Michael George Ansara (April 15, 1922 – July 31, 2013) was an American stage, screen, and voice actor. He portrayed Cochise in the television series Broken Arrow, Kane in the 1979–1981 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Commander Kang in three episodes of the Star Trek television series, Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart in the NBC series Law of the Plainsman, and provided the voice for Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series and several of its spin-offs. Ansara received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in the television industry, located at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard.
Michael George Ansara was born in a small village in the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, and his family emigrated to the United States when he was two years old. He was of Lebanese descent. They lived in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a decade before moving to California. He originally wanted to be a physician, but developed a passion for becoming a performer after he began taking acting classes at Pasadena Playhouse to overcome his shyness. He was educated at Los Angeles City College, from which Ansara earned an Associate of Arts degree. Ansara served as a medic in the army during World War II.
During the 1950s, Ansara appeared in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He appeared in a 1951 episode of The Lone Ranger titled “Trouble at Black Rock.” In 1953, he appeared as Pindarus in Joseph Mankiewicz’ big screen adaptation of Julius Caesar, with Marlon Brando, James Mason and John Gielgud. However, the popular television series Broken Arrow (1956), wherein he played the lead role of Cochise, raised Ansara’s profile and made him a household name. While making the series, the 20th Century-Fox publicity department arranged a date between Ansara and actress Barbara Eden. The two later married and Ansara guest-starred on Eden’s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie as the Blue Djinn. He also played King Kamehameha in the Jeannie episode “The Battle of Waikīkī”, and in the final season, he played Major Biff Jellico in the episode “My Sister, the Home Wrecker”. Ansara and Eden divorced in 1974. The couple had one son together, actor Matthew Ansara, who died on June 25, 2001, of a heroin overdose.
Ansara starred in his own ABC-TV series, Law of the Plainsman (1959–1960), with Gina Gillespie and Robert Harland. He performed as an Apache Indian named Sam Buckhart, who had been appointed as a U.S. Marshal. The series began as an episode of The Rifleman.
Ansara also played in Biblical epics: The Robe (1953) as Judas Iscariot, The Ten Commandments (1956) as a taskmaster (uncredited), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) as Herod’s commander. He also appeared as Belshazzar in Columbia’s 1953 movie Slaves of Babylon.
In 1961, Ansara played the role of Miguel Alvarez in the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, co-starring with Barbara Eden and Walter Pidgeon, who played the role of Admiral Harriman Nelson. Ansara later appeared in an episode of the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, playing the rebel sub commander Captain Ruiz in “Killers of the Deep” (1966). He also appeared in the episode “Hot Line” (broadcast on November 9, 1964) as a Soviet scientist who disarms a defective Soviet atomic satellite that has crashed off the coast of California and he appeared as Carl in the episode “Night Visitors” of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show.
In 1962, he starred in a Broadway show with the silent film actor Ramon Novarro.
In 1964, he made his only guest appearance on Perry Mason as Vince Kabat in “The Case of the Antic Angel.” Also that year, he played the lead character of “Qarlo,” the Soldier in an episode of The Outer Limits. It opened the second season of shows on 19 September 1964 and was written by acclaimed fantasy writer and novelist Harlan Ellison, adapting it from his short story “Soldier from Tomorrow.”
He starred in a supporting role in the 1965 Elvis Presley film, Harum Scarum. His wife, Barbara Eden, had starred in an earlier Elvis film, 1960’s Flaming Star.
Ansara played the Ruler on episode 22, “The Challenge,” of the television series Lost in Space (March 2, 1966) with a young Kurt Russell as his son Quano. Later that same year, Ansara appeared in the feature film Texas Across the River with Dean Martin. He also appeared on Daniel Boone as Red Sky in a 1966 episode. In another 1966 episode of that series, Ansara portrayed Sebastian Drake. He played two different characters in two episodes of the 1966 science fiction television series The Time Tunnel, Colonel Hruda in episode #11 and the Curator in episode #28 .
