including Old Surehand, a German production based upon a Karl May's novel.[19] In European films he was occasionally credited as Alessandro Pennelli.[19] He returned to the United States and made guest appearances in several western television series such as Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, Death Valley Days, Have Gun – Will Travel, Wagon Train, Bat Masterson, The Big Valley, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rango, Custer, Branded, The Rough Riders, Cimarron City and Tombstone Territory.[20]

Larry Pennell as Dash Riprock with Donna Douglas as Elly May from The Beverly Hillbillies, ca. 1967

In 1961, he landed the leading role on the television series Ripcord as the handsome, headstrong, youthful, colorful, audacious, intrepid and brave skydiver Theodore (Ted) McKeever.[21] His co-star was Ken Curtis, later as Festus Haggin on Gunsmoke, as his inseparable, level-headed older mentor and best buddy James (Jim) Buckley. Ripcord ran for a total of 76 half-hour episodes between 1961 and 1963 and inspired a range of tie-in merchandise such as toy parachutes, action figures, board games, clean slates, reading books, comic books and coloring books, to name a few.[21] More television guest appearances followed on The Outer Limits, Thriller, The Millionaire, The West Point Story, Wire Service, The Case of the Dangerous Robin, Steve Canyon, Sea Hunt, The Aquanauts, The Everglades, Adventures in Paradise, Dragnet, and Suspense Theater.

As Dash Riprock on The Beverly Hillbillies, he appeared in ten episodes as a film star courting Elly May Clampett (Donna Douglas).[22] After The Beverly Hillbillies, Pennell guest starred in other television series like Blue Light, My Friend Tony, Mayberry, R.F.D., Family Affair, Land of the Giants, Bracken's World, BJ and the Bear and Salvage 1.[23]

Throughout his career, Pennell continued to appear in a variety of genres in television series and movies made for television. He was cast in a lead role as Keith Holden in 1972 in the CBS series Lassie. He made guest starring appearances in various shows, including Mannix, Longstreet, Hunter, Banacek, Mission: Impossible, The Streets of San Francisco, McMillan and Wife, Magnum, P.I., The Rookies, Little House on the Prairie, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury, Run, Joe, Run, Apple's Way, Silk Stalkings, Diagnosis Murder, Quantum Leap and Firefly and soap operas such as General Hospital and The Young and the Restless.[5]

Larry Pennell as Jack Kilbaine in The Big Valley: The Price of Victory

Pennell's film credits include roles in films such as The Great White Hope (1970), starring James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander in which Pennell played former heavyweight champion Frank Brady. Pennell also appeared in the big budget World War II film Midway (1976), as Captain Cyril Simard, alongside Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda.[5] He had roles in other major films such as The Revengers, Journey Through Rosebud and Matilda. Pennell bore a striking resemblance to Clark Gable and played the icon in three roles. One of his notable roles as Gable was in the television film Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980). It was said of his work in that role "Pennell's performance is a little gem."[5] In 1992, Pennell and Tom Selleck rejoined for a third time to appear in Mr. Baseball.[24] Other films include The Fear (1999), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) starring Ossie Davis, Five Minutes (2002), Last Confession (2005), Seasons of Life (2006) and The Passing (2011).[5]

Pennell continued to experiment with his acting and writing craft in study with drama masters such as Milton Katselis and Daniel Mann. Pennell's stage work encompassed over 50 plays, including The Poker Game, Desperate Hours, Pieces of Time and Dead Autumn's Soul. He wrote and starred in The Signing and Close-Up and won best actor at The Method Fest 2002 for his work in the short film Five Minutes. Throughout his career, Pennell accumulated over 400 credits in roles across stage, film and television, in addition to commercials and print advertisements.


Select film creditsEdit

Year Title Medium Role Notes
1955 Seven Angry Men[5] Western film Oliver Brown
1955 The Far Horizons Western film Wild Eagle
1955 Hell's Horizon Drama film Buddy Lewis
1955 The Court Jester Comedy film Novice Knight Uncredited
1956 The Vagabond King Musical film Soldier Uncredited
1957 The Devil's Hairpin Adventure film Johnny Jargin
1958 The Space Children Science fiction film Major Thomas
1959 The FBI Story Drama film George Crandall[18]
1965 Our Man in Jamaica Adventure film Ken Stewart (as Alessandro Pennelli)
1965 Old Surehand Western film General Jack O'Neal[19]
1970 The Great White Hope Drama film Brady
1970 Brother, Cry for Me Adventure film Jim Noble
1972 Journey Through Rosebud Drama film Sheriff
1972 The Revengers Western film Arny
1972 Lassie: Joyous Sound TV movie Keith Holden
1976 Helter Skelter Made for TV movie Sgt. White
1976 Midway War film Captain Cyril Simard
1978 Matilda Dram film Lee Dockerty
1979 Elvis Made for TV movie
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Comedy film George
1980 Marilyn: The Untold Story Made for TV movie Clark Gable
1982 Personal Best Drama film Rick Cahill
1982 Superstition Drama film George Leahy
1983 The Night the Bridge Fell Down Action film Chief Barrett
1983 Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn Science fiction film Aix
1987 Ghost Chase[5] Drama film Bum
1989 Another Chance Drama film Clark Gable
1991 The Borrower Horror film Captain Scarcelli
1992 Mr. Baseball Film Howie Gold
1999 The Fear: Resurrection[5] Horror film Grandfather
1999 Forgiven Short film Potter
2001 The Cross Drama film Man with Lamb
2001 5 Minutes Short film Harkness
2001 Jackpot Comedy drama film Truck driver
2002 Rogue Drama film The Voice
2002 Bubba Ho-Tep Comedy horror film Kemosabe
2005 Last Confession Short film Father Conklin
2006 Seasons of Life Film Lauren's Father
2011 The Passing Horror film Charles (final film role)

