Ford Rainey

Ford Rainey (August 8, 1908 – July 25, 2005) was an American film, stage, and television actor.[1]

Ford Rainey
Born(1908-08-08)August 8, 1908
DiedJuly 25, 2005(2005-07-25) (aged 96)
Resting placePierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary
Other namesFord Raney
EducationCentralia College
Cornish College of the Arts
Sheila Hayden
(m. 1954; his death 2005)

Early life

Rainey was born in Mountain Home, Idaho, the son of Vyrna (née Kinkade), a teacher, and Archie Coleman Rainey.[2] He first acted on the stage while a student at Centralia High School, where he graduated in 1927.[3] Rainey graduated from Centralia Junior College in Washington state and in 1933 from the Cornish School, now Cornish College of the Arts, in Seattle.[4]

He then moved to Connecticut to study acting at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio. Growing up in the outdoors and learning to ride horses helped him in his career as a tough-guy film presence later in life. Like many young actors, he worked odd jobs including logger, fisherman, fruit picker, carpenter, clam digger and working on an oil tanker before becoming a successful actor.

He served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.[3]


Rainey worked at radio stations KJR and KOMO in Seattle, Washington,[3] as well as being a touring stage actor before breaking into films. His Broadway debut was in a 1939 Chekhov production of The Possessed with fellow Cornish alumnus Beatrice Straight that had a run of 14 performances. After the war he moved to Ojai, California, where he, Woodrow Chambliss and other actors who had studied under Chekhov founded the Ojai Valley Players.

He made his film debut in White Heat in 1949 and became a familiar face in motion pictures, appearing in Perfect Strangers (1950), Two Rode Together (1961), 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), Johnny Tiger (1966), and The Sand Pebbles (1966). His other film credits included The Gypsy Moths (1969), The Naked Zoo (1970), The Traveling Executioner (1970), My Old Man's Place (1971), Sixteen (1973), the horror films Halloween II (1981) and The Cellar (1989), Bed & Breakfast (1992), Inferno (1999). He also co-starred in the acclaimed television movie My Sweet Charlie (1970), and appeared in other TV movies such as A Howling in the Woods (1971) and The Stranger Who Looks Like Me (1974).

He guest-starred on many television series, including The Adventures of Kit Carson, Bonanza, The Invaders, The Brothers Brannagan (in the 1961 series finale "The Hunter and the Hunted"), The Tall Man, Stoney Burke, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke,The Wild Wild West, Empire, Dundee and the Culhane, Baa Baa Black Sheep, How the West was Won (aka The Macahans), The Untouchables, and the 1976 western Sara. The tall austere, authoritative-looking actor was a natural at playing leaders.

In the 1961–62 season Rainey co-starred with Robert Young in the CBS series Window on Main Street, in which he portrayed newspaper editor Lloyd Ramsey.[5]:1182 In 1963–1964, he was a member of the regular cast of the NBC anthology series The Richard Boone Show.[5]:893 He portrayed Dr. Barnett on the NBC crime drama Search in 1972–1973,[5]:938 he had the role of Police Chief Vernon in Tenafly in 1973–1974[5]:1062, and he played James Barrett on the crime drama The Manhunter on CBS in 1974–1975.[5]

Between 1962–65 Rainey made four guest appearances on the CBS courtroom series Perry Mason, beginning with the role of Russell Durham in "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle." In 1964 he played murder victim Harry Trilling in "The Case of the Ugly Duckling."

Rainey portrayed the adoptive father of Lee Majors' Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man), and the foster father of Jaime Sommers (The Bionic Woman) (credit pictured). He appeared in the 1987 miniseries Amerika.

Rainey played a general on CBS' M*A*S*H, and a judge on both The Waltons and Matlock. He played presidents on Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Later television appearances, in the 1990s and 2000s, include ER and recurring roles on Wiseguy, Ned and Stacey, and The King of Queens. He could also be seen in some commercials in the middle 1970s through the 1980s, such as REACH toothbrushes; a Johnson & Johnson product. During that time he was part of Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island.

Personal life

Ford Rainey was a bachelor until the age of 46, when, in 1954, he married Sheila Hayden and settled in New York City, where sons Robert and James were born. The family moved to Malibu, California, where daughter Kathy was born.

Rainey remained in Malibu with his wife while he acted and enjoyed hobbies such as beekeeping and bird breeding until his death on July 25, 2005, of a stroke, at the age of 96. His interment was in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.



  1. Myrna Oliver, "Ford Rainey, 96; Performed Shakespeare, Shepard and Variety of Film, TV Roles", Los Angeles Times, July 26, 2005.
  2. Ford Rainey Biography (1908-)
  3. Martin, John (April 17, 1975). "$6 Million Man's 'father' began career in Centralia". The Daily Chronicle. Washington, Centralia. p. 15. Retrieved August 6, 2017 via
  4. "Cornish Alumni Information 1931-42". Cornish School of Allied Arts Records, accession 2654-005, box 5, folder 11. University of Washington Special Collections Library.
  5. Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 653. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
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