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. His career spanned half a century, including starring in the first-run syndicated adventure series Ripcord in the leading role of Paradiver Ted McKeever, as well as playing Keith Holden in the CBS' television series Lassie. He was also a baseball player, playing on scholarship for the University of Southern California and later professionally for the Boston Braves organization.
Lawrence Kenneth Pennell
February 21, 1928
|Died||August 28, 2013(aged 85)|
|Other names||Bud Pennell|
|Occupation||Film & television actor|
Professional Baseball Player
Early life and educationEdit
Pennell was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to the entrepreneur Harold Pennell and homemaker Ruth Pennell. 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. 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.
Pennell played baseball throughout his youth. He attended Hollywood High School, 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 University of Southern California, where he began playing in 1947. Pennell attended the university on a full baseball scholarship and became one of the school's all-time letter winners. He left school early to play professionally for the Boston Braves organization.
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.
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. He was portrayed in Hall of Famer, Eddie Mathews' autobiography as a "fun-loving teammate." He did not play during the 1950–1953 seasons due to his service during the Korean War, because 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. 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."
In the baseball off-seasons, Pennell would return home to Hollywood, where the entertainment industry was omnipresent. As the seasons passed his interest in the industry and acting in particular continued to evolve. 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. Then he traveled to New York City to learn his new craft from drama icons such as Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler.
It was in 1955 when Pennell's acting career was officially 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. 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.
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 the spaghetti western, Old Surehand, a German production based upon a Karl May novel. In European films he was occasionally credited as Alessandro Pennelli. 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, The Outlaws, Have Gun – Will Travel, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rango, Custer, Branded, The Rough Riders, Cimarron City and Tombstone Territory.
In 1961, he landed the leading role on the television series, Ripcord, a half-hour first-run syndicated action/adventure series about skydiving, as the handsome, headstrong, youthful, colorful, audacious, intrepid and brave paradiver Theodore (Ted) McKeever. 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 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. 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). See "Elly in the Movies" (Season 3, Episode 16). His role as Dash Riprock inspired the name of the rock band Dash Rip Rock, that was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. 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.
Throughout his career, Pennell continued to appear in a variety of genres in television including 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.
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. 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." In 1992, Pennell and Tom Selleck rejoined for a third time to appear in Mr. Baseball. 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).
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
|1955||Seven Angry Men||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|
|1965||Our Man in Jamaica||Adventure film||Ken Stewart (as Alessandro Pennelli)|
|1965||Old Surehand||Western film||General Jack O'Neal|
|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||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||Horror film||Grandfather|
|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
|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||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|
|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||Paradiver 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||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|
|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
- 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
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. 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. Pennell died on August 28, 2013 at age 85.
- 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.
- Lentz III, Harris M. (2014). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2013. McFarland. ISBN 9780786476657. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- 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.
- "Boost for Lakeman". The Milwaukee Journal (via Google News Archives). April 4, 1949. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- "Sold Papers to Stars, Now An Actor Too". Citizen News. Hollywood, California. May 4, 1954. p. 11.
- Scott, Vernon (September 19, 1957). "Actor Would Fight For Film Part". The Desert News. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- "All-Time Baseball Letter Winners". University of Southern California Trojans. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- "Coaches Want Protection From OB". New York NY PM. January 7, 1948.
- "Blow Comes In Eighth With One On". Evansville Press (no link available). May 19, 1949.
- Mathews, Eddie; Beuge, Bob (1994). Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime. Douglas Amer Sports Pubns. ISBN 9781882134410.
- "Baseball Loses Larry Pennell to Films". The Desert News. July 22, 1954.
- Bisher, Furman (July 11, 1959). "My Baseball Farmlands". The Saturday Evening Post.
- "From Baseball To Acting". Radio TV Mirror. July 1961. Retrieved November 13, 2014 – via (from archive).
- Hopper, Hedda (June 11, 1954). "Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster to Co-Star in Another Film". Chicago Tribune (Archives). Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- "Review: The FBI Story". Variety. December 31, 1958. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
- Weisser, Thomas. Spaghetti Westerns--the Good, the Bad and the Violent. McFarland. ISBN 9781476611693.
- "The Bonanza Stars". Connellsville, Pennsylvania: The Daily Courier. September 2, 1967. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
- Streckert, Hal. "Ripcord!". Parachutist. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
- McDaniel, Randy (June 1, 2013). "Remember Dash Riprock On The Beverly Hillbillies". Classic KXRB Country 1000. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
- Compo, Susan (2009). Warren Oates: A Wild Life. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813139180.
- 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.
- "The West Point Story".