George Peppard

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George Peppard
George Peppard (1964).jpg
Peppard in 1964
BornGeorge Peppard, Jr.
(1928-10-01)October 1, 1928
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 1994(1994-05-08) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Alma materPittsburgh Playhouse
Carnegie Tech
OccupationActor and Producer
Years active1951–1994
Spouse(s)Helen Davies (m. 1954–64)
Elizabeth Ashley (m. 1966–72)
Sherry Boucher (m. 1975–79)
Alexis Adams (m. 1984–86)
Laura Taylor (m. 1992–94) (his death)
ChildrenBradford Peppard,
Julie Peppard,
Christian Peppard
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George Peppard
George Peppard (1964).jpg
Peppard in 1964
BornGeorge Peppard, Jr.
(1928-10-01)October 1, 1928
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 1994(1994-05-08) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Alma materPittsburgh Playhouse
Carnegie Tech
OccupationActor and Producer
Years active1951–1994
Spouse(s)Helen Davies (m. 1954–64)
Elizabeth Ashley (m. 1966–72)
Sherry Boucher (m. 1975–79)
Alexis Adams (m. 1984–86)
Laura Taylor (m. 1992–94) (his death)
ChildrenBradford Peppard,
Julie Peppard,
Christian Peppard

George Peppard, Jr. (/pəˈpɑrd/; October 1, 1928 – May 8, 1994) was an American film and television actor and producer.

Peppard secured a major role when he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961),[1] portrayed a character based on Howard Hughes in The Carpetbaggers (1964), and played the title role of the millionaire sleuth Thomas Banacek in the early-1970s television series Banacek. He played Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-smoking leader of a renegade commando squad, in the 1980s television show The A-Team.[1]

Early life[edit]

George Peppard, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of building contractor George Peppard, Sr. and opera singer Vernelle Rohrer.[2] He graduated from Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan.

Peppard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on July 8, 1946 and rose to the rank of Corporal in the 10th Marines, leaving the Corps at the end of his period of enlistment in January 1948.[3]

During 1948 and 1949, he studied Civil Engineering at Purdue University where he was a member of the Purdue Playmakers theatre troupe and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.[1] He then transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1955.[4] He also trained at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.[5] In addition to acting, Peppard was a pilot. He spent a portion of his 1966 honeymoon training to fly his Lear jet in Wichita, Kansas.[6][7]


Peppard made his stage debut in 1949 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. After moving to New York City, Peppard enrolled in The Actors Studio, where he studied the Method with Lee Strasberg. His first work on Broadway led to his first television appearance, with a young Paul Newman, in The United States Steel Hour (1956), as the singing, guitar-playing baseball player Piney Woods in Bang the Drum Slowly.

Peppard's Broadway appearance in The Pleasure of His Company (1958) led to an MGM contract. Following a strong film debut in The Strange One (1957), he played the illegitimate son of Robert Mitchum's character in the popular melodrama Home from the Hill (1960).

George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's

His good looks, elegant manner and superior acting skills landed Peppard his most famous film role as Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn. This 1961 role boosted him briefly to a major film star. His leading roles in that film's wake included How the West Was Won in 1962 (his character spanned two sections of the episodic Cinerama extravaganza), The Victors in 1963, The Carpetbaggers in 1964, and The Blue Max in 1966.

Peppard started choosing tough-guy roles in big, ambitious pictures where he was somewhat overshadowed by ensemble casts; for example, his role as German pilot Bruno Stachel, an obsessively competitive officer from humble beginnings who challenges the Prussian aristocracy during World War I in The Blue Max (1966). For this role, Peppard earned a private pilot's license and did much of his own stunt flying, although stunt pilot Derek Piggott was at the controls for the famous under-the-bridge scene.

He was cast as the lead in Sands of the Kalahari (1965) but walked off the set after only a few days of filming.[8]

Owing to Peppard's alcoholism and notoriously difficult personality on the set, his career devolved into a string of B-movies through the late sixties and early seventies. As film critic David Shipman once wrote of this stage in his career:

With his cool, blond baby-face looks and a touch of menace, of meanness, he had established a screen persona as strong as any of the time. He might have been the Alan Ladd or the Richard Widmark of the Sixties: but the Sixties didn't want a new Alan Ladd. Peppard began appearing in a series of action movies, predictably as a tough guy, but there were much tougher guys around - like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, whose films had now become television staples.[8]

Peppard then had a notable success with the TV series Banacek (1972–74), (part of the NBC Mystery Movie series), and one of his most critically acclaimed,[citation needed] though rarely seen, performances in the TV movie Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder Case (1975), as Sam Sheppard.

