Lonny Chapman

Lon Leonard "Lonny" Chapman (October 1, 1920 October 12, 2007) was an American actor best known for his numerous guest star appearances on television drama series.

Lonny Chapman
Lon Leonard Chapman

(1920-10-01)October 1, 1920
DiedOctober 12, 2007(2007-10-12) (aged 87)
Alma materJoplin High School
Joplin Junior College
University of Oklahoma
OccupationActor, playwright
Years active19512001
Erma Dean
(m. 1944)

Early years

The son of Elmer and Eunice Chapman,[1] Chapman was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but lived thereafter in Joplin, Missouri. He graduated from Joplin High School and, in 1940, from Joplin Junior College. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the South Pacific during World War II. After the war, Chapman graduated from the University of Oklahoma at Norman. Then in 1947 he hitchhiked with Dennis Weaver, his best friend at the university, to New York City, where he landed the role of Turk in Come Back, Little Sheba.[2]


Chapman's first role on television was in 1951 on the series Starlight Theatre, playing the part of an arrogant high-school football player in an episode titled "Miss Bruell". Throughout the remainder of the 1950s, he continued to be cast in other series and gain experience in supporting roles. In 1958 he portrayed detective Jeff Prior in the NBC series The Investigator.[3]:509 Seven years later, he played another detective, Frank Malloy, in the CBS series For the People.[3]

Some of the other series in which Chapman appeared in supporting roles or as a guest star include Gunsmoke, Harbourmaster, The Rifleman, The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Everglades, Decoy, Dundee and the Culhane, Storefront Lawyers, Quincy, M.E., The A-Team, The Virginian, Matlock, NYPD Blue, and Murder, She Wrote. In 1964 he also performed on Perry Mason, portraying a murderer, Jack Talley, in "The Case of the Tandem Target". He appeared as well in the 1966 episode "Lone Woman" of The Road West. Between 1972 and 1975, he guest-starred too in three episodes of NBC's McCloud, which starred his friend Dennis Weaver, whom Chapman had originally urged to go into show business. In the late 1970s, he appeared in the episode "The Waterhole" on The Oregon Trail (1977), the episode "Now You see Her..." on The Eddie Capra Mysteries (1978), and as the character L. Patrick Gray in the miniseries Blind Ambition (1979).


Chapman first film role was "Ernie the plumber" in the 1955 movie Young at Heart. During his lengthy career, his appearances include roles in East of Eden (1955), Baby Doll (1956), The Birds (1963), The Cowboys (1972), Where the Red Fern Grows (1974), Norma Rae (1979), 52 Pick-Up (1986) and Reindeer Games (2000).


During the 1960s Chapman was involved with the Cecilwood Summerstock Theater in Fishkill, New York. In 1972, Chapman founded the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles and was named artistic director, a title he held until his death. Under his direction, the nonprofit 99-seat theater staged more than 350 productions and at least 45 premieres of original works. He was also a playwright; his works The Buffalo Skinner and Cry of the Raindrop were both produced Off-Broadway.


In the fall of 2005, Chapman was named "Outstanding Alumnus" at Missouri Southern State University, in his hometown of Joplin.[4] Chapman's best friend since his university days, fellow actor Dennis Weaver, had previously received that honor.[4]

Personal life and death

In 1944, Chapman married the former Erma Dean Gibbons of Joplin, Missouri. The couple remained married for 63 years and had two children: a daughter, Linda Dean, and a son, Wyley.[1][2] On October 12, 2007, at the age of 87, Chapman died of complications from heart disease at a care facility in North Hollywood. He was survived by his wife Erma and their son.[5] His ashes were sprinkled into the Pacific Ocean.


Year Title Role Notes
1954Young at HeartErnie Nichols
1955East of EdenRoy Turner - Automobile MechanicUncredited
1956Baby DollRock
1963The BirdsDeke Carter - Diner Owner
1967A Covenant with DeathMusgrave
1967Hour of the GunTurkey Creek Johnson
1968The Stalking MoonPurdue
1969Take the Money and RunJake - Convict
1969The ReiversMaury McCaslin
1970I Walk the LineBascomb
1971Welcome Home, Soldier BoysDanny's Father
1972The CowboysHomer's Father
1972Run, Cougar, RunHarry Walker
1973Running WildSenator Frank Coombs
1974Where the Red Fern GrowsSheriff
1974EarthquakeL.A.P.D. CaptainUncredited
1976The Witch Who Came from the SeaLong John
1976Moving ViolationSheriff Rankin
1978The Bad News Bears Go to JapanLouis the Gambler
1979Norma RaeGardner
1979Hanging by a ThreadCharles Minton
1980When Time Ran OutKelly
1980Running ScaredPa Beecher
1981AmyVirgil Goodloe
1982The BorderAndy
1983Cave-In!Walt Charles
198652 Pick-UpJim O'Boyle
1997NightwatchOld Watchman
2000Reindeer GamesOld Timer
2003The HuntedZander(final film role)


  1. Staff writers (1951-09-23). "Lonny Chapman, Joplin Actor, Gets New Role on Television". The Joplin Globe. p. 2A. Retrieved 2019-03-03 via Newspapers.com.
  2. Nelson, Valerie J. (2007-10-20). "Lonny Chapman, 87; theater company's artistic director". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  3. Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. "Outstanding Alum Award". Missouri Southern State University. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  5. Simonson, Robert (2007-10-26). "Lonny Chapman, Broadway Actor and Theatre Leader, Dies at 87". Playbill. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
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