Who was Michael Ansara?
Michael George Ansara was an American stage, screen, and voice actor. In his career spanning over five decades, Ansara displayed his versatility portraying several memorable roles. These include playing the lead role of Cochise in Western television series ‘Broken Arrow’ that gained him widespread recognition. He played evil adversary ‘Kane’ in the sci-fi adventure television series ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,’ Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart in Western television series ‘Law of the Plainsman,’ Commander Kang in three different ‘Star Trek’ television series, and lent his voice to ‘Mr. Freeze’ in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and many of its spin-offs. Some of his other notable works include the miniseries ‘Centennial,’ films like ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ and ‘The Message,’ and a Broadway show with actor Ramon Novarro. He also appeared in Biblical epic films like ‘The Robe’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’. He was honoured with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’
Childhood & Early Life
Michael George Ansara, a Greek Orthodox Christian, was born on April 15, 1922, in a small village in the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon. Ansara immigrated with his family to the US at the age of two. After living in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a decade, his family relocated to California.
Ansara wanted to become a doctor, but the acting classes at Pasadena Playhouse, which he attended to overcome his shyness, got him interested acting. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from the ‘Los Angeles City College.’
During the Second World War, Ansara served the army as a medic.
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Ansara commenced his career with stage acting and made his screen debut with uncredited role of Hamid in the 1944 film ‘Action in Arabia.' He featured mostly in ethnic roles, particularly playing Indian characters.
One of his initial roles was that of ‘The Prophet’ in the 1952 Technicolor western film ‘Brave Warrior.’ He appeared in films like ‘Julius Caesar’ (1953) and ‘Three Young Texans’ (1954), and had a starring roles as ‘Captain Florus’ in the 1953 Technicolor historical-adventure film ‘Serpent of the Nile’ and ‘Charlie’ in the 1955 horror-comedy ‘Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.’
Meanwhile, he played uncredited role of ‘Judas Iscariot’ in the 1953 Biblical epic film ‘The Robe.’ He appeared in some other Biblical epic films as well; he featured in the uncredited role of Taskmaster in the award-winning hit epic-religious-drama ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956); and portrayed Herod's Commander in the epic film ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ (1965).
In the 1950s, Ansara essayed different roles in several episodes of the popular television anthology series ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents.’
He landed up with lead role of ‘Cochise’ in the ABC-TV aired popular Western series ‘Broken Arrow’ (1956-58). It became his career defining role and raised him to stardom.
He starred as ‘Deputy Marshal Sam Buckhart,’ an Apache Indian, in his own Western television series ‘Law of the Plainsman’ (1959-60). The series started as an episode of the Western television series ‘The Rifleman’ starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford.
He appeared with silent film actor Ramon Novarro in a 1962 Broadway show.
He featured as ‘Klingon commander Kang’ in three ‘Star Trek’ television series. These include November 1, 1968 aired episode ‘Day of the Dove’ from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’; March 27, 1994 aired episode ‘Blood Oath’ from ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’; and September 11, 1996 aired episode ‘Flashback’ from ‘Star Trek: Voyager’.
He played ‘Killer Kane’ in the first season of the sci-fi adventure television series ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,’ in 1979.
Ansara also made his mark as a voice actor with the role of Mr. Freeze in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (1992-94). He reprised the role in the 1998 direct-to-video superhero animated feature film ‘Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero,’ in single episode of ‘The New Batman Adventures’ (1997) and ‘Batman Beyond’ (1999), and the 2001 video game ‘Batman: Vengeance.’
He also appeared in films such as ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ (1961), ‘It's Alive’ (1974), and ‘The Message’ (1976); miniseries ‘Centennial’ (1978-1979); and the animated series ‘Rambo: The Force of Freedom’ (1986, voice). He also featured in supporting role in the Elvis Presley film ‘Harum Scarum’ (1965).
He won ‘Western Heritage Award’ for his guest-role in TV series ‘Rawhide’. Ansara received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.
Family & Personal Life
He was married to actress Jean Byron from 1955 to 1956. His second marriage was with actress Barbara Eden which lasted from 1958 to 1974. Their son, Matthew Ansara, born in 1965, died of a heroin overdose on June 25, 2001.
He married actress Beverly Kushida in 1977.
On July 31, 2013, Ansara succumbed to complications from Alzheimer's disease, while he was at his home in Calabasas. He was laid to rest beside his son, Matthew, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, US.