Among the disappointing films was the 1970 Western Cannon for Cordoba, in which Peppard played the steely Captain Rod Douglas, who has been put in charge of gathering a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission into Mexico, and 1967's Rough Night in Jericho in which he was billed over crooner Dean Martin and Jean Simmons, a reflection of his status at that point in his career. Peppard appeared in the short-lived (half a season) Doctors' Hospital (1975) and several other television films. He starred in the 1977 science-fiction film Damnation Alley, which has gone on to attain a substantial cult following. Peppard's role in the film was reportedly turned down by Steve McQueen because of salary issues. With fewer interesting roles coming his way, he acted in, directed and produced the drama Five Days from Home in 1979.

In a rare game show appearance, Peppard did a week of shows on Password Plus in 1979. Out of five shows, one was never broadcast on NBC (but aired much later on GSN) because of comments made by Peppard regarding personal dissatisfaction he felt related to his treatment by NBC standards & practices.

In his later years he appeared in several stage productions. In 1988, he portrayed Ernest Hemingway in the play PAPA, which played a number of cities including Boise, Idaho; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Francisco. Peppard financed it, and played in it. Most notably a 1992 tour of The Lion in Winter in which he played Henry II to Susan Clark's Eleanor of Aquitaine.


In 1980, Peppard was offered, and accepted, the role of Blake Carrington in the TV series Dynasty. During the filming of the pilot episode, which also featured Linda Evans and Bo Hopkins, Peppard repeatedly clashed with the show's producers, Richard and Esther Shapiro; among other things, he felt that his role was too similar to that of J. R. Ewing in the series Dallas. Three weeks later, before filming was to begin on additional episodes, Peppard was fired and the part was offered to John Forsythe; the scenes with Peppard were re-shot and Forsythe became the permanent star of the show.[9]

The A-Team[edit]

In 1982, George Peppard auditioned for and won the role of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in the TV action adventure series The A-Team, acting alongside Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz. In the series, the A-Team was a team of renegade commandos on the run from the military for "a crime they did not commit" while serving in the Vietnam war. The A-Team members made their collective living as soldiers of fortune, but they helped only people who came to them with justified grievances.

As Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, Peppard played the leader of the A-Team, distinguished by his cigar smoking, confident smirk, black leather gloves, disguises, and distinctive catch phrase, "I love it when a plan comes together." The show ran five seasons on NBC from 1983–1987. It made Peppard known to a whole new generation and is arguably his best-known role. It has been reported that the role was originally written with James Coburn in mind, but Coburn declined and thus it went to Peppard. Peppard was reportedly annoyed by Mr. T upstaging him in his public image, and at one point in their relationship refused to speak directly to Mr. T. Instead, he sent messages through intermediaries (including at times fellow cast members) and for this Peppard was occasionally portrayed by the press as not a team player.[10]

Man Against the Mob[edit]

Peppard's last series was an intended occasional series of television movie features entitled Man Against the Mob set in the 1940s. In these TV detective films, Peppard played Los Angeles Police Detective Sgt. Frank Doakey. The second film Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders was broadcast in December 1989. A third film in this series was planned, but Peppard died before it was filmed.

Personal life[edit]

Peppard was married five times, and was the father of three children.


Peppard overcame a serious alcohol problem in 1978, and subsequently became heavily involved in helping other alcoholics. He had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life until he quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992. His illness never forced his retirement from acting. Peppard had completed a pilot for a new series in 1994 called The P.I., a Matlock spin-off intended to become a new television series, with co-star Tracy Nelson shortly before his death. Peppard died on May 8, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. Although still being treated for lung cancer, Peppard's direct cause of death was pneumonia.[1] Peppard was buried alongside his parents George, Senior, and Vernelle in Northview Cemetery, Dearborn, Michigan.[11]

Critical appraisal[edit]

David Shipman published this appraisal of Peppard in 1972:

George Peppard's screen presence has some agreeable anomalies. He is tough, assured and insolent - in a way that recalls late Dick Powell rather than early Bogart; but his bright blue eyes and blond hair, his boyish face suggest the all-American athlete, perhaps going to seed. The sophistication is surface deep: you can imagine him in Times Square on a Saturday night, sulky, defiant, out of his depth, not quite certain how he wants to spend the evening.[12]