Select television creditsEdit

Year Title Medium Role Notes
1956 General Electric Theater Television series Ealter Kellen
1956 Studio 57 Television series Bruce
1956-1957 The West Point Story Television series Bob Matson and Marson[25] 1 w/ Leonard Nimoy
1956 Wire Service Television series Johnny
1957 Schlitz Playhouse Television series Bob
1958-1960 The Millionaire Television series Larry Maxwell
1958 Tombstone Territory Television series Bill Doolin
1958 Steve Canyon Television series Lt. Hawk Cameron
1958 The Rough Riders Television series Creed Pearce
1958 Cimarron City Television series Drew McGowan
1959 Have Gun – Will Travel Television series Henry Carver
1959 Adventures in Paradise Television series Dr. Patrick Donovan
1960 The Alaskans Television series Harry Seattle
1960 Tales of Wells Fargo Television series Ben Hardie
1960 The Aquanauts Television series Tyler Sack Episode: "The Paradivers"
1960 Death Valley Days Television anthology series Roner Maxwell Episode: "Queen of the High-Rollers"
1960 Klondike Television series Rule Lukas
1960 Zane Grey Theater Television series Jason Tully Episode: "The Black Wagon" with Esther Williams
1961 Outlaws Television series Bob Dalton
1961 Thriller Television series Larry Weeks Episode: "Late Date"
1961 The Case of the Dangerous Robin Television series
1961 Bat Masterson Television series Cal Beamus
1961 Sea Hunt Television series Steve / A counterfeiter leader Episode: "The Meet"
1961–1963 Ripcord Television series Skydiver Theodore (Ted) McKeever 76 episodes
1963 General Hospital Television series Hank Pulaski Unknown episodes
1964 Wagon Train Television series Marshal Trace McCloud Episode: "The Trace McCloud Story"
1964 The Outer Limits Television series Dr. Evan Marshall Episode: "The Mutant"
1964 Mr. Broadway Television series John Chambers
1964-1967 The Virginian Television series Carl Rand / Wally Koerner 2 episodes
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Television series Phil Scanlon
1965-1969 The Beverly Hillbillies Television series Dash Riprock 10 episodes
1965 Branded Television series Tuck Fraser
1966 Blue Light Television series Nick Brady
1967 The Big Valley Television series Jack Kilbain
1967 Rango Television series
1967 Three for Danger Television series Chris
1967 Custer Television series Chief Yellow Hawk
1967 Cimarron Strip Television series Rapp
1968 Dragnet 1967 Television series John Anzo / A Police Commissioner
1968-1974 Gunsmoke Television series Ben Akins / John Woolfe 2 episodes
1969 My Friend Tony Television series
1969 Mayberry R.F.D. Television series Chuck
1969 Land of the Giants Television series Guard
1969 Bracken's World Television series Chuck
1969-2+71 Mannix Television series Agent Barnes / Troy McBride 2 episodes
1970 Mission: Impossible Television series Karl Burroughs
1970 Family Affair Television series Ken Granger
1971 City Beneath the Sea Television movie Bill Holmes
1971 Longstreet Television series Ward Blakeman
1971-1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Television series Charles Donaldson / S.A. Peter Wade 2 episodes
1971-1974 McMillan & Wife Television series Agent Cushing Unknown episode
1972-1973 Lassie Television series Keith Holden 21 episodes
1973 The Young and the Restless Television series Judge Chet Ashford
1973 Banacek Television series Pete Biesecker
1973-1974 The Streets of San Francisco Television series Becker / A High School coach 2 episodes
1974 Apple's Way Television series Sam Ferguson
1974 Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Television series Sargeant Bill Carrington
1974 The Rookies Television series Henry Glass
1974 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Television series Dave Fletcher
1974 Run, Joe, Run Television series Sheriff Frost Episode: "Blind Girl"
1977 Hunter Television series Michael Orlin
1977 Little House on the Prairie Television series Ben Griffin
1979 Salvage 1 Television series Street
1979 BJ and the Bear Television series Mary Ellen
1982-1986 Magnum, P.I. Television series Jack Martin / Norm Vogel 2 episodes
1993 Quantum Leap Television series Clark Gable Episode: "Good-Bye, Norma Jean"
1997 Diagnosis: Murder Television series Dr. Arthur Episode: "Looks Can Kill"
1997 Silk Stalkings Television series Dr. Kurland Episode: "The Wedge"
2002 Firefly Television series Murphy Episode: "Shindig"

