Robert Michael Urich (December 19, 1946 – April 16, 2002) was an American film, television, and stage actor, and television producer. Over the course of his 30-year career, he starred in a record 15 television series.
Robert Michael Urich
December 19, 1946
Toronto, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||April 16, 2002 (aged 55)|
|Resting place||Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada|
|Other names||Robert York|
|Alma mater||Florida State University|
Michigan State University
Urich began his career in television in the early 1970s. After guest stints and roles in short-lived television series, he won a co-starring role in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T. in 1975. In 1978, he landed the lead role of Dan Tanna in the crime drama series Vega$. Vega$ aired on ABC from 1978 to June 1981, and earned him two Golden Globe Award nominations. In addition to his work in television, Urich also co starred in several feature films, including Magnum Force (1973), The Ice Pirates (1984), and Turk 182 (1985). From 1985 to 1988, he portrayed the title role in the detective television series Spenser: For Hire, based on Robert B. Parker's series of mystery novels. In 1988, he began hosting the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. He was also awarded a Golden Boot Award for his work in Western television series and films.
In 1996, Urich starred in The Lazarus Man. It was canceled shortly after he announced that he had been diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer, in July that year. He sought treatment for his illness while continuing his career and also worked to raise money for cancer research. He was declared cancer free in 1998 and returned to television in the UPN series, Love Boat: The Next Wave. In 2000, he made his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago. His last role was in the NBC sitcom Emeril in 2001, but in the autumn of that year, his cancer returned and he died in April 2002 at age 55.
Urich was born and raised in Toronto, Ohio, the son of John Paul and Cecilia Monica (née Halpate) Urich. He was of Rusyn and Slovak extraction and raised Byzantine Catholic and Roman Catholic. Urich attended Florida State University on a football scholarship as a center, and was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In 1968, he earned a bachelor's degree in Radio and Television Communications. He went on to Michigan State University after working in Ohio to earn a master's degree in Broadcast Research and Management. He then worked as a salesman in Chicago at WGN-TV. He later worked as a weatherman.
Urich made his television debut in a guest starring role in The F.B.I., in 1972. The following year, he won a lead role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. It was an adaptation of the 1969 film of the same title. It struggled in the ratings and was canceled after six episodes. He made his film debut later that same year opposite Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force playing a vigilante motorcycle-patrol police officer. In 1975, Urich was cast in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T.. According to the executive producer Aaron Spelling, Burt Reynolds convinced Spelling to allow Urich to read for the part. Spelling was impressed with his reading and cast him in the role of "Officer Jim Street". A mid-season replacement, it earned high enough ratings to warrant a second season. However, it was canceled in 1976 due to its violent content.
Urich's next role was on the sitcom Soap as Peter the Tennis Player in 1977. That same year he was cast as Paul Thurston, a good-looking, ego-driven talk show host in the Bewitched spin-off series Tabitha, starring Lisa Hartman. Its ratings were initially strong, but schedule changes caused ratings to drop and it was canceled in 1978 after 13 episodes. Shortly after, he was cast in another Aaron Spelling produced series Vega$. He portrayed the series' lead character, Dan Tanna, a private detective who solves crimes in Las Vegas. It was a hit for ABC and he received two Golden Globe Award nominations for his work on it. By the third season, ratings had started to decline and it was canceled after the end of the third season in June, 1981. Shortly after, he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and focused on film roles. His first film for MGM was Endangered Species (1982), a science fiction film directed by Alan Rudolph.
After filming Endangered Species, Urich returned to television and started in Gavilan. He played the title character who was a former CIA agent turned oceanographer. The series, however, was canceled after seven episodes. In 1984, he starred in two more films The Ice Pirates, and Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell. In 1985, Urich co-starred in the film Turk 182, although it was not a commercial success. In 1985, Urich returned to episodic television as the title character in Spenser: For Hire. It was a hit and aired for three seasons. He also reprised the role in several television films after it was canceled: Spenser: Ceremony (1993), Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes (1994), Spenser: The Judas Goat (1994), and Spenser: A Savage Place (1995). In 1988, he hosted the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. In 1989, he portrayed Jake Spoon in the acclaimed television miniseries Lonesome Dove, a role for which he received many positive reviews.