1956The United States Steel HourPiney WoodsTV: Bang the Drum Slowly
1956 - 57Kraft Television TheatreTV: The Long Flight
Flying Object at Three O'Clock High
1957The Kaiser Aluminum HourLynchTV: A Real Fine Cutting Edge
1957Studio OneTV: A Walk in the Forest
1957The Alcoa HourEddie PierceTV: The Big Build-Up
1957The Strange OneCadet Robert Marquales
1957Alfred Hitchcock PresentsEvan WallaceTV: The Diplomatic Corpse
1957 - 58Matinee TheatreTV: End of the Rope, Part 1
End of the Rope, Part 2
1958SuspicionLeeTV: The Eye of Truth
1958Hallmark Hall of FameDennis WalshTV: Little Moon of Alban
1959Pork Chop HillCpl. Chuck Fedderson
1960Home from the HillRaphael "Rafe" Copley
1960StartimePat LawrenceTV: Incident at a Corner
1960The SubterraneansLeo Percepied
1961Breakfast at Tiffany'sPaul Varjak
1962How the West Was WonZeb Rawlings
1963The VictorsCpl. Chase
1964The CarpetbaggersJonas Cord
1964Theatre of StarsBuddy WrenTV: The Game with Glass Pieces
1965Operation CrossbowLt. John Curtis
1965The Third DaySteve Mallory
1966The Blue MaxLt. Bruno Stachel
1967TobrukCapt. Kurt Bergman
1967Rough Night in JerichoDolan
1968P.J.P.J. Detweiler
1968What's So Bad About Feeling Good?Pete
1968House of CardsReno Davis
1969Pendulum (fr)Capt. Frank Matthews
1970The ExecutionerJohn Shay
1970Cannon for CordobaCapt. Red Douglas
1971One More Train to RobHarker Fleet
1972The BravosMajor John David HarknessTV movie
1972The Groundstar ConspiracyTuxan
1972 - 74BanacekThomas BanacekTV series
1974Newman's LawVince Newman
1975The Week of FearDr. Jake GoodwinTV movie
1975Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Murder CaseDr. Samuel SheppardTV movie
1975 - 76Doctors' HospitalDr. Jake Goodwin
1977Damnation AlleyMaj. Eugene Denton
1979Five Days from HomeT.M. Pryoralso director and producer
1979Crisis in Mid-AirNick CulverTV movie
1979From Hell to VictoryBrett Rosson
1979Torn Between Two LoversPaul RasmussenTV movie
1980Battle Beyond the StarsCowboy
1981Race for the Yankee ZephyrTheo Brown
1981Your Ticket Is No Longer ValidJim Daley
1982Twilight TheatreTV movie
1982Jugando con la muerteMcFadden
1983 - 87The A-TeamCol. John "Hannibal" SmithTV series
1984Tales of the UnexpectedSgt. GuedoTV: The Dirty Detail
1988Man Against the MobFrank DoakeyTV movie
1989Zwei FrauenMr. Martin
1989Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown MurdersFrank DoakeyTV movie
1990Night of the FoxCol. Harry Martineau/Max VogelTV movie
1992The TigressSid Slaughter
1994MatlockMax MorganTV: The P.I.

Select theatre credits[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Collins, Glenn (1994-05-10). "George Peppard Dies; Stage and Screen Actor, 65". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  2. ^ Collins, Glenn (May 10, 1994). "George Peppard Dies; Stage and Screen Actor, 65". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Wise, James Edward; Rehill, Anne Collier (1 November 1999). Anne Collier Rehill, ed. Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines 2. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 159–166. ISBN 978-1-55750-949-9. Retrieved 2010-08-14. "Like its predecessor, Stars in the Corps is a valuable resource for scholars and aficionados of motion picture films, military buffs and historians, and students of American popular culture. This volume is the equal to and in several ways surpasses its earlier companion and is itself a valuable reference. Structurally, the volume contains a preface and introduction, two parts comprising 28 short biographies, four appendices, and 101 black-and-white images. A very useful Bibliography lists 92 books and periodicals, thirteen reference works, twelve interviews or correspondence, five major official records or archives, and five other sources. A six-page double column index lists, in the main, proper nouns and is an appropriate finding aid." 
  4. ^ "George Peppard Is Starring In Movie Now At Lyric". Ludington Daily News (Ludington, Michigan). May 20, 1971. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh In Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 152. ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  6. ^ "A Pfalz Friend". Air Progress. October 1979. 
  7. ^ Dorothy Manners (29 May 1966). "George Peppard retains his image as a loner". The News and Courier. 
  8. ^ a b David Shipman "Obituary: George Peppard", The Independent, 10 May 1994, accessed 19 May 2012
  9. ^ Mike Pingel. "Bo Hopkins Remembers Dynasty!". Archived from the original on 2005-08-06. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  10. ^ Steve Pratt, "Not really a team player",. Northern Echo, 19 May 2006, p. 15.
  11. ^ "Find a Grave". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  12. ^ David Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, Angus and Robertson, 1972 p 409

External links[edit]