Ansara continued appearing in guest starring roles on television, including “The Savage Street”, a 1967 episode of the ABC action drama series The Fugitive, “On a Clear Night You Can See Earth”, a 1969 episode of the ABC-TV series Land of the Giants, and “The Western”, the penultimate episode of the original CBS television series Mission: Impossible, which aired in 1973.
In 1976, Ansara starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (also titled The Message), about the origin of Islam and the message of prophet Mohammad.
In 1978, he starred in the acclaimed miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James A. Michener. Ansara played the Indian leader Lame Beaver, whose descendants are showcased throughout the centuries alongside the growth of the West and the town that the novel and miniseries are named after.
Ansara played the recurring role of Killer Kane in the 1979–1980 season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
He narrated Paul Goble’s “The Gift of the Sacred Dog” at Crow Agency, Montana, on June 17, 1983, and Sheila MacGill-Callahan’s “And Still the Turtle Watched” on October 21, 1993, on the PBS series Reading Rainbow.
In 1988, Ansara appeared in an episode of the television series Murder, She Wrote titled “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel”.
In 1992, he voiced Mr. Freeze in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Heart of Ice”, and won critical acclaim for his performance as the iconic villain. He went on to voice Mr. Freeze in the animated film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, an episode of both The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond, and the video game Batman: Vengeance.
In 1994, Ansara portrayed the Technomage Elric in the Babylon 5 episode “The Geometry of Shadows”.
He is one of nine actors to play the same character (in his case the Klingon commander Kang) on three Star Trek television series – the original series (“Day of the Dove”), Deep Space Nine (“Blood Oath”) and Voyager (“Flashback”).
Awards and honors
Ansara was nominated for a Saturn Award, and has won a Western Heritage Award for Rawhide.
On February 8, 1960, Ansara received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in the television industry, located at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard.
Personal life and death
Ansara was married three times, first to actress Jean Byron in 1955; the couple divorced in 1956. In 1958, Ansara married Barbara Eden, who co-starred with him in Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The couple had a son named Matthew Ansara born in 1965. Ansara and Eden divorced in 1974, and he married actress Beverly Kushida in 1977. On June 25, 2001, his son Matthew died from a drug overdose in Monrovia, California. Ansara was a Greek Orthodox Christian.
Ansara died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Calabasas on July 31, 2013, at the age of 91. His interment is at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, next to his son Matthew.
|1944||Action in Arabia||Hamid||Uncredited|
|Can’t Help Singing||California Caballero||Uncredited|
|1947||Intrigue||Ramon’s Radio Man|
|1949||Outpost in Morocco||Rifle Dispenser||Uncredited|
|1950||The Desert Film||Guard||Uncredited|
|South Sea Sinner||Native Policeman||Uncredited|
|1951||Soldiers Three||Manik Rao|
|Only the Valiant||Tucsos|
|Smuggler’s Island||Sikh Policeman||Uncredited|
|My Favorite Spy||House Servant||Uncredited|
|1952||Brave Warrior||The Prophet|
|Yankee Buccaneer||Lt. Romero|
|The Golden Hawk||Bernardo Díaz|
|Road to Bali||Guard||Uncredited|
|1953||The Lawless Breed||Gus Hanley||Uncredited|
|The Bandits of Corsica||Blacksmith|
|Serpent of the Nile||Captain Florus|
|White Witch Doctor||De Gama||Uncredited|
|Slaves of Babylon||Prince Belshazzar|
|The Diamond Queen||Mir Jumla, the Mogul’s general|
|1954||Three Young Texans||Apache Joe|
|Drums of Tahiti||Opening Narrator||Uncredited|
|The Saracen Blade||Count Alesandro Siniscola|
|Princess of the Nile||Captain Kral|
|The Egyptian||Hittite Commander||Uncredited|
|Bengal Brigade||Sgt. Major Puran Singh|
|Sign of the Pagan||Edecon|
|New Orleans Uncensored||Floyd ‘Zero’ Saxon|
|Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy||Charlie|
|The Lone Ranger||Angry Horse|
|Gun Brothers||Shawnee Jack|
|The Ten Commandments||Taskmaster||Uncredited|
|Pillars of the Sky||Kamiakin|
|1957||Last of the Badmen||Kramer|
|The Tall Stranger||Zarata|
|The Sad Sack||Moki||Uncredited|
|1961||Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea||Miguel Alvarez|
|1964||Quick, Let’s Get Married||Mayor Pablo|
|1965||The Greatest Story Ever Told||Herod’s Commander|
|Harum Scarum||Prince Dragna|
|1966||…And Now Miguel||Blas Chavez|
|Texas Across the River||Iron Jacket|
|1968||The Destructors||Count Mario Romano|
|Sol Madrid||Capt. Ortega|
|Daring Game||President Eduardo Delgado|
|The Pink Jungle||Raul Ortega|
|1969||Guns of the Magnificent Seven||Col. Diego|
|1970||The Phynx||Col. Rostinov|
|1972||Dear Dead Delilah||Morgan Charles|
|Stand Up and Be Counted||Playboy Speaker|
|1973||The Doll Squad||Eamon O’Reilly|
|1974||It’s Alive||The Captain|
|The Bears and I||Oliver Red Fern|
|1976||The Message||Abu Sufyan|
|1977||Day of the Animals||Daniel Santee|
|Mission to Glory: A True Story||Chief Coxi|
|The Manitou||John Singing Rock|
|1981||The Guns and the Fury||Prince Sohrab|
|1984||Access Code||Senator Dales|
|1985||KGB: The Secret War||Lyman Taylor|
|1986||Knights of the City||Mr. Delamo|
|1998||Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero||Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|1999||The Long Road Home||Murdock Haynes||(final film role)|
|1951||Family Theater||Decius||Episode: “That I May See”|
|Episode: “Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration”|
|1954||Dragnet||Carl Chapman||Episode: “The Big Rod”|
|1956||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Desar||Episode: “The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby”|
|Mr. DeMario||Episode: “The Baby Sitter”|
|Butcher||Episode: “Shopping for Death”|
|1956–1958||Broken Arrow||Cochise||Contract role|
|1957||Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans||Ogana||Episode: “Hawkeye’s Homecoming”|
|1959||The Rifleman||Deputy Marshal Sam Buckhart||Episode: “The Indian”|
|Episode: “The Raid”|
|1959–60||Law of the Plainsman||Contract role|
|1960||The Untouchables||Charlie Steuben||Episode: “Nicky”|
|The Rebel||Docker Mason||Episode: “The Champ”|
|1961||The Untouchables||Rafael Torrez||Episode: “The Jamaica Ginger Story”|
|Wagon Train||Northstar||Episode: “The Patience Miller Story”|
|1963||Rawhide||Joseph||Episode: “Incident of Iron Bull”|
|1964||Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea||Malinoff||Episode: “Hot Line”|
|Perry Mason||Vince Kabat||Episode: “The Case of the Antic Angel”|
|The Outer Limits||Quarlo Clobregnny||Episode: “Soldier”|
|1965||The Virginian||Marshall Merle Frome||Episode: “The Showdown”|
|Branded||Thomas Frye||Episode: “The Bounty”|
|1966||Lost in Space||The Ruler||Episode: “The Challenge”|
|I Dream of Jeannie||Blue Djinn||Episode: “Happy Anniversary”|
|Bewitched||Rufus the Red||Episode: “A Most Unusual Wood Nymph”|
|The Virginian||Paul Dallman||Episode: “High Stakes”|
|1967||Gunsmoke||Grey Horse||Episode: “Honor Before Justice”|
|Luke Todd||Episode: “The Returning”|
|The Fugitive||Officer Miguel ‘Mike’ Anza||Episode: “The Savage Street”|
|The Time Tunnel||Curator||Episode: “The Kidnappers”|