In the 1990s, Urich mainly appeared in television films and several short-lived television series. From 1990 to 1991, he starred in the sitcom American Dreamer and the TV movie 83 Hours 'Til Dawn. The following year, he starred in Crossroads, a drama series that aired on ABC for ten episodes. In 1993, he and Faye Dunaway starred in the sitcom It Had to Be You. It was critically panned and canceled after four episodes. In 1995, he narrated an extremely rare one-night showing of a Disney television documentary called Alien Encounters: From New Tomorrowland. It has never been shown again. In 1996, he starred in the TNT western series The Lazarus Man. It earned strong enough ratings to be picked up for a second season but shortly after it was renewed, he announced he had been diagnosed with synovial sarcoma. Its production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, opted to cancel it due to that. In 1999, he commented on their choice to do so, "There's really a law against what they did. They found out I had cancer, and they just canceled the show. They didn't ask the doctors if I could work. They didn't ask if I could go back to work." In 2000, he sued them for breach of contract. The lawsuit was later settled with both parties agreeing not to publicly disclose the terms. While undergoing cancer treatments, Urich hosted the medical documentary series Vital Signs in 1997 and the PBS series Boatworks. After a year of treatment, he was declared cancer-free and returned to television in 1998 as Captain Jim Kennedy III in Love Boat: The Next Wave. It aired on UPN for two seasons. In 2000, he made his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago and also starred in the North American tour of the musical, in 1999 and in 2000. The next year, he costarred in Emeril, a sitcom starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. While it was critically panned, he received good notices for his work on it. It would be his last role in a television series. Urich's final television film, Night of the Wolf, aired on Animal Planet the night before his death.
Marriages and childrenEdit
Urich's first marriage was to actress Barbara Rucker in 1968. They divorced in 1974. He married actress Heather Menzies (1949–2017) in 1975. They adopted three children, Ryan, Emily, and Allison. They remained married until his death in 2002.
Illness and deathEdit
In July 1996, Urich announced he had been diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks soft tissue. He continued working while undergoing treatment for his illness and also became an advocate for finding a cure for cancer. He won an award from the John Wayne Cancer Institute and the Gilda Radner Courage Award for his work raising cancer awareness. He and Menzies-Urich also founded the Urich Fund for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise funds for cancer research. He also donated the $125,000 he won when he appeared on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He was declared cancer free in 1998. That same year, he was named the national spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.
In November 2001, Urich revealed in an interview that his doctors had discovered lumps in his body but "a wonder drug had cleared them up". The week before his death, he was hospitalized at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for breathing problems. He died there on April 16, 2002. His Funeral Mass was offered on April 19 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood. He was cremated and his ashes were buried on the grounds of his family's vacation home in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada. A monument was placed in the West Lake Church of Christ Cemetery, which is located near the family's vacation home.
Before his death, Urich and Menzies-Urich helped to raise money for the Eccles Performing Arts Centers at the Park City High School in Park City, Utah. After his death, the school established the Robert Urich Scholarship fund in his honor. In addition, Urich and Menzies-Urich established the Robert and Heather Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. She also had cancer and was an ovarian cancer survivor. Menzies-Urich continued to work for the center, and died from brain cancer on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2017, surrounded by their three children.
