Connors as Joe Mannix, 1968.
August 15, 1925
Fresno, California, US
|Died||January 26, 2017 (aged 91)
Los Angeles, California, US
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Lou Willey (1949–2017) (his death)|
|Children||Matthew Gunner Ohanian
Dana Lou Connors
Mike Connors (born Kreker Ohanian August 15, 1925 – January 26, 2017) was an American actor best known for playing detective Joe Mannix in the CBS television series, Mannix. Connors’ acting career spans six decades; in addition to his work on television, he has appeared in numerous films.
Of Armenian descent, Connors was born Kreker J. Ohanian in Fresno, California in 1925.:16 He was an avid basketball player in high school, who was nicknamed “Touch” by his teammates. During World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Forces. After the war, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles on a basketball scholarship, where he played under coach John Wooden. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Director William A. Wellman got him into acting after noticing his expressive face while Connors was playing basketball. He appeared on the Los Angeles CBS station as Touch Connors in an episode of Jukebox Jury before the program went national via ABC in 1953. Connors is credited in his early films, such as “Sudden Fear” (1952), Island in the Sky (1953), Swamp Women (Swamp Diamonds), Five Guns West (1955), The Day the World Ended (1955), Shake, Rattle and Rock (1956), and Flesh and the Spur (1957) as “Touch Connors”.
His film career started in the early 1950s. Connors was cast in the critically acclaimed John Wayne film, Island in the Sky in which he was a crewman on one of the search-and-rescue planes. In 1956, still billed as Touch Connors, he played an Amalekite herder in Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston.
He appeared in numerous television series, including the co-starring role in the 1955 episode “Tomas and the Widow” of the NBC Western anthology series Frontier. He guest-starred on the early sitcoms, Hey, Jeannie! and The People’s Choice. He guest-starred in two Rod Cameron syndicated crime dramas, City Detective and the Western-themed State Trooper, and played the villain in the first episode filmed (but second one aired) of ABC’s smash hit Maverick opposite James Garner in 1957.
In 1958, Connors appeared in the title role of the episode “Simon Pitt”, the series finale of the NBC Western Jefferson Drum, starring Jeff Richards as a frontier newspaper editor. He also appeared in another NBC Western series, The Californians.
That same year, Connors was cast as Miles Borden, a corrupt US Army lieutenant bitter over his $54 monthly pay, on NBC’s Wagon Train in the episode “The Dora Gray Story”, with Linda Darnell in the title role. About this time, he also appeared on an episode of NBC’s Western series Cimarron City.
Connors appeared in other syndicated series: The Silent Service, based on true stories of the submarine section of the United States Navy; Sheriff of Cochise, set in and about Bisbee, Arizona; Whirlybirds, an aviation adventure series; and Rescue 8, based on stories of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. An episode of Studio 57 starring Connors and titled “Getaway Car” was proposed as a pilot for a series about the CHP to be called Motorcycle Cop. Connors also co-starred (as the villain) in the classic 1956 Roger Corman sci-fi film, The Day The World Ended, and also co-starred in Roger Corman’s Swamp Women that same year.
Later, he was cast in the episode, “The Aerialist”, of the anthology series, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. In 1963, he guest-starred as Jack Marson in the episode “Shadow of the Cougar” on the NBC modern Western series, Redigo, starring Richard Egan. In 1964, Connors appeared in a pinch-hit role for Raymond Burr as attorney Joe Kelly in the Perry Mason episode, “The Case of the Bullied Bowler”. In 1965, he co-starred in one of Robert Redford‘s earliest film roles, a World War II black comedy, Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious alongside Sir Alec Guinness.
Connors later took the starring roles in Tightrope! (1959–1960), Mannix (1967–1975), and Today’s F.B.I. (1981–1982). Mannix was originally produced by Desilu Productions (later absorbed by Paramount Television). Then-president Lucille Ball pushed for CBS to keep the show on air after a lackluster first season in the ratings. This move enabled the show to become a long-running hit for the network. Connors was able to work with his boss on-screen during a cross-promotion episode of Ball’s Here’s Lucy series in 1971, showing his skill at comedy. The episode, which opened Lucy’s fourth season, is entitled “Lucy and Mannix are Held Hostage”. This was notable as the first episode shot at Universal Studios, after Ball ceased producing her program at Paramount Studios.
In 1969, Connors won a Golden Globe for his role as Joe Mannix on Mannix.
Connors married Mary Lou Willey in 1949; together they have a son, Matthew Gunner Ohanian, and a daughter, Dana Lou Connors. Connors lived with his wife in Encino, California. He died on January 26, 2017 in Tarzana, California, after being diagnosed with leukemia.
- Sudden Fear (1952) – Junior Kearney
- The 49th Man (1953) – Lt. Magrew
- Sky Commando (1953) – Lt. Hobson Lee
- Island in the Sky (1953) – Gainer
- Day of Triumph (1954) – Andrew
- Five Guns West (1955) – Hale Clinton
- The Twinkle in God’s Eye (1955) – Lou
- Day the World Ended (1956) – Tony Lamont
- Swamp Women (1956) – Bob Matthews
- Jaguar (1956) – Marty Lang
- The Oklahoma Woman (1956) – Tom Blake
- The Ten Commandments (1956) – Amalekite herder
- Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956) – Garry Nelson
- Flesh and the Spur (1956) – Stacy Tanner
- Voodoo Woman (1957) – Ted Bronson
- Live Fast, Die Young (1957) – Rick
- Suicide Battalion (1958) – Maj. Matt McCormack
- The Dalton That Got Away (1960) – Russ Dalton
- Panic Button (1964) – Frank Pagano
- Good Neighbor Sam (1964) – Howard Ebbets
- Where Love Has Gone (1964) – Major Luke Miller
- Harlow (1965) – Jack Harrison
- Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious (1965) – Sgt. Lucky Finder
- Stagecoach (1966) – Hatfield
- Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966) – Kelly
- Avalanche Express (1979) – Haller
- Nightkill (1980) – Wendell Atwell
- Too Scared to Scream (1985) – Lt. Alex Dinardo
- Fist Fighter (1989) – Billy Vance
- Downtown Heat (1994) – Steve
- Gideon (1998) – Harland Greer
- The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave (2000) – Osborne
- Nobody Knows Anything! (2003) – Joe Mannix
- The Adventures of Jim Bowie, episode “Broomstick Wedding” (1956) – Rafe
- The Silent Service, episode “The Ordeal of the S-38” (1957) – Don Melhop
- The Walter Winchell File “The Steep Hill” – Dave Hopper (1957)
- Cheyenne (TV series), episode “Dead to Rights” (1958) – Roy Simmons (as Michael Connors)
- Official Detective, episode “The Cover-Up” (1958) – Martin Whiting
- Tightrope! (1959–1960) – Undercover agent
- Mannix (1967–1975) – Joe Mannix
- The Death of Ocean View Park (1979) – Sam Jackson
- Today’s FBI (1981–1982) – Ben Slater
- Public Enemy #2 (1993) – as himself
- Hart to Hart Returns (1993) – Bill McDowell
- Murder, She Wrote, episode “Flim Flam” (1995)- Boyce Brown
- Diagnosis: Murder, episode “Hard Boiled Murder” (1997) – Joe Mannix
- Walker, Texas Ranger, episode “Code of the West” (1998) – Judge Arthur McSpadden
- Two and a Half Men, episode “Prostitutes and Gelato” (2007) – Hugo