|1968||I Dream of Jeannie||King Kamehameha||Episode: “The Battle of Waikīkī”|
|Star Trek||Commander Kang||Episode: “Day of the Dove”|
|1969||Target: Harry||Maj. Milos Segora||TV movie intended as a television pilot|
|I Dream of Jeannie||Major Biff Jellico||Episode: “My Sister, the Homewrecker”|
|1971||The Mod Squad||Ray Abruzzi||Episode: “A Double for Danger”|
|Bearcats!||Paco Morales||Episode: “Powderkeg”|
|1972||The Streets of San Francisco||Albert ‘Al’ Ferguson||Episode: “The Year of the Locusts”|
|Hawaii Five-O||Piro Manoa||Episode: “Death is a Company Policy”|
|1973||Call To Danger||Frank Mulvey||TV movie|
|Mission: Impossible||Ed Stoner||Episode: “The Western”|
|Ordeal||Sheriff Peter Geeson||TV movie|
|1974||Nakia||Howard Gray Hawk||Episode: “The Dream”|
|1975||The Barbary Coast||Diamond Jack Bassiter||Episode: “Pilot”|
|1976||The Rockford Files||Joseph DiMinna||Episode: “Joey Blue Eyes”|
|Kojak||Keith McCallum||Episode: “Justice Deferred”|
|1978||Dr. Strange||Ancient One (voice)||TV Movie
|1979||The Story of Esther||Haman||TV movie|
|1979–80||Buck Rogers in the 25th Century||Kane||Recurring|
|1981||Thundarr the Barbarian||Vashtar (voice)||Episode: “Prophecy of Peril”|
|Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends||Hiawatha Smith (voice)||Episode: “Quest of the Red Skull”|
|1982||Bayou Romance||Zanko||TV movie|
|1983||Reading Rainbow||Self – Narrator (voice)||Episode: “Gift of the Sacred Dog”|
|1984||The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins||Turk||TV movie|
|1986||Rambo: The Force of Freedom||General Warhawk (voice)||63 Episodes|
|1985||Hunter||General Mariano||Episode: “Rape and Revenge, Part 2”|
|1988||Murder, She Wrote||Nicholas Rossi||Episode: “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel”|
|1992–1994||Batman: The Animated Series||Mr. Freeze / Dr. Victor Fries (voice)||Episodes: “Heart of Ice” and “Deep Freeze”|
|1993||Reading Rainbow||Self – Narrator (voice)||Episode: “And Still the Turtle Watched”|
|1994||Babylon 5||Elric||Episode: “The Geometry of Shadows”|
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Kang||Episodes “Blood Oath”|
|1996||Jeyal||Episode: “The Muse”|
|Star Trek: Voyager||Kang||Episode: “Flashback”|
|1997||The New Batman Adventures||Mr. Freeze / Dr. Victor Fries (voice)||Episode: “Cold Comfort”|
|1999||Batman Beyond||Episode: “Meltdown”|
|2001||Batman: Vengeance||Mr. Freeze / Dr. Victor Fries (voice)||Final acting role before retirement|
|1997||Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard||Malfeasor|
|1961||Here’s Hollywood||Self||Episode: “1.102”|
|1967||The Mike Douglas Show||Episode: “6.170”|
|1970||Philbin’s People||Episode: “1.31”|
|I Dream of Jeannie||Director||Episode: “One Jeannie Beats Four of a Kind”|
|The Fountain of Groovy||Self||Television documentary|
|1971||Jerry Visits||Episode: 2 October 1971|
|Celebrity Bowling||Episode: “Dick Martin & Billy Barty vs. John Schuck & Michael Ansara”|
|1972||This Is Your Life||Episode: “Barbara Eden”|
|1976||The Wonderful World of Disney||Oliver Red Fern||Episodes: “The Bears and I, parts 1 and 2”
|1978||Celebrity Bowling||Self||Episode: “Michael Ansara & Dick Martin vs. Leslie Nielsen & Jimmie Walker”|
|ABC’s Silver Anniversary Celebration||TV Special|
|1979||When the West Was Fun: A Western Reunion||Television documentary|
|1980||Buck Rogers in the 25th Century||Kane||Episode: “A Blast for Buck”
|2000||The Exchange||Executive producer||Written and directed by Ed Nicoletti|
|The E! True Hollywood Story||Self||TV Series documentary|
|2010||Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness||John Singing Rock||Episode: “The Manitou”
|2013||65th Primetime Emmy Awards||Self||Segment: In Memoriam
|2014||20th Screen Actors Guild Awards||Segment: In Memoriam