Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Right on the Mark!

When we profile an actor in The Underworld, it's often due to his handsome looks rather than for any Herculean acting talent and today is no exception. However, what today's featured performer had in addition to boyishly adorable features was a well-placed heart with a desire to be a constructive role model to others. And he certainly wasn't a bad actor. He just never made significant enough inroads in that field to sustain a lasting career (and there was more than a little stigma left over from his most famous part!) We refer to 1960s dreamboat Mark Goddard.

Born Charles Goddard on July 24th, 1936 in Lowell, Massachusetts, he was the last of five children born to his parents. Always an athletic young man (and six feet tall), he helped bring state-level glory to both his high school baseball and basketball teams. He even toyed with the idea of pursuing a basketball career, but turned to the idea of acting instead, no doubt thanks to his lean, good looks.

Two years in to his studies at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, he opted to head for Los Angeles, California where the promise of television and film work seemed more likely. This was 1959, when westerns ruled the television airwaves and though young Goddard had practically no experience with horses, his healthy physique could support the cowboy drag with ease. After being in town only three weeks, having brazenly called contacts he didn't know and headed to movie lots without an appointment, he got lucky.


One of his first gigs was a guest spot on Chuck Connors' The Rifleman. He then caught the eye of producer Aaron Spelling who was producing his very first series (of many, many to come), a western called Johnny Ringo. Spelling wanted a young deputy to play opposite the series' star, singer/actor Don Durant, and settled on the novice actor.
Upon the advice of Chuck Connors (perhaps due to his TV son's character name of Mark McCain, played by Johnny Crawford), Charles Goddard had adopted the new name of Mark Goddard. Thus, Durant, Goddard and Karen Sharpe began starring in what was a reasonably successful show. (Sharpe was fired about halfway through the season in a dispute with Spelling over playing the character her way, as a gutsy tomboy, or his way, as a delicate lady.)
In between the pilot and the series production, Goddard was drafted into the army! He was discharged in time to do the show, but his curly locks had been chopped shorter in the process. Even though ratings for the series were decent, the glut of westerns on television (thirty on the air at this time!) caused the program's sponsor to pull the plug on it and support a sitcom in its place. All was well, though, because he now had experience and contacts. He did several guest appearances on shows including an installment of The DuPont Show which costarred Myrna Loy, The Chevy Mystery Show with Walter Slezak, Nick Adams' The Rebel and an episode of Zane Grey Theater opposite Tuesday Weld (as shown here.)

Even better, he was signed on for the second season of an existing series called The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. The series starred former movie superstar Taylor and was undergoing a cast shake-up, which left room for an additional character. Goddard joined Taylor and fellow costar Tige Andrews (later to costar on The Mod Squad) and, for one season, Russell Thorson, who departed in 1961.

Do you know who he's posing with in this publicity shot from The Detectives?  It's Donna Douglas, prior to her embodying (for all time, apparently!) Ellie Mae Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies!

Goddard was with the show from 1960 to 1962, the third and final season being an hour-long program instead of thirty minutes. Adam West joined the show during that season as well. Goddard next filmed a semi-musical, Desilu-produced TV pilot with Ethel Merman called Maggie Brown, about a single mother who operates a South Pacific-set nightclub frequented by sailors (sign me up!), but it didn't come to fruition.

In 1961, Goddard married Marcia Rogers and the two proceeded to have two children together. They generally seemed a happy couple and were socially active amongst their peer group in Tinseltown. They were particularly close to a starlet named Karyn Kupcinet who was a busy TV actress in the late-'50s and early-'60s and who was dating fellow actor Andrew Prine.
Unfortunately, Kupcinet (seen here with a young James Caan) was a very troubled young lady with a propensity for diet pill abuse and a roller-coaster relationship with Prine, who was not as on-board with monogamy in their relationship as she was. She struggled with depression and anxiety over her obsession with her weight and with Prine until one day Goddard and his wife found her dead in her apartment! She was nude and seemed to have been strangled.

Countless theories popped up about it; everything from an accident occurring during a nude dance to a mob hit in relation to the Kennedy assassination. Her autopsy was reportedly mishandled by a coroner with a drinking problem. Prine was also questioned. The case, however, was never solved and remains that way to this day.