Urich's hometown of Toronto, Ohio, named the Robert Urich Interchange in his honor. It connects the town to Ohio State Route 7. For his contribution to the television industry, Urich has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7083 Hollywood Blvd. Until Usher was added, he was the only person with a name starting with the letter U on the walk.
|1973||Magnum Force||Officer Mike Grimes|
|1982||Endangered Species||Ruben Castle|
|1984||The Ice Pirates||Jason|
|1984||Invitation to Hell||Matt Winslow|
|1985||Turk 182||Terry Lynch|
|1988||April Morning||Joseph||Credit at beginning only|
|1989||Dragon Fight||Airport Police|
|1992||Jock: A True Tale of Friendship||Rocky||Alternative title: Jock of the Bushveld|
|1994||Jock of the Bushveld||Rocky Mountain Jack|
|1996||Young Again||Michael Riley, Age 40|
|1996||The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue||Angus Feagan|
|1972||The F.B.I.||Davie Stroud||Episode: "The Runner"|
|1973||Kung Fu||Greg Dundee||Episode: "Blood Brother"|
|1973||Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law||Episode: "A Girl Named Tham"|
|1973||Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice||Bob Sanders||12 episodes|
|1973||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Mike Lowry||Episode: "Death Is Only a Side Effect"|
|1974||Killdozer!||Mack McCarthy||Television film|
|1974||Nakia||Episode: "A Beginning in the Wilderness"|
|1975||The Specialists||Dr. William Nugent||Television film|
Credited as Robert York
|1975||Gunsmoke||Manolo Etchahoun||Episode: "Manolo"|
|1975–1976||S.W.A.T.||Officer Jim Street||37 episodes|
|1977||Soap||Peter the Tennis Player||8 episodes|
|1977–1978||Tabitha||Paul Thurston||12 episodes|
|1977–1978||The Love Boat||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1978||Charlie's Angels||Dan Tanna||Episode: "Angels in Vegas"|
|1978–1981||Vega$||Dan Tanna||69 episodes|
|1979||When She Was Bad...||Bob Morgan||Television film|
|1979||Password Plus||Himself||Game Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star|
|1980||The Shadow Box||Television film|
|1980||Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story||Rocky Bleier||Television film|
|1981||Killing at Hell's Gate||Charles Duke||Television film|
|1982||The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour||Episode #1.2|
|1982||Take Your Best Shot||Jess Marriner||Television film|
|1982–1983||Gavilan||Robert Gavilan||13 episodes|
|1983||Princess Daisy||Patrick Shannon||Miniseries|
|1984||Mistral's Daughter||Jason Darcy||Miniseries|
|1984||His Mistress||Allen Beck||Television film|
|1985||Scandal Sheet||Ben Rowan||Television film|
|1985–1988||Spenser: For Hire||Spenser||65 episodes|
|1986||The Defiant Ones||Johnny "Joker" Johnson||Television film|
|1986||The Disney Sunday Movie||Michael Riley, Age 40||Episode: "Young Again"|
|1988||Cheers||Himself||Episode: "Woody for Hire Meets Norman of the Apes"|
|1988||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Joseph Simmons||Episode: "April Morning"|
|1988-1995||National Geographic Explorer||Hosts narrator||110 episodes|
|1989||The Comeback||Scotty Malloy||Television film|
|1989||She Knows Too Much||Harry||Television film|
|1989||Lonesome Dove||Jake Spoon||Miniseries|
|1989||Night Walk||Detective Jake Simon||Television film|
|1989||Spooner||Harry Spooner/Michael Norlon||Television film|
|1990||Blind Faith||Rob Marshall||Television miniseries|
|1990||A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little Murder||Ross Pegler||Television film|
|1990||83 Hours 'Til Dawn||Bradley Burdock||Television film|
|1990||Carol & Company||Mr. Carmen||Episode: "Teacher, Teacher"|
|1990–1991||American Dreamer||Tom Nash||17 episodes|
|1991||Stranger at My Door||Joe Fortier||Television film|
|1991||...And Then She Was Gone||Jack Bauer||Television film|
|1992||Survive the Savage Sea||Jack Carpenter||Television film|
|1992||Blind Man's Bluff||Thomas Booker||Television film|
|1992||Double Edge||Harry Carter||Television film|
Alternative title: Hit Woman
|1992||Revolver||Nick Suster||Television film|
|1992–1993||Crossroads||Johnny Hawkins||9 episodes|
|1993||Evening Shade||Steve||Episode: "Frieda and the Preacher"|
|1993||Deadly Relations||Leonard J. Fagot||Television film|
