Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Tribute To Richard Carlson

“Writer, producer, director, film editor - a brilliant guy," 
(Riders to the Stars editor, Herbert L. Strock)

  • Born: Richard Dutoit Carlson on April 29, 1912, Albert Lea, Minnesota, U.S. 
  • Died: November 25, 1977 (aged 65), Encino, Los Angeles, California, U.S. 
  • Cause of death: Cerebral haemorrhage 
  • Occupation: Actor, television and film director, screenwriter covering1937–75 
  • Spouse: Mona Carlson (1939 until his death in 1977) 
  • Children: Richard Henry Carlson, Christopher Hugh Carlson 
  • Parents: Mabel Du Toit & Henry Carlson

Magnetic Monster (1953) Starring Richard Carlson - Trailer

Carlson was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, the son of an attorney. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Master of Arts degree in English. After a brief stint as a drama teacher he settled on the performing arts where he invested his money in buying his own theatre in Minneapolis, featuring himself as the star. By the age of 23, he performed on Broadway opposite Ethel Barrymore, Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman.

His first film role was in the 1938 David O. Selznick comedy The Young in Heart. He worked as a freelance actor, appearing in many different film studio works, beginning in 1939 when he moved to California. Prior to the war, Carlson appeared mostly in comedies and dramas some being quite ordinary second features or commercial failures. However, in The Little Foxes (1941) he had a standout performance as newspaperman David Hewitt.

Carlson’s career was interrupted by his serving in World War II. After returning he found it difficult to obtain new roles. In 1948 he was cast in two low-budget film noir films, Behind Locked Doors and The Amazing Mr. X. Greater success came Carlson’s way when in 1950 he co-starred with Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in the highly successful MGM Technicolor remake of King Solomon's Mines.

Of particular relevance to the subject of this blog is the then newly emergent science fiction and horror B films of the 1950s which gave Carlson an avenue for the rebuilding of his career. As we have seen already in previous posts, Richard Carlson starred in several cult sci-fi features such as Jack Arnold's, It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). In the previous post it was also mentioned that Carlson both directed and starred in the 1954 science fiction film Riders to the Stars. Of particular note was his performance as astronomer John Putnam in It Came from Outer Space. It stands as one of the greatest performances of science fiction film, delivered as it was with intelligence and passion.

Apart from his various film and television writing and directing projects, Carlson starred in the Cold War drama television series I Led Three Lives from 1953 to 1956. It was based on a book of the same title by Herbert A. Philbrick. This was at a time when America was in the grip of McCarthyism. In the series Carlson played the role of Herbert A. Philbrick who infiltrated the Communist Party on behalf of the FBI.

In the 1958-1959 television season Carlson played the part of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie in the western series, Mackenzie's Raiders.

For the remainder of his acting career, Carlson made guest appearances in western and detective series such as, The Virginian (1962), Perry Mason (1957), The F.B.I. (1965) and Cannon (1971); directed westerns such as Kid Rodelo (1965) and also wrote TV scripts as well as magazine articles on various non-fiction subjects. After his retirement in 1975, Richard lived the last two years of his life in Sherman Oaks, California.

Carlson died of a cerebral haemorrhage on November 25, 1977 in Encino, California. He was buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery, in West Los Angeles. Richard Carlson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the television industry.


  • Change of Habit (1969) 
  • The Valley of Gwangi (1969) 
  • The Power (1968) 
  • The Doomsday Flight (1966) 
  • Kid Rodelo (1965) 
  • Della (1964)

  • Tormented (1960) 
  • The Unchained Goddess (1958) 
  • Hemo the Magnificent (1957) 
  • The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957) 
  • The Helen Morgan Story (1957) 
  • Three for Jamie Dawn (1956) 
  • An Annapolis Story (1955) 
  • Bengazi (1955) 
  • The Last Command (1955)

  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
  • Riders to the Stars (1954) 
  • It Came from Outer Space (1953) 
  • All I Desire (1953) 
  • Seminole (1953) 
  • The Maze (1953)

  • The Magnetic Monster (1953) 
  • Flat Top (1952) 
  • Retreat, Hell! (1952) 
  • The Rose Bowl Story (1952) 
  • The Blue Veil (1951) 
  • A Millionaire for Christy (1951) 
  • The Sound of Fury (1951) 
  • Whispering Smith Hits London (1951)
  • Valentino (1951) 

  • King Solomon's Mines (1950) 
  • Behind Locked Doors (1948) 
  • The Amazing Mr. X (1948) 
  • So Well Remembered (1947) with John Mills
  • The Man from Down Under (1943) 
  • Presenting Lily Mars (1943) 
  • A Stranger in Town (1943) 
  • Young Ideas (1943) 
  • Fly-By-Night (1942) 
  • Highways by Night (1942) 
  • White Cargo (1942) 
  • The Affairs of Martha (1942) 
  • My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1942) 
  • Hold That Ghost (1941) 
  • Back Street (1941) 
  • The Little Foxes (1941) 
  • West Point Widow (1941) 
  • The Ghost Breakers (1940) 
  • The Howards of Virginia (1940) 
  • No, No, Nanette (1940) 
  • Too Many Girls (1940) 
  • Beyond Tomorrow (1940) 
  • Little Accident (1939) 
  • Winter Carnival (1939) 
  • Dancing Co-Ed (1939) 
  • These Glamour Girls (1939) 
  • The Duke of West Point (1938) 
  • The Young in Heart (1938)


  • Mackenzie's Raiders, 1958-1959 syndicated TV series

  • I Led Three Lives, 1953-1956 syndicated TV series

©Chris Christopoulos 2014