The Daily Chronicle from Centralia, Washington on April 17, 1976 · Page 15
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The Daily Chronicle from Centralia, Washington · Page 15

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Centralia, Washington
Issue Date:
Saturday, April 17, 1976
Page:
Page 15
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Chronicle The Daily Chronicle, 9S531, Saturday, April 17,1976 W-1 K $6 Million Man's 'father' began career in Centralia By JOHN MARTIN City Editor Ford Rainey is a distinguished member of well-known "club." The club's membership includes people like John Vernon. Norman Fell. Richard Oeacon. Lyle Beltger, Robert Webber, Anthony Zerbe and David Huddleston. Who are all these people? They are character actors or, in more common lingo, the actors whose faces everybody recognizes but whose names few can place. John Vernon and Robert Webber are seen constantly on television, usually as sophisticated heavies. Richard Deacon is a comedian who has done time on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mothers In Law," to name a couple. Anthony Zerbe also plays a villain, as a rule, though his most recent continuing role is as the cop on "Harry 0." David Huddleslon played one of the police nemeses of "Petrocelli" for ?while and also crops up as a "man in blue" elsewhere, including a motorcycle commercial. Norman Fell does some of those "do you know me" credit card commercials and. before that, was Burt Reynolds's sidekick on''Dan August.'' Lyle Bettger? Now there'sa meany (of you. He has turned up in scores ot westerns, usually playing an unscrupulous rancher or saloon owner who sometimes sees the light (shed by the hero), other times not. And what about Ford Rainey? His name and face are both familiar to many older generation Centralians who remember him as a 1927 graduate of Centralia HighSchoot. Today's generations probably know him best as the man who plays Col. Steve Austin's father on "The Six Million Dollar Man" and, before that, the father of "The Manhunter," last season's Quinn Martin series about the heyday of the gangsters. As his recent roles would indicate, not all of Rainey's parts have been as villains, although he was cast in such a mold in his original cinema appearance, landing the part of a member of James Cagney's gang in the 1949 production of "While Heat," in which the man who never said "Yog dirty rat" plays a psychotic gangster. Rainey's career, however, began long before that initial break in the movies. It began right there in the hallowed halls of the ok) Centralia High School building (since torn down to make way for a' 'green area'' next to what is now the Centralia College g,m). Like Rainey, Centralia College, which he attended after high school, got its start in the old Centralia High School building, it occupying the third floor during its formative years. Rainey gives credit tor the start of his professional acting career to the late Margaret Corbet, for whom FORD RAINEY Afomiliorfoce Corbet Hall, the new Centralia their College fine arts building, is named, and where, presumably, other budding actors are getting their starts even now. A search through the high school yearbooks of Hainey's era is as informative as it is nostalgic. We find, in the 1926 edition of the "Skookum Wa Wa," Rainey cast as Percinet in the Dramatic Club play called "The Romancers." an 18th century play in which Percinet and a honey named Sytvette (played by Eleanor Griggs) were maneuvered into marriage by fathers, played by Dale Thompson and Francis Edmisson. During his senior year at CHS, Rainey was cast as Richard Winstow, the title role in the production, "The Youngest," in which downtrodden Richard was "uptrodden" by a lass named Nancy Blake (played by Lenore Clevinger) whose formula was. "Treat a mouse like a lion and he'll grow a man overnight." That year Rainey also played Mar- peetopah (Four Skies). The Medicine Man, in a drama with the unlikely title of "Lelawala. or Maid of Niagara." The 1927 annual is especially interesting for members of the unofficial, uncharlered, Centralia Chapter, Ford Rainey Fan Club, because it lists his senior will and prophecy. In the will, Rainey leaves "his chivalrous ways to Harvey William Barner." The prophecy recognizes Rainey's acting expertise in a fanciful story about the future in which Rainey is predicted to become a member of the king's navy who. upon arriving at court, "favored the august group with a very picturesque version of the 'Highland Fling' which was greeted withmuchapplause." Rainey's trail can be picked up again with the 1§28 yearbook (The "Skookum Wa Wa" contained a Centralia College section before the college started publishing its own annual). Not only was Rainey chosen student president of the college, but he drew the following sentence of praise in the annual's writeup of the college play, "The Copperhead." The annual said: "The difficult character of Milt Shanks, the Copperhead, was very ably portrayed by Ford Rainey." Well, with things like that going for him and Margaret Cofbet back there shoving, there wasn't much doubt which direction Rainey was going to go. North. North, that is, to the Cornish acting school in Seattle, where he studied before making his jump into the world of radio, serving with KOMO and KJR before going on .^ur, in 1932, with a repertory company. Doing mostfy classics, and some marionette shows, the company played up and down the West Coast before breaking up four years later, a breakup which had the result of landing Rainey in New York. "I stayed on there." said Rainey in a telephone interview with The Chronicle, "because that was where the THEATRE was." He spent the next two years on lour with several New York companies in locations east of the Mississippi, again playing mostly classics. fn 1939. he joined Michael Chekhov, nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, and worked with the likes of Yul Brynner and Herb Hatfield in numerous productions off Broadway. Rainey also directed summer stock productions. When World War II broke out. Rainey put on a Coast Guard uniform and found himself stationed at Astoria, Ore., where his brother, James Archie Rainey. lives today. Rainey rose to the rank of bosun's mate and served as a member of a crew patrolling the Columbia, specializing in inspecting Russian ships when they entered the port to toad ammunition. Continued on pog« Features # Photos ft Weekly Television Log

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