|1993||Spenser: Ceremony||Spenser||Television film|
|1993||It Had to Be You||Mitch Quinn||6 episodes|
|1994||Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes||Spenser||Television film|
|1994||To Save the Children||Jake Downey||Television film|
|1994||A Perfect Stranger||Alex Hale||Television film|
|1994||Spenser: The Judas Goat||Spenser||Television film|
|1995||Alien Encounters: From New Tomorrowland||Narrator||Disney television documentary|
|1995||Spenser: A Savage Place||Spenser||Television film|
|1995||A Horse for Danny||Eddie Fortuna||Television film|
|1995||She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal||Adm. Williams||Television film|
|1996||Captains Courageous||Capt. Matthew Troop||Television film|
|1996||The Lazarus Man||Lazarus (James Cathcart)||20 episodes|
|1997||The Nanny||Judge Jerry Moran||Episode: "Samson, He Denied Her"|
|1997||Final Descent||Capt. Glen (Lucky) Singer||Television film|
|1998||Invasion America||Briggs||Unknown episodes|
|1998–1999||Love Boat: The Next Wave||Captain Jim Kennedy III||25 episodes|
|1999||Final Run||Glen "Lucky" Singer||Television film|
|1999||Miracle on the 17th Green||Mitch McKinley||Television film|
|2001||Late Boomers||Dennis||Television film|
|2001||For Love of Olivia||Horton Roundtree||Television film|
|2001||Emeril||Jerry McKenney||10 episodes|
|2002||The President's Man: A Line in the Sand||President Adam Mayfield||Television film|
|2002||Night of the Wolf||Purly Owens||Television film|
|2002||Aftermath||Jack||Television film, (final film role)|
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- Lipton, Michael A. (April 29, 2002). "Bright Knight". People. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
I was a very uptight Catholic boy who played by the rules
- "Actor Robert Urich dead at 55". CNN. April 16, 2002. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
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- Spelling, Aaron; Graham, Jefferson (1996). Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. St. Martin's Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0312313449.
- McNab, Chris (2009). Deadly Force: Firearms and American Law Enforcement, from the Wild West to the Streets of Today. Osprey Publishing. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-846-03376-6.
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- Bark, Ed (April 17, 2002). "Actor Robert Urich, star of 14 TV series, died at age 55". Beaver County Times. p. D3. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- O'Haire, Patricia (January 11, 2000). "'Chicago' Is Urich's Kind Of Show". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
- Jones, Kenneth (November 16, 1999). "Lewis, Urich and Visitor are New Trio in 'Chicago' Tour, in Detroit, Nov. 16–28". Playbill. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012.
- Dillard, Sandra C. (October 17, 1999). "ALL JAZZED UP Robert Urich is keen on dancing in 'Chicago'", The Denver Post, p. H1
- Jones, Kenneth (October 5, 2000). New Tour of Chicago Begins Oct. 6–7 in CT; Chita Will Join Troupe" Playbill. Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Robert Urich's Son on How His Dad's Battle With Cancer Inspired Him to Become a Doctor". Closer Weekly. December 25, 2019.
- "Robert Urich, actor in 'Lonesome Dove', 'Spenser: For Hire', dies of cancer at 55". Lodi News-Sentinel. Associated Press. April 17, 2002. p. 7. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- King, Susan (April 17, 2002). "Robert Urich, 55; Popular Star of 'Vega$' and 'Spenser'". Los Angeles Times. p. B10. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- "Urich dies at age 55". Middlesboro Daily News. Associated Press. April 18, 2002. p. 3. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Levin, Gary (December 25, 2017). "'Sound of Music' cast members mourn the death of Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa". USA Today. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- Holman, Jordyn (June 14, 2014). "Hollywood Walk of Fame 2015 Honorees Revealed". Variety. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
- "Los Angeles Times Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
- List of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame#U