Thursday, December 11, 2014

Logan's Run

Today's featured actor may be obscure to many of you, though he is particularly familiar to those of a certain age for a run of outdoorsy films he made in the 1970s. Prior to that he had entered the Hollywood meat grinder and endured the publicity grist mill with modest success, though his name is far from a household word. We're referring to Robert Logan.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on May 29th, 1941, he was the son of a successful bank executive and would emerge as the eldest of seven children. Named for his father Robert Logan Sr., he would in time be nicknamed “RJ” for Robert Jr., ironic in the extreme since he closely resembled one of the 1950s most popular young male movie stars, Robert “RJ” Wagner.

His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was eight years old and the city-bred young boy quickly grew to love athletics and, particularly, the out of doors. His greatest fondness was for baseball and he dreamed of a career in that sport. Despite some sketchy grades and an unfortunate tendency towards physical injury, he did win a baseball scholarship to the University of Arizona. He also worked as a ski instructor in his time away from school and it was then that he was noticed by a Warner Brothers scout.

With no previous aspirations towards acting, he nonetheless jumped at the chance and applied himself to this new endeavor. His first gig was a 1961 episode of Maverick (one with Jack Kelly featured in it) in the small role of one of Edgar Buchanan's sons. Then came a bit as a bellboy in Surfside 6. He also won a role in the 1961 film Claudelle Inglish as one of many young (and old!) men sniffing around Diane McBain.

One can see the lack of finesse (but also the clean-cut appeal) of young Logan in this array of early publicity beach-set photographs. The one bottom-right is my favorite for reasons that ought to be obvious!
He'd been utilized in a couple of episodes of the detective series 77 Sunset Strip during that first year at Warners, and this was ultimately to prove quite a break for him. One of the supporting stars of that series, Edd Byrnes, was astronomically popular as a hip-talking, perennially-hair-combing valet parking attendant. As the character “Kookie,” he was receiