Tough TV Cop James Gregory
LOS ANGELES TIMES
September 19, 2002
James Gregory, the solid character actor known for tough-guy cop roles
including Insp. Frank Luger, Hal Linden's superior on television's "Barney
Miller," has died. He was 90.
Gregory died Monday of natural causes in Sedona, Ariz., where he had lived
since retiring from acting in 1983, said his niece, Laraine Gregory-LaMonte.
Slender with a craggy face, dark wavy hair and commanding sneer, Gregory
enjoyed a half-century career with some two-dozen Broadway plays, 50 motion
pictures and countless television programs. At his retirement in his early 70s,
he was still playing 50-something characters.
Gregory, in the heyday of the "Barney Miller" series in 1979, shrugged off
any suggestion that he specialized in portraying law enforcement and military
officers, saying: "Most every actor has played a lot of policemen. It's
whatever's in vogue." But it was a vogue that seemed to surround Gregory. He
made his Broadway debut as a deputy sheriff in "Key Largo" in 1939 and played an
Air Force general in the pilot episode in television's groundbreaking "The
Twilight Zone" in 1959. A real-life Navy sailor and Marine during World War II,
he played John F. Kennedy's commanding officer in the 1962 movie "PT-109," was
Dean Martin's superior officer in his Matt Helm detective movies and played an
unrecognizable ape general on the 1970 movie "Beneath the Planet of the Apes."
Gregory landed his long-running "Barney Miller" role because of his work as
real-life detective Barney Ruditsky in the 1959-62 television series "The
Lawless Years." A precursor to "The Untouchables," that series depicted
Ruditsky's dealings with New York gangsters in the decades of the 1920s and
1930s, with the actual Ruditsky as technical adviser. The series prompted
Bronx-born Gregory to relocate to Los Angeles.
A decade and a half later, Danny Arnold, producer and co-creator of "Barney
Miller," chose Gregory for Insp. Luger. "He thought," the actor said in 1979, "I
had some of the characteristics of Barney Ruditsky, a famous New York rackets
cop during Prohibition. Danny was a friend of the real Ruditsky. He borrowed
Barney's first name for 'Barney Miller.' " During that series, which ran from
1975 to 1982, Gregory also headed a short-lived related series called "Detective
School." Starring as Nick Hannigan, he ran a night school for sleuths, trying to
teach homemakers, door-to-door salesmen and shoe store clerks how to become
After establishing himself on Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s, Gregory made
his motion picture debut in the cop crime drama "Naked City" in 1948. He was on
television by 1950, working in the new medium from New York when shows were
Adept at Westerns when they were in vogue, he was a regular on three series
in the late 1960s, playing President Grant in "The Wild, Wild West," the gruff
Major Duncan in the comedy "F Troop" and in a recurring role on Barbara
Stanwyck's "The Big Valley." Among his films, Gregory earned particular notice
for his performance as Sen. John Yerkes Iselin in the 1962 political thriller
"The Manchurian Candidate," starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey.
Gregory is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Ann Miltner.
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