Goddard was a frequent guest star on many of the hit TV shows of the time, in a variety of genres. He did Burke's Law, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Bill Dana Show, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason and The Fugitive. He also landed yet another regular series role, this time on the sitcom Many Happy Returns, as the son-in-law of a fussbudgety return department store clerk played by John McGiver. As shown here, Elinor Donahue played his wife. The show only made it one season from 1964-1965.

A first for Goddard came in 1965 when he made his debut on the big screen. The bad news is that it was in the trifling Disney comedy The Monkey's Uncle, starring Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello (and a chimpanzee!) The film was a hit with kids, but added little, if any, luster his career.

A more provocative part came his way that same year in A Rage to Live, all about the struggles of a nymphomaniac (played by Suzanne Pleshette) who is deflowered as a teen by one of her brother's friends (played by Goddard) and decides she likes it! She proceeds to attract a variety of men from Bradford Dillman to Peter Graves to Ben Gazarra.

Goddard's appalled mother in the film was played by Brett Somers, who would later go on to fame as a regular panelist on Match Game. His horny, sometimes rude character gave him a chance to play something different than the idealistic good guys he'd come to portray most often. You can read more about this deliciously faux-dirty movie here in a profile I did on it a while back.

Any further immediate forays into the movie business would have to wait, however. He had agreed to costar in a pilot for still another TV series and this one would not only be picked up, but would run three seasons and, more importantly, become a cult culture touchstone that survives vigorously to this day. The pilot was called “Space Family Robison,” a riff on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic novel Swiss Family Robinson, and concerned a father and mother with three children who depart the Earth in a spaceship along with one fellow astronaut (Goddard) only to be stranded in outer space, unable to return home.

After the pilot was shot, it was determined that there should be an antagonist on board who could be part of the series to provide conflict. So the pilot was re-shot with the addition of Jonathan Harris as a crafty saboteur named Dr. Smith. It was also renamed Lost in Space. Because all of the billing for the show had been contracted previously, Harris suggested and obtained “Special Guest Star” billing for the run of the show, the chief stars being Guy Williams and June Lockhart.

From the start, Goddard regretted signing on to the show since he was on the threshold of finally obtaining a movie career, but it turned out to be a success. Ironically, even though his own role and that of the other adult stars wound up being shunted to one side in order to showcase Harris, child actor Billy Mumy and the famous Robot, he found himself becoming extremely fond of the literate, articulate and flamboyant Harris. They would become lifelong friends. (Harris' character, a highly effeminate variation of Clifton Webb with a dollop of Martita Hunt tossed in, could not have come off as more gay, though the actor himself was reportedly not so.)

Goddard was paired often with the eldest child of the Robinson family, played by Marta Kristin. As a youngster watching the series in reruns, I couldn't quite decide if I wanted to strangle Kristin out of jealously or simply be her so I could cling to the delectable Goddard every time something threatening happened. They certainly made an attractive couple (and their romantic relationship was downplayed more and more as the series progressed, resulting in practically nothing by the end.)

Now we know that this below is absolutely nothing more than a suggestive fold in the trouser leg of Mr. Goddard's and not a representation of Mark Jr., but isn't it fun to momentarily presume otherwise? (Click to, er, enlarge! LOL)
Lost in Space began in black and white, with a comparatively serious and sinister tone, but in its second season switched to color. The clothing of the actors thus became almost comically garish, with plenty of bright orange, pink, yellow, green and rust velour in various combinations. It took quite a man to pull off some of these looks and Goddard succeeded on that count.

Still, with Harris, Mumy and the Robot (who was regularly insulted by Harris in a never-ending series of alliterative ad-libs such as “Nickel-plated Nincompoop” or “Miserable Mass of Metal”) stealing 90% of the focus, Goddard's contributions, like the others, became more and more negligible.

During one of the hiatuses of Space, Goddard accepted a film role which afforded him something different to do rather than yell at the scheming Harris or fend off “killer vegetables” (Lost in Space had begun to devolve to that level.) The Love-Ins was a thinly-veiled (yet enhanced) rendition of the LSD-espousing Dr. Timothy Leary.
Richard Todd played the lead, James MacArthur (Danno of Hawaii 5-O fame) and Susan Oliver were a couple of his followers and Goddard was one of the chief drug dealers who is enmeshed in the “far-out” and “groovy” storyline (which is filtered through the staid sensibilities of Columbia Pictures versus any other gritty independent company.) Needless to say, this movie did not signal a new era in Goddard's cinematic career.

