Posts Tagged ‘Don Hanmer

George Reeves, Barry Nelson, DeForest Kelley and Betty White were Don Hanmer’s “co-stars” in his first film role.

Don Hanmer (1918-2003)(1) was introduced to me by Ralph Senensky at our very first  Dinosaur Club meeting.  He had the voice and face of someone who entertained me countless times in the movies, and especially on television…but I just couldn’t place the name.  I suppose that’s one of the hazards of being a character actor.  He told me that it wasn’t a big deal to him when people didn’t know his name, and told a funny story about how he and some other actors met with a producer in the hope of landing a role in a major television movie; the producer, for some reason not recognizing him, said, “Thank you all for coming, but we’re looking for a Don Hanmer type”!

Don acted in scores of scores of television shows, and a few movies [most notably as the butterfly trader in “Papillon” (1973)].  Years before he had acted under the direction of two other members of the club, directors Ralph Senensky and Lamont Johnson.  Between the three of them not one question of mine about the golden age of television went unanswered.

I haven’t been able to find any meaningfully biographical information on Don, but he told me he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, appeared as an extra in both the stage and movie versions of Moss Hart’s “Winged Victory” (1944), and the following year had his first performance as an actor in “Time to Kill”(2) a 23 minute WWII U.S. Navy morale booster, with George Reeves, Barry Nelson, Jimmy Lydon, Don Taylor, and also in their first film roles, DeForest Kelley and Betty White.  Don said it was filmed in a couple of days at the Motion Picture Unit U.S. Army Airforces, First Motion Picture Unit, dubbed “Fort Roach,” because it was located at the Hal Roach studios in Culver City, CA.

After the war, Don joined the famed Actor’s Studio in New York, where he honed his craft, which soon turned into a busy career in live television.  He also met and married his first wife, Marlon Brando’s sister, Jocelyn, with whom they had two sons. 

Ralph Senensky(2) reminded me of two stories Don shared at one of our lunches…which Ralph articulated them far better than I.

Don was a member of the famed Actors’ Studio. He told me of an incident years before in one of his classes. The assignment was to perform an activity using sense memory. Don chose to eat a banana. Seated in his chair in the classroom he pantomimed picking up a banana and slowly starting to peel it. At this moment Cloris Leachman arrived late. She quietly slipped in and took a seat directly behind Don and took a banana out of a sack for her late lunch. Don, engrossed in his pantomime suddenly looked up and said to Lee Strasberg, “I’m so into this, I can actually smell the banana.”

Also, on THE BULL ROARER, an episode of the television series BREAKING POINT, Don played a trainer at the Guide Dogs for The Blind school.  The head of the school, Bill Johns, came to Hollywood from San Rafael and served as a technical advisor during our filming. He brought with him one of the trainers from San Rafael to help tend to their seeing eye dogs.. At one point I asked Bill if what Don as doing on film was correct. He responded that the only thing wrong with his performance was that since the dog trainers did a tremendous amount of walking as they first trained the dogs and then trained the blind people how to use the dogs, Don’s appearance was quite a bit more rotund than those of the San Rafael trainers!




Free downloads:

“Time to Kill” (1945)

 “Tales of Tomorrow” (1952)


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In his 80s he still had that amazing voice…

One of the members of our “club” was Lamont Johnson (1922-2010)(1)(2), who used his dynamic bass radio voice on network radio while still in his teens.  He enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor (radio, stage, screen, television) and director (I can’t begin to list all of his credits). 

One time we were talking about overcoming difficult situations, and he gave me three examples he experienced, one serious, and two humorous:

Lamont Johnson was a sickly and painfully shy child who was an invalid until age 10 because of suffering TB of his leg.  He said his voice helped him get good parts in school plays, and that plus years of psychoanalysis, brought him out of his shell.

Lamont played Tarzan in “Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle”(3) on Mutual Radio in the early 1950s, which was sponsored by Post Cereals.  On one occasion Post asked him to perform the Tarzan yell while saying the words “P-o-s-t R-a-i-s-i-n B-r-a-n,” a difficult job to do under any circumstances, but he had to do it live, and with only an hour to rehearse.  He succeeded, and gave me a spot-on rendition 50 years after the fact…muted so as not to disturb the other restaurant patrons!    

Lamont’s first feature film as a director was “A Covenant with Death” (1967)(4).  The famous Mexican actor Emilio Fernández(5), notorious as a loose cannon on the set (and everywhere else), played the role of Ignacio.  The evening before the first day of shooting Lamont was up late obsessing about his first effort for the big screen.  Around 2:00 AM he got a phone call from the local police…Emilio was in jail; he got into a bar fight and knifed someone!   Lamont rushed to the jail, where Emilio, still woozy, was in tears, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, Mr. Johnson, for causing you this trouble!”  Much to Lamont’s relief, the police brought the remorseful actor to the set in handcuffs, let him play his scenes.  They put the cuffs on him and brought him back to jail…a scenario repeated until the filming ended.

Lamont was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and throughout his life aligned himself with progressive causes.  He told me he worked extensively as a director of made for television movies, because that medium, rather than the big screen, was much more receptive to portraying controversial subjects.  Lamont wrote the screenplay as well as directed what he told me was his favorite TV movie, “The Execution of Private Slovik” (1974)(6), the story of the only American soldier executed (since the Civil War) for desertion during World War II. 

Into his 80s he never tired of answering my questions, and especially articulating his ideas for future movies dealing with social causes. 

With that booming voice of his I would have been happy to listen if he simply read from the phone book.   









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Burgess Meredith in “Printer’s Devil”

I met Ralph Senensky through a mutual friend who knew we both collected movie posters.  During our first meeting we talked mostly about posters although I knew Ralph directed television shows.  That is until I remembered he directed my all-time favorite “Twilight Zone,” (“Printer’s Devil” (1963), starring Burgess Meredith) that episode really had an affect on me; still does.  At that point I asked him to share his credits, and what a long list of classic shows  from every conceivable genre; “Route 66” to “Star Trek”, “The Fugitive” to “The Bill Cosby Show,” “The Paper Chase” to “The Waltons,” and so many more.  

Ralph Senensky at home in Carmel, California

I found Ralph to be a friendly, unpretentious, gentleman with a sense of humor and a memory as sharp as a tack.  He answered my endless questions, like how he was able to produce such polished looking work under the budget and time constraints of TV, and which stars were easy (or hard) to work with.   

I especially found exciting his stories when he was in his early 30s and working in various capacities at CBS during the last half of the 1950s, the Golden Era of live television…the nights of programs like “Playhouse 90,” when there were no retakes…everything went out over the air as-is.

As our friendship developed we talked about all kinds of things, not just about showbiz.

The good news is that Ralph created an incredible blog.  He talks about directing, writing, and everything connected with making prime-time television shows, often using film clips to illustrate his points.  I especially found interesting pages of his marked up scripts with last minute changes that changed a scene from good to great.

One day Ralph mentioned three friends who had retired in the Monterey area, silent film actor and radio and film legend, True Boardman, stage and radio actor; director, Lamont Johnson; and prolific character actor, Don Hanmer.  I suggested we all get together and have lunch and knew they would tell great show business stories…and I was certainly right!  The five of us agreed to meet for lunch every other week, and I was in heaven…what a nice group of guys who checked their ego’s at the door.  Our lunches lasted for a few years, and it is hard for me to describe how much I enjoyed them. Ralph referred to our group as “Hollywood expatriates,” but my wife called us, “The Dinosaur Club.” 

I’ll tell some stories about the other members of our “club” in future blogs.


Complete List of Ralph Senensky’s Theatre and Television credits:



At the beginning of his television career Ralph worked at CBS in various production staff positions by day, and directed theatrical productions at night.


ARREST AND TRIAL (Ben Gazzara, Chuck Connors)

My Name Is Martin Burnham (James Whitmore, Nina Foch)

Funny Man with a Monkey (Mickey Rooney, Mary Murphy)

BANYON (Robert Forster, Joan Blondell, Richard Jaeckel)

Dead End

The Decent Thing to Do (Peter White)

The Graveyard Vote (Pat O’Brien, Tom Bosley)

BARNABY JONES (Buddy Ebsen, Lee Merriwether)

The Murdering Class (Geraldine Brooks, Jerry Houser)

To Denise with Love and Murder (Bill Bixby)

Murder Once Removed (Pamela Franklin, Robert Pine)

THE BIG VALLEY (Barbara Stanwyck, Linda Evans, Richard Long, Lee Majors, Peter Breck)

By Fires Unseen (Diane Baker)


(One Hour Pilot)


Growing, Growing, Grown

Brotherly Love

Blind Date (Cicely Tyson)

