Paul Fix was an American actor and screen writer who was best known for his portrayal of Marshal Micah Torrance in the series ‘The Rifleman.’ He had more than 300 movies and television appearances to his name, and a career spanning 56 years. A good friend of actor John Wayne, he was the man who taught Wayne his famous cowboy walk. During the early phase of his career, he was mostly offered negative roles. However, with time he began taking up positive roles as well and evolved into a much sought-after character actor. Fix mostly appeared in western movies, but he was known for taking up versatile character roles as well. Over the course of his long career he had played attorneys, sheriffs, and spies among other interesting characters. In many of the western movies and television shows, he appeared as a lawman. In fact, Fix and Ray Bonanza Teal were ranked amongst the best western lawmen on television and movies.
Childhood & Early Life
Paul Fix was born on March 13, 1901 in Dobbs Ferry, New York. His parents, Wilhelm Fix and Louise C. Walz, were German immigrants who had made New York their home in the 1870s.
He and his five siblings (two sisters and three brothers) lived on the Manilla Anchor Brewery, a 200-acre property which his father ran. His early childhood was a very comfortable and happy one.
His mother died when he was barely 13 years old. His father died two years later, and soon thereafter, the brewery had to be closed. He had to move in with his married sister, who lived near Yonkers. After some time, he had to move to Zanesville, Ohio, where his other married sister lived.
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In 1918, Paul Fix joined the US Navy and was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, and Charleston, South Carolina. It was while he was stationed in Newport that he took part in ‘HMS Pinafore,’ which was a Navy Relief Show. He essayed the role of a female character and the show was a hit.
He was then stationed on the U.S.S. Mount Vermont, which ran aground near France. He left the Navy in 1919.
In 1922, he moved to California with his wife, Frances Harvey. At this point, he did not know what he wanted to do with his life except that he wanted to live in a place that had warm climate. So, they tossed a coin to choose between Bahamas and California, and California won.
His vivid imagination since his early childhood helped him excel at acting and writing. He started acting in local plays, where he met Clark Gable. They were soon hired by Pauline Frederick, who was a stage star, to become part of her touring group. Fix did 20 plays with Clark Gable.
His role in the film ‘The Perfect Clown’ in 1925 is cited as his first uncredited appearance in movies. He went on to make many more uncredited appearances in silent movies before getting the first credited part in ‘The First Kiss’ in 1928. The film starred Gary Cooper and Fay Wray.
In 1931, he was cast in ‘Three Girls Lost’ along with John Wayne. On the request of Loretta Young, he became Wayne’s acting coach. They became good friends and went on to appear together in 26 movies, including ‘Pittsburgh’ (1942), ‘Tall in the Saddle’ (1944), ‘The Sea Chase’ (1955), and ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ (1965).
Paul Fix appeared in numerous movies in the 1940s and beyond, and quite a few of his roles were prominent ones. His role of Frank Briscoe, the stricken passenger in ‘The High and the Mighty’ (1954), was much appreciated. He also gained fame for his portrayal of a judge in the 1962 classic, ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird.’
He was also active on television. ‘The Rifleman’ (1958-63) was the only television series in which he appeared regularly till the end. However, he had a long list of television shows in which he had made minor appearances. These include ‘The Adventures of Superman’ (1953-54), ‘Gunsmoke’ (1956-57), ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1964), ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ (1973-1975), and ‘The Rockford Files’ (1978).
In 1966, he essayed the role of Dr. Mark Piper in the second pilot episode of ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before.’ Though he was replaced by Leonard McCoy later on, it was one of his most memorable performances.
Paul Fix contributed as a screenwriter to three movies—'Tall in the Saddle’ (1944), ‘Ring of Fear’ (1954), and ‘The Notorious Mr. Monks’ (1958).
His last movie was ‘Wanda Nevada’ in 1979. He co-starred with Brooke Shields in this movie. His last television appearance was in ‘Quincy M.C’ in 1981.
The ABC western series, ‘The Rifleman,’ was one of the finest works of Paul Fix. Audiences will always remember him as Marshal Micah Torrance, a recovering alcoholic turned lawman. While Fix had played the role of a lawman many times, this role was considered his best. He would get letters from the show’s fans till the end of his life.
Family & Personal Life
Paul Fix’s first wife was Frances Harvey, whom he married in 1922. Their daughter, Marilyn Fix, was born in 1925. Later on, she went on to marry the famous actor, Harry Carey Jr., in 1944. He divorced his first wife in 1945.
He then went on to marry Beverly Pratt in 1949. She passed away in 1979.
He died on October 14, 1983, due to renal failure.