Family & Companions
Imposing, lantern-jawed leading man of TV, most famous as Lucas McCain, the righteous, chain-smoking protagonist of ABC-TV's immensely popular "The Rifleman" (1958-63). Connors' six-foot-five frame helped him gain a position as a pro basketball player on the Boston Celtics after a stint in the military during WWII. He soon switched to baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, but he was more distinguished for his comical sideline antics than his baseball prowess. Demoted to the Cubs' minor league farm, the old Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, Connors took advantage of his new location to begin an acting career, appearing in at least a dozen features before his star-making TV role.
"The Rifleman" featured the athlete-turned-actor as New Mexico homesteader Lucas McCain, a diligent single father whose child-rearing duties were enlivened by gun battles with ornery varmints whom he dispatched with his trusty modified Winchester rifle. Several notable directors of genre features--Sam Peckinpah, Budd Boetticher, Joseph H. Lewis, Ida Lupino--toiled on this landmark TV Western.
Connors's subsequent series included the cop/attorney drama "Arrest and Trial" (1963-64), opposite Ben Gazzara; the Westerns "Branded" (1965-66) and "Cowboy in Africa" (1967-68), the syndicated documentary "The Thrill Seekers" (1973), which he hosted and narrated; "The Yellow Rose" (1983-84), and the short-lived "Werewolf" (1987). TV movies include "The Police Story" (the 1973 pilot movie for the popular TV series), "The Horror at 37,000 Feet" (1973), "Banjo Hackett: Roamin' Free" (1976) and "Roots" (1977).
Connors contemplated entering politics, but found politicians even more ornery than his old sagebrush adversaries. In 1973, at a party at President Nixon's vacation home, he met an unlikely fan--Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who greeted his favorite actor with a big Russian bear hug. Connors presented Brezhnev with two six-guns. He was also on hand to honor his actor-turned-President friend on a 1985 CBS special entitled "An All-Star Party For 'Dutch' Reagan."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Signed as a professional basketball player with the Boston Celtics
Switched to pro baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Played for the Chicago Cubs
Early credit in a major film, George Cukor's "Pat and Mike", starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn
Cast as Lucas McCain in the popular TV series, "The Rifleman"
Met longtime fan, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, at a poolside party given by President Nixon in San Clemente
Appeared in an Emmy-nominated role as a lustful slave owner in the ABC-TV miniseries, "Roots"
Final major starring role in a feature, "Tourist Trap", a horror film set in a wax museum
Reprised the role of Lucas McCain, "The Rifleman" for the TV movie, "Luck of the Draw: The Gambler Returns", starring Kenny Rogers