Ken Berry, star of F Troop and The Cat from Outer Space, died of natural causes Saturday, December 1.  He was 85.  Though best known for his work on F Troop, Mama’s Family, and Mayberry RFD, he also appeared in the Disney movies Herbie Rides Again and The Cat from Outer Space, and voiced Seymour Grey in one episode of The New Batman Adventures.  He also appeared on Fantasy Island seven times, and appeared on Small Wonder once.  He played Prince Dauntless in Once Upon a Mattress, starring his good friend Carol Burnett.  Leonard Nimoy was a friend and mentor; they served together in the U. S. Army.

Ken Berry, 1933- 2018

Ken Berry starred as Dr. Frank Wilson in “The Cat from Outer Space.” {image via Disney}

Ken Berry, 1933 – 2018, starred in the second of the six “Love Bug” movies about a sentient car.

 

Berry was born November 3, 1933 in Moline, Illinois.  He died December 1, 2018 in Burbank, California at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.

He studied tap dancing in his youth, and originally planned to be a song-and-dance man like Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly.  He toured with big band leader Horace Heidt before joining the army, where he served with Leonard Nimoy, who advocated for roles for Berry when they were both civilians.  He used his GI benefits to study acting.  Berry appeared on Broadway in George M!, starring as George M. Cohan.  He also appeared in musical revues and variety shows in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and New York.

Berry was seriously considered as Donald O’Connor’s replacement in the Francis, the Talking Mule movies, but lost the role to Mickey Rooney.  Berry went on to success in television.

Berry married actress Jackie Joseph-Lawrence (Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors) in 1960; they divorced in 1976.  They had two children. John and Jennifer.  For the past two decades, he was romantically involved with actress Susie Walsh (Maggie on C.H.i.P.s).  His son, a rock musician, predeceased him in 2016.

Whether singing and dancing as a Yankee Doodle Dandy, playing the clumsiest cavalry officer in the west, rescuing his sweetheart’s brother from a bank vault as Jimmy Valentine, or playing a scientist who meets and befriends an alien cat, Ken Berry was a consummate professional, admired and respected by his Hollywood colleagues,  A thirty-nine year career in television and film seems too short.  We offer our condolences to his daughter, his companion Ms. Walsh, and the rest of his friends and family.

Ken Berry, thank you for a lifetime of joy.

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