In the wake of Lost in Space's cancellation (in 1968), Goddard and Marcia were divorced after eight years of marriage. He also returned to the occasional TV guest role such as on The Mod Squad (shown at right) and on Adam-12 (a special episode in which he played, in flashback, Martin Milner's best friend, an officer who is killed in the line of duty.) That was in 1970 and his career momentum slowed considerably after that. He remarried in 1970 as well, to actress Susan Anspach, then on a roll from Five Easy Pieces.

He took a minor, unbilled role in the 1972 Woody Allen film Play it Again, Sam (in which Anspach had a bigger part), but didn't work on screen again until the 1974 TV-movie The Death Squad. Here, he joined Robert Forster, Claude Akins and Melvyn Douglas in a story about vigilante policemen who have been killing criminals who in their estimation weren't dealt the proper hand of justice by the court system. The project was a swiftly-made cash-in on Clint Eastwood's Magnum Force, which was on the verge of release (and, in fact, came out two weeks before this telefilm aired.)

Again, he made ends meet with plenty of guest work on shows like Barnaby Jones, Petrocelli, Switch, The Streets of San Francisco and Quincy, M.E. Then he took part in what is surely one of the most unusual blips on his resume. Still tan, lean and handsome, he took a featured (but non-singing) role in the 1977 Broadway musical The Act, all about a fading film star staging a comeback on stage in Las Vegas. The star was portrayed by none other than Liza Minnelli, who won a Tony for her work (despite plenty of absences and uneven behavior during those heady, Studio 54 days.) The overpriced show ran for 233 performances, but was incapable of making back its money. (He almost has a Billy Crystal thing going on here!)
By 1978, his marriage to Anspach was over. (The split may or may not have had to do with Anspach having a child that she later claimed to belong to her Easy Pieces costar Jack Nicholson!) Goddard did take a supporting part in an oddball 1978 thriller called Blue Sunshine, which starred Zalman King (later to enjoy a measure of success directing a series of Red Shoe Diaries softcore movies.)

It concerned the aftermath when some 1960s hippies had taken some LSD in their youth only to wind up a decade later losing their hair and morphing into zombie-like killers! Goddard played a politician who was in danger of flipping out any moment thanks to his prior drug use. The generally obscure, low-budget movie retains a cult following these days.

During this catch as catch can phase of his life, he popped up on Benson, B.J. and the Bear and also played the bad guy (albeit a rather tame one) in the craptacular mess Roller Boogie (1979.) He portrayed a shifty land developer who wants to buy up a Venice beach roller rink, much to the dismay of Linda Blair (yes, that Linda Blair) and her spandex and satin-clad cronies. After taking nearly an hour to show up in the 103-minute film, he is ultimately fended off with (I'm not making this up) projectile fruit...

Understandably, considering the caliber of work available to him, Goddard welcomed the opportunity to begin appearing on daytime television. First came a stint on One Life to Live in 1982, followed by another on The Doctors in 1983. In 1984, a longer assignment came with a role on General Hospital, then the #1 soap opera on TV, in which he played a character named Derek Barrington (no doubt inspired by the #1 prime-time show Dynasty's Blake Carrington.)

After departing General Hospital, he played a guest role on Jake and the Fatman and then did something rather unexpected. At age fifty, he went back to school in his home state of Massachusetts, earned a Masters Degree in Education and proceeded to become a teacher at a school for students with behavioral problems. At this stage in his life, he saw no use in waiting around for the scarce decent acting gigs that might come his way and was determined to do something positive and fulfilling.

Having costarred in one of science-fiction television's most enduring favorites, there was no chance he was going to be completely forgotten, but he was anonymous enough to the younger generation of students for his fame not to be too much of a distraction. He also began to make the rounds at various conventions and fan events in his off time, frequently appearing with Marta Kristin once again. In 1990, he married for a third time to a lady he met in Massachusetts and remains with to this day.

In 1998, renewed interest in Lost in Space came about thanks to a big screen remake (you know, how every conceivable TV show under the sun was being re-envisioned as a feature film? Usually a shitty one...) He was approached to make a cameo appearance along with all of his surviving costars and he did, as a General. Mumy, however, was bumped out of his cameo when it was declared that having him play his old character as a grown-up would be too distracting and then-eighty-four year-old Harris flatly refused the entire enterprise, proclaiming, “I will have you know I have never done a walk-on or bit part in my life! And I do not intend to start.” Goddard's role was taken on in this new version by...  Matt LeBlanc...