Select theater creditsEdit

  • Dream a Little Dream – Lead – Company of Angels, Los Angeles
  • Sing the Song Lady – Lead – Network Studio, North Hollywood
  • Monroe – Lead – Crystal Sands, Hilton Head, South Carolina
  • The Signing (written by Larry Pennell) – Lead – Stella Adler Theater, Beverly Hills Playhouse
Larry Pennell and his wife Patricia.
  • Close-Up (written by Larry Pennell) – Lead – Stella Adler Theater, Beverly Hills Playhouse
  • Pieces of time – Lead – Pan Andreas Theater, Hollywood
  • Desperate Hours – Lead – New Dramatist's, Inc., New York City
  • Dead Autumn's Soul – Lead – New York City
  • The Poker Game – Lead – (Pre-Broadway) New York City
  • Mary, Mary – Lead – Tiffany's Attic Theater, Kansas City

Personal lifeEdit

Pennell met his wife Patricia Throop, a fashion model, actress, former Miss Oregon and finalist in the 1954 Miss America Pageant. He was shooting a film when they met.[16] Throughout his life he enjoyed sports of all kinds such as baseball, football, tennis, boxing, running and horseback riding. Also he was an avid historian and a patriot with ancestral links in the American Revolution and the Mayflower Compact.[16] Pennell died on August 28, 2013 at age 85.[5]


  1. ^ "Ancestry Library Edition".
  2. ^ a b c d Levy, Sam (March 24, 1949). "Pennell – Lanky First Baseman With Brewers Definitely on Way Up". The Milwaukee Journal (via Google Archives). Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  3. ^ "Larry Pennell".
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lentz III, Harris M. (2014). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2013. McFarland. ISBN 9780786476657. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Beck, Ken (2002). The Encyclopedia of TV Pets: A Complete History of Television's Greatest Animal Stars. Thomas Nelson, Inc. ISBN 9781418557379. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  7. ^ "Boost for Lakeman". April 4, 1949. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Sold Papers to Stars, Now An Actor Too". Citizen News. Hollywood, California. May 4, 1954. p. 11.
  9. ^ Scott, Vernon (September 19, 1957). "Actor Would Fight For Film Part". The Desert News. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  10. ^ "All-Time Baseball Letter Winners". University of Southern California Trojans. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  11. ^ "Larry Pennell biodata". December 2013. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  12. ^ "Blow Comes in Eighth with One On". Evansville Press (no link available). May 19, 1949.
  13. ^ Mathews, Eddie; Beuge, Bob (1994). Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime. Douglas Amer Sports Pubns. ISBN 9781882134410.
  14. ^ a b c d "Baseball Loses Larry Pennell to Films". The Desert News. July 22, 1954.
  15. ^ Bisher, Furman (July 11, 1959). "My Baseball Farmlands". The Saturday Evening Post.
  16. ^ a b c "From Baseball To Acting". Radio TV Mirror. July 1961. Retrieved November 13, 2014 – via (from archive).
  17. ^ Hopper, Hedda (June 11, 1954). "Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster to Co-Star in Another Film". Chicago Tribune (Archives). Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Review: The FBI Story". Variety. December 31, 1958. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  19. ^ a b c Weisser, Thomas (March 11, 2014). Spaghetti Westerns--the Good, the Bad and the Violent. McFarland. ISBN 9781476611693.
  20. ^ "The Bonanza Stars". Connellsville, Pennsylvania: The Daily Courier. September 2, 1967. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  21. ^ a b Streckert, Hal. "Ripcord!". Parachutist. Archived from the original on August 5, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  22. ^ McDaniel, Randy (June 1, 2013). "Remember Dash Riprock On The Beverly Hillbillies". Classic KXRB Country 1000. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  23. ^ Compo, Susan (2009). Warren Oates: A Wild Life. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813139180.
  24. ^ Williams, Randy (2006). Sports Cinema 100 Movies: The Best of Hollywood's Athletic Heroes, Losers, Myths, and Misfits. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9780879103316. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  25. ^ "CTVA US Military Anthology - "West Point Story" (ZIV) (1956-57) - host Donald May".

External linksEdit