Christmas Ballad (Rex Ingram)

THE BLUE KNIGHT (George Kennedy)

Triple Threat (Michael O’Keefe)

BLUE SKIES (Season Hubley, Tom Wopat, Pat Hingle, Alyson Croft, Kim Hauser, Danny Gerard)

The Visitor (Shawn Modrell)

THE BREAKING POINT (Paul Richards, Edward Franz)

The Bull Roarer (Ralph Meeker, Lou Antonio, Mariette Hartley)

Shadows of a Starless Night (Bradford Dillman)

Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You (Diana Sands, Rex Ingram)

CASABLANCA (David Soul, Scatman Crothers, Hector Elizondo, Ray Liotta)

Who Am I Killing? (John Van Dalen)

The Cashier and the Belly Dancer

CHANNING (Henry Jones)

A Hallful Of Strangers

CHECKMATE (Sebastian Cabot, Doug McClure)

Down The Gardenia Path (Susan Kohner, Don Dubbins)


Perilous Times (Peter Falk, Diane Baker)

CITY OF ANGELS (Wayne Rogers)

Match Point

COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER (Bill Bixby, Miyoshi Umecki)

Guess Who’s Coming To Lunch (Cicely Tyson)

The Library Card

An F for Mrs. L

Bully for You (Jodie Foster)

Gentleman Friend

They’re Either Too Young or Too Old

The Mod Couple

The Road to You Know Where Is Paved With You Know What

The Promise

DAN AUGUST (Burt Reynolds)

The Law (Walter Pidgeon, Larry Hagman, Lee Merriwether)

Death Chain (Jan Michael Vincent, Chris Robinson)

Dead Witness to A Killing (Martin Sheen, Monte Markham, Laurence Luckinbill)

Bullet for a Hero (Meg Foster, Peter White)

Days of Rage (Diana Hyland)


DEATH CRUISE (Richard Long, Polly Bergen, Celeste Holm, Tom Bosley, Kate Jackson, Michael Constantine, Edward Albert, Cesar Danova)


DR. KILDARE (Richard Chamberlain, Raymond Massey)

Johnny Temple (Doug Lambert)

The Mask Makers (Carolyn Jones)

Hasting’s Farewell (Harry Guardino, Beverly Garland)

Maybe Love Will Save My Apartment House (Barry Nelson, Suzy Parker)

A Journey toSunrise

A DREAM FOR CHRISTMAS (Hari Rhodes, Lynn Hamilton, Beah Richards)


DYNASTY (John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Bo Hopkins, Pamela

Bellwood, Pamela Sue Martin, Al Corley, John James)

(Three Hour Pilot and Episode #5)

EIGHT IS ENOUGH (Dick Van Patten)

Hit and Run (Peter Coffield)

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (George C. Scott, Cicely Tyson)

Age Of Consent (Carroll O’Connor, Penny Fuller, Robert Drivas)

FAMILY (James Broderick, Kristy McNichol, Gary Frank, Sada Thompson)

Lovers and Strangers (Elizabeth Ashley)

FAMILY HOLVAK, THE (Glenn Ford, Julie Harris, Lance Kerwin)

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Remembrance of a Guest (Arlene Golonka)

FAMILY KOVACK, THE (Andrew Robinson, James Sloyan)

FAMILY NOBODY WANTED, THE (Shirley Jones, James Olsen)

FBI (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.)

Special Delivery (Earl Holliman, Barbara Luna)

The Man Who Went Mad By Mistake (J.D. Cannon)

The Plunderers (Ralph Meeker, Albert Salmi)

The Escape (Roy Thinnes, Marlyn Mason)

The Assassin (William Windom, Dean Jagger, Tom Skerritt)

The Death Wind (Ralph Bellamy)

Ordeal (Gerald O’Loughlin)

Anatomy of a Prison Break (Joe Campanella, James Broderick, Carol Rossen)

The Courier (Ruth Roman, Gene Hackman, Phyllis Love)

The Raid (Ralph Meeker)

A Question of Guilt (Andrew Duggan, Larry Gates)

The Game of Terror (Richard Thomas, Jerry Houser)

End of a Hero (Ed Nelson, Lee Merriwether)

A Second Life (Martin Sheen, Meg Foster)

Arrangement with Terror (Diana Hyland, Roger Perry)

The Deadly Species (Penny Fuller, Tom Skerritt)

FUGITIVE, THE (David Janssen)

When The Bough Breaks (Diana Hyland)

Detour on A Road Going Nowhere (Phyllis Thaxter)

An Apple A Day (Sheree North, Kim Darby, Arthur O’Connell)

When The Wind Blows (Georgann Johnson)


Cathy’s Clown

Those Oldies but Goodies Remind Me of You (Rob Reiner)

Where Are You, Little Star?

GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (Jack Palance, Stuart Erwin)

Leaves in the Wind (Nina Foch)

HART TO HART (Robert Wagner, Stefanie Power, Lionel Stander)

Cop Out

A Question of Innocence (Jameson Parker, Jeanette Nolan)

Sixth Sense (Peter Coffield)

Highland Fling (Mitchell Ryan, Albert Salmi)

The Dog Who Knew Too Much

Slam Dunk (Fred Dryer, Kevin Bash, David Wallace)

Always Elizabeth (June Allyson, Joe Pantoliano)


The Terrorist


Winesburg,Ohio(Jean Peters, Albert Salmi, William Windom, Joseph Bottoms


The Scavengers (John Beck)


The Whole Damned Human Race…And One More (Jack Albertson)

The Death of Simon Jackson

The Poker Game (BeauBridges, Ed Asner, Bill Bixby)

A Prince in the Apple Towns (Jane Wyman, Gene Raymond)

The Seven Minute Life of James Houseworthy (EdmondO’Brien)

Cry of Terror (Peter Mark Richman, Andrew Prine)

Old King Cole (Martin Sheen)

The System (Richard Jaeckel, Arlene Golonka)

The Man Who Went Blue Sky

Welcome Home (Dick Van Patten, Jerry Houser)

Out Of the Depths (Cliff deYoung, John Astin)

I Want To Die (Grant Goodeve, Jeanne Cooper)

Plus Time Served (James Farentino, Don Stroud)

Unfinished Business (Bill Quinn)

The White Star Garage (Elisha Cook, Jr., Peter White, Fausto Bara)

INTERNES (Michael Farrell, Stephen Brooks)

Eyes of the Beholder (Meg Foster)

IRONSIDES (Raymond Burr, Don Galloway)

Girl in the Night (Susan St. James)

Return of the Hero (Gary Collins)

I SPY (Robert Culp, Bill Cosby)

This Guy Smith (Diana Muldaur)

JAMES AT 15 (Lance Kerwin)


JEREMIAH OF JACOB’S NECK (Keenan Wynn, Ron Masak, Arlene Golonka, Brandon Cruz)

(One Hour Pilot)


The Money Farm (James Whitmore)

LONG HOT SUMMER (Edmond O’Brien, Roy Thinnes, Ruth Roman)

The Homecoming

LOU GRANT (Ed Asner)


MANNIX (Mike Connors)

Another Final Exit (Larry Storch)

MATT LINCOLN (Vince Edwards)

Charles (Martin Sheen)


An Air Full Of Death (Cliff Gorman)

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (Steven Hill, Martin Landau)

The Train (William Windom, Rhys Williams)

NAKED CITY (Paul Burke, Harry Bellaver)

Alive and Still A Second Lieutenant (Robert Sterling, Jon Voight)

No Naked Ladies In Front Of Giovanni’s House (Harry Guardino)

Color Schemes Like Never Before (Lou Antonio, Carol Rossen)

NAME OF THE GAME (Robert Stack)

Ordeal (Jessica Walters, Farley Granger)

NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR (Juliette Mills, Richard Long)

From Butch with Love

The Humanization of Herbert T. Peabody


Back To Nature

E. S. Putt

Professor Pygmalion

NEW ADVENTURES OF HEIDI, THE (Burl Ives, Katy Kurtzman)



The Miracle at Camafeo (Harry Guardino, Julie Adams)

The Ghost ofSorworth Place(Richard Kiley, Jill Ireland)


Ordeal (Brandon deWilde)

The Interne Syndrome

PAPER CHASE, THE (John Houseman, James Stephens, Lainie Kazan, Tom Fitzsimmons, Michael Tucci, Diana Douglas)

The Choice (Annabella Price)

Decisions (Two Hour)

The Day Kingsfield Missed Class

The Big “D” (Herb Edelman, Walter Brooke)

A Wounded Hart

Graduation (Two Hour)

PAPER DOLLS (Lloyd Bridges, Morgan Fairchild, Dack Rambo)

