G. W. Bailey is an American actor who gained popularity in 'crusty' comedic roles, such as Staff Sergeant Luther Rizzo in the CBS war comedy-drama series 'M*A*S*H' and that of Lieutenant/Captain Thaddeus Harris in the 'Police Academy' films (1984-1994). He also gained prominence for his roles in the film 'Mannequin' (1987) and the telefilms 'Murder in Texas' (1981), 'On Our Way' (1985), 'Before the Storm' (1991) and 'Dead Before Dawn' (1993). One of his other major role was as Detective Lieutenant Louie Provenza on TNT's crime drama series 'The Closer' and its spinoff series 'Major Crimes' from 2005 to 2018. He had previously appeared in three TNT produced Bible Collection television movies and miniseries, 'Solomon' (1997), 'Jesus' (1999), and 'St. Paul’ (2000).
Rise to Stardom
While G. W. Bailey was studying law at Texas Tech University, his friend and fellow law student Barry Corbin, who also became an actor, talked him out of studying law and convinced him to pursue acting. G. W. Bailey began his theatre career as the artistic director of the Lubbock Theater Center during the mid-1960s. He eventually moved to California in the mid-1970s and began appearing on television series, such as 'Harry O' (1974-75), 'Charlie's Angels' (1976), 'How the West Was Won' (1977), 'CHiPs' (1977), and 'Starsky and Hutch' (1975). During this period, he also acted in a couple made-for-television movies such as 'The Runaway Barge' and 'Summer of My German Soldier'.
He made his film debut playing Erwin in the early Chuck Norris movie 'A Force of One' in 1979. In the same year, he got his breakout role of Luther Rizzo in the series 'M-A-S-H'. He portrayed the comedic Staff Sergeant in over a dozen episodes of the series until 1983. The popularity of this role eventually led to several major supporting roles on films, television series and feature-length television dramas.
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G. W. Bailey went prematurely gray in his 30s, which led to roles that were much older than his actual age. In 1981, he portrayed Texas criminal defense attorney, Richard 'Racehorse' Haynes, in the two-part NBC telefilm 'Murder in Texas'. He had recurring roles as Dr. Hugh Beale on the medical drama 'St. Elsewhere' in 1982-83 and Albert Addelson on the comedy series 'Goodnight, Beantown' in 1983-84.
In 1984, he put up a very different type of performance as the imposing yet incompetent Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris in the lowbrow cop comedy 'Police Academy', which became immensely popular and spawned a host of films throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His character was promoted to Captain Harris in the 1987 film 'Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol', and he reprised the role in 'Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach' (1988), 'Police Academy 6: City Under Siege' (1989), and 'Police Academy: Mission to Moscow' (1994).
During the latter half of the 1980s, he earned praise for his portrayal of Mayor Tom Beckwith in the CBS telefilm 'On Our Way' (1985) and of Captain Felix Maxwell, the inept authority figure, in the romantic comedy film 'Mannequin' (1987). He also played Commander Jim Grigg in the mini-series 'War and Remembrance' in 1988. His notable appearances during the 1990s were in telefilms like 'Before the Storm' and 'Dead Before Dawn', and the TV series 'Murder, She Wrote' and 'The Jeff Foxworthy Show'.
In 2004, he voiced Rusty, the Dog in the Disney film 'Home on the Range'. The following year, he was cast in the main role of LAPD detective lieutenant Louie Provenza in the police procedural series 'The Closer', which he portrayed for 109 episodes until 2012. He then reprised the role in the spinoff series 'Major Crimes' from 2012 to 2018.
Family & Personal Life
George William Bailey was born on August 27, 1944, in Port Arthur, Texas, United States. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, where future singer-songwriter Janis Joplin and American football player Jimmy Johnson were his classmates.
After completing school graduation, he enrolled into Lamar University in nearby Beaumont, but later transferred to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he studied law. However, he left college midway to pursue a career in acting. Interestingly, later in 1993, he returned to college and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas in May that year. He was the Artist-in-Residence for the 1999-2000 school year.
G. W. Bailey got married to Eleanor June Goosby on April 2, 1966 and the couple had two children together. They divorced in 1999. He was the godfather of a girl named Brandy Aldridge who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 12 years old. He credits her for introducing him to the NGO The Sunshine Kids; Bailey has been serving as its Executive Director since 2001.