John Russell (actor)

John Lawrence Russell (January 3, 1921 – January 19, 1991) was an American motion picture film and television actor, most noted for his starring role as Marshal Dan Troop in the ABC western television series Lawman from 1958 to 1962.[1][2] and his lead role as international adventurer Tim Kelly in the syndicated TV series Soldiers of Fortune from 1955 to 1957.

John Russell
Russell as Dan Troop in Lawman, 1959
John Lawrence Russell

(1921-01-03)January 3, 1921
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 19, 1991(1991-01-19) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeLos Angeles National Cemetery
Years active1939-1988
Renata Titus
(m. 1943; div. 1965)

Lavergne Warner Pearson
(m. 1970; div. 1971)

Early life

Born in Los Angeles to insurance company executive John Henry Russell and his wife, Amy Requa, John Lawrence Russell was the eldest of three children.[3] He attended the University of California, Los Angeles as a student athlete.

Following the start of World War II, he joined the United States Marine Corps, though he was initially rejected because of his height (6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)).[4] He was commissioned as second lieutenant on November 11, 1942, and was assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment. His division was sent to Guadalcanal, where he served as an assistant intelligence officer. He contracted malaria and returned home with a medical discharge.[5]

Acting career

Russell signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1945 and made his first film appearance as a guard in A Royal Scandal. (Russell is not the John "Johnny" Russell who appeared as one of the children in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, despite many sources crediting that film as his debut.) He played several supporting parts while at Fox, acting the role of a junior law partner in the Clifton Webb comedy Sitting Pretty (1948) as well as a navy pilot in Slattery's Hurricane (1949). He primarily played secondary roles, often in western films, including William A. Wellman's 1948 Yellow Sky. Later, however, he signed with Republic Pictures, where he was cast in a starring role opposite Judy Canova in Oklahoma Annie (1952).

In 1955, Russell landed the lead role in a television drama series called Soldiers of Fortune. This half-hour syndicated adventure show placed him and his sidekick (played by Chick Chandler) in a dangerous jungle setting. While the show proved popular with young boys, it did not draw enough adult viewers to its prime slot and was canceled in 1957. That same year, he returned to films briefly to appear as a corrupt agricultural magnate in the Warner Brothers low-budget exploitation film Untamed Youth. However, a year later he returned to the small screen as gunslinger Matt Reardon, in "The Empty Gun" episode of the ABC/Warners western series, Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker. In 1958 Russell appeared as Saylor Hornbook on Cheyenne in the episode titled "Dead to Rights."

In 1958, Russell was cast in his best-known role: the stolid, taciturn Marshal Dan Troop, the lead character in Lawman, an ABC/Warners hit western series that ran for four years. Co-starring alongside Peter Brown, who played Deputy Johnny McKay, and Peggie Castle as Birdcage Saloon owner Lily Merrill, Russell portrayed a US frontier peace officer mentoring his younger compatriot. At the same time that Lawman premiered, Russell played an outlaw, along with Edd Byrnes and Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., in the 1958 season premiere episode of Sugarfoot, another ABC/WB hit western, with Will Hutchins in the title role.

Russell also appeared in other motion pictures for Warner Bros., notably as a Sioux chieftain in Yellowstone Kelly (1959), as well as a rich corrupt cattle-rancher, Nathan Burdette, in the highly successful Howard Hawks western Rio Bravo (1959), starring John Wayne.

At the same time, Russell guest-starred in an episode of NBC's adventure series Northwest Passage, a fictionalized account of the exploits of Major Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War. In 1969, Russell appeared in five episodes of the Robert Wagner series, It Takes a Thief: "Guess Who's Coming To Rio?" (January 9, 1969), "Saturday Night In Venice" (September 25, 1969), "The Blue, Blue Danube" (October 30, 1969), "Payoff In The Piazza" (November 13, 1969) and "A Friend In Deed" (November 27, 1969).

Throughout the remainder of his movie career, he played secondary roles in more than 20 films, including several A.C. Lyles westerns and three films directed by his friend Clint Eastwood, most notably as Marshal Stockburn, the chief villain in Eastwood's 1985 film Pale Rider.

Russell also appeared in the second season of the Filmation children's science-fiction series Jason of Star Command. He played Commander Stone, a blue-skinned alien from Alpha Centauri. He replaced James Doohan, who had played the commander in the previous season, but left to start working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).


Russell died of complications from emphysema in 1991,[1] sixteen days after his 70th birthday, and was interred in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, a former U.S. Veterans Administration cemetery in Los Angeles.

According to NNDB, he married twice.[6] He married Renata Titus in 1943. They had three children, and divorced in 1965. He married again in 1970, but was divorced the following year.

Complete filmography


  1. "'Lawman' John Russell Dies At 70". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. January 31, 1991.
  2. Obituary Variety, February 4, 1991.
  3. United States Census 1940; Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Roll: m-t0627-00406; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 60-315
  4. Kolb, Charles C. (November 1999). "Hollywood Stars and Their Service in the Marine Corps". H-Net Reviews. p. 5. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  5. Wise, James E.; Rehill, Anne Collier (1999). Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines. Naval Institute Press. p. 180. ISBN 9781557509499.
  6. "John Russell". NNDB.
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