Also in 1998, a retrospective special called Lost in Space Forever was done in which Harris and Mumy reprised their roles (along with the Robot, naturally) and the rest of the cast, including Goddard, reminisced about their time on Lost in Space.

Having gotten his toes wet in the public conscience again, he took on a supporting role in an independent film called Overnight Sensation (2000.) In it, he played a washed-up agent who helps a novice writer drum up interest in his screenplay while attending the Sundance Film Festival. Sean Dugan (later to work on the TV series Smash) and Maxwell Caulfield were among the other performers in the little-seen film.

A final (to date anyway!) role came in 2010 with the obscure, low-budget movie Soupernatural. The story concerned the appearance of Jesus Christ serving soup at a church festival and the hubbub that occurs thereafter. Goddard was stunt cast along with a plethora of other “past their sell by date” stars such as Lou Ferrigno, Pamela Sue Martin, Dee Wallace, Butch Patrick, Paul Peterson and Kathy Garver (the last three former TV child stars.)

Today, Mark Goddard is seventy-six years old, but remains a slender, healthy man with a bright smile and a willingness to help others. Aside from the students who benefitted from his instruction over the years, he has a reputation among sci-fi fans for being a warm, friendly presence at various events.

He wrote about some of his life and career in a slim, 120-page volume called “To Space and Back,” which delighted as many people as it left wanting still more from him. Considering some of the huge names he rubbed elbows with, many of them not mentioned in this post, he probably could have penned a book twice as long! In any case, we adore Goddard for his kind nature, his sense of humor and needless to say his adorable, boy next door, good looks.

9 comments:

BloggerJoe said...

Great post! Mark was one of the heros of my youth. I always get a kick out of seeing him turn up out of the blue. In one of his stints in day-time drama, he played a bad guy, a cross-dresser who, if I remember correctly, was killing people. Don't remember which soap it was, but I'll never forget seeing him turn around when he was finally exposed and seeing the earrings and bad lipstick!

dcolp said...

This is a great post. I did not know very much about Mark Goddard's career aside from "Lost in Space." I did know he was on "Many Happy Returns," which was a sitcom. On "Lost in Space" he usually seemed to be in a bad mood (usually because of Dr. Smith), so I had difficulty envisioning him on a sitcom! It is good to read that he seems to be a good person in real life. The fact that he went back to school at age 50 and became a teacher to help with troubled youths says quite a lot about his character.

NotFelixUnger said...

Loving it! I met him! [Yes, I have his autograph, to prove it.] He did a sci-fi show I came accross by accident quite some time ago. He would still have been in his early 60s at the time. I was struck by one thing during the meeting and I do recall my eyes came back repeatedly to that same spot as I was chatting with him!

Which brings me to my favorite line, "Now we know that this below is absolutely nothing more than a suggestive fold in the trouser leg of Mr. Goddard's and not a representation of Mark Jr."

I did embiggen the photo. Sir, I can assure you, as I have seen it in person, that is most definitely "Mark Jr." :-)

Poseidon3 said...

BloggerJoe, that is unreal! I can't believe I never heard about Mark as a cross-dressing killer. Now there was a break from the Lost in Space image and routine!

Dcolp, I agree with all you say. I also remember him as pretty grumpy on LIS. Still, with Smith and the boy seeming to spoil everything with their shenanigans, I guess I can't blame him.

NotFelix... Child, I KNOW you didn't eye-rape Major Don West at a sci-fi convention! LOL That's hilarious... Even in pictures beyond the ones I've posted (he's now seventy-six!), he looks great for his age. Good for him!

ednews_us said...

Not Felix: Love your hobbies and posting of you collectibles..I have the same,...especially LOST IN SPACE and Julie Newmar..

NotFelixUnger said...

EdNews_us Thank you! There's no boy alive that can ever have too much of anything related to Julie Newmar! I gotta get back to that!

bgrgbgrgbgrg rgrgrgbgbg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
erable said...

As a kid, I loved Lost In Space -- and I still do. Mark Goddard was one of my first TV crushes. I was about 11 years old at the time. I'm not sure I knew what a crush was then, but I did recognize a very good-looking man.

Poseidon3 said...

I was right there with you, erable. For me, it was in weekday afternoon reruns of the show, but that meant I got to see him five times a week! ;-)