Turner Classic Movies
Campbell, William
Written by James Colt Harrison   

william_campbell.jpgDate of Birth: October 3, 1926

Place of Birth: Newark, New Jersey

Date of Death: April 28, 2011

Place of Death: Woodland Hills, California

Cause of Death: Natural causes

It's always sad to lose one of America's iconic actors. William Campbell may not have been an "A" List star, but he developed a cult following throughout his film career in many significant B films and cult horror films. We lost Campbell at age 84 on April 28, 2011.


Campbell was born October 30, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey and died April 28, 2011 in Woodland Hills, California.   After a normal high school education, he developed a fondness for acting.


By 1950 Campbell was in Hollywood looking for acting jobs in films. At age 24, the handsome actor appeared as a co-pilot next to John Wayne in the 1950 William Wellman hit The High and the Mighty. Columbia Pictures picked him up for his first starring role in Cell 2455 Death Row (1955), the true story of inmate Caryl Chessman, a man who claimed innocence of his crimes, but was finally executed. Campbell caused a stir with his performance and was highly praised. This led to being cast opposite Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956) as the first person to sing onscreen with the musical idol. Following the Presley film, he appeared in Norman Mailer's rough and tumble The Naked and the Dead in 1958.

Television offered an opportunity, and Campbell starred in Cannonball, an ill-fated series about truck drivers. More bit parts in potboilers were Campbell's fate for the next few years. By 1963 Campbell had met director Roger Corman who cast him in The Young Racers. Also working on that film was a young Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather ) as a sound man. He convinced Corman to put up the money to make a cheap horror film called Dementia 13 which starred Campbell as a suspect in several horrible axe-murders. Co-starring were Luana Anders and Patrick Magee, the film became a cult hit, as did his next, titled Blood Bath (aka Track of the Vampire). The film was produced by Roger Corman and was shot in Yugoslavia in 1963, also with Patrick Magee. Campbell became typecast as a horror or cult film actor and became a B grade star.

Trying to shake his horror image, Campbell took a highly-popular role on Star Trek as the super-being Trelane, a spoof of foppish pianist Liberace. He became yet another cult figure when he appeared three times as Klingon Captain Koloth on the Star Trek TV series. More than thirty years later he repeated the character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This exposure led him to attend the wild conventions in the 1980s and 90s for Star Trek fans. He was idolized by the Trekkies.


Campbell's personal life was not so starry-eyed. His first wife was the infamous playgirl Judith Exner. They were married from 1952 until 1958. She allegedly cavorted with President Kennedy and made headlines all over the world. His second marriage to Barbara Bricker lasted one year. His third marriage to Tereza Campbell lasted until his death at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills at age 84.

Campbell was a "character-star" and turned in many fine performances but never quite made it to super stardom. However, his many cult fans will miss him.




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