Episode #2

Episode #4

Episode #6


When Mother Gets Married (John McMartin)

To Play or Not To Play

Partridge up A Pear Tree (Harvey Lembeck, Michael Lembeck)

The Forty Year Itch (Ray Bolger, Rosemary DeCamp)

Dora, Dora, Dora

Guess Who’s Coming To Drive

The Undergraduate


The Tyrant

ROOKIES, THE (Kate Jackson, Michael Ontkean)

To Taste Of Terror (Andrew Robinson)

The Snow Job (Martin Sheen, Don Dubbins)

ROUTE 66 (Martin Milner)

In the Closing of a Trunk (Ed Begley, Ruth Roman, Don Dubbins)

Narcissus on an Old Red Fire Engine (Glenn Corbett, Anne Helm)

SEARCH (Tony Franciosa, Burgess Meredith)

Ends of the Earth

SLATTERY’S PEOPLE (Richard Crenna)

What Can You Do With A Wounded Tiger?

STAR TREK (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy)

This Side ofParadise (Jill Ireland)

Metamorphosis (Glenn Corbett)

Bread and Circuses

Obsession (Stephen Brooks)

Return to Tomorrow (Diana Muldaur)

Is There In Truth No Beauty (Diana Muldaur)

The Tholian Web


A Hero for Our Times (Lloyd Bridges, Geraldine Brooks)

The Jack Is High (Pat O’Brien, Henry Jones, Edd Byrnes)

The Easter Breach (Richard Beymer)




Prisoner in Sneakers

Albatross (Meg Foster)

TRAPPER JOHN, M.D. (Pernell Roberts, Gregory Harrison)

What Are Friends For?

TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (Robert Lansing)

To Heinie, With Love (Keir Dullea)

The Trap (Hermione Baddeley)

The Threat

The Hero (James Whitmore)


Printer’s Devil (Burgess Meredith, Robert Sterling, Pat Crowley)

WALTONS, THE (Richard Thomas, Will Geer, Michael Learned, Ralph Waite, Ellen Corby)

The Chicken Thief

The Gift (Ron Howard)

The Cradle

The Conflict (Beulah Bondi, Richard Hatch) (Two Hour)


The Beguiled (Darlene Carr)

The Fire Storm (John Ritter)

The Pony Cart (Beulah Bondi)

The Grandchild (Two Hour)

The Warrior

Grandma Comes Home

The Portrait (Jared Martin)

WESTSIDE MEDICAL (James Sloyan, Ernest Thompson)

The Sound Of Sunlight (Season Hubley)

WILD WILD WEST (Robert Conrad, Ross Martin)

The Night of the Druid’s Blood (Don Rickles)

The Night of the Big Blast (Ida Lupino, Mala Powers, Patsy Kelly)

YOUNG MAVERICK (Charles Frank)

Makin’ Tracks (Victor Jory)



Mason City Community Theatre,Mason City,Iowa- Artistic Director

Productions Directed:















Chevy Chase Summer Theatre,Wheeling, Illinois- Assistant Director


Hollywood-By-The-Sea Playhouse,Hollywood,Florida-

Resident Director

Productions Directed:

HARVEY (Bert Wheeler)



Des MoinesPlayhouse,Des Moines,Iowa– Artistic Director

Productions Directed:








At this point Ralph began working at CBS in various production staff positions by day, and directed theatrical productions at night.

MY THREE ANGELS (Players Ring Theatre)

THE IMMORALIST (Horseshoe Stage)

ALL SUMMER LONG (Horseshoe Stage)

THE CRUCIBLE (Horseshoe Stage)


THE INNOCENTS (MorganTheatre)

THE INTERVIEW (Gilmor Brown’s Playbox Theatre)

MEASURE FOR MEASURE (co-director Gilmor Brown’s Playbox)

ENGAGED (Gilmor Brown’s Playbox)

BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE (Gilmor Brown’s Playbox)

THE ICEMAN COMETH (Gilmor Brown’s Playbox)

MORNING’S AT SEVEN (Equity Library Theatre West)

GOLDEN BOY (Equity Library Theatre West)

THE CIRCLE (Starring Estelle Winwood -PasadenaPlayhouse Main Stage)

THE GOLDEN FLEECING (PasadenaPlayhouse Main Stage)

THE ICEMAN COMETH (co-directed with John Houseman –

The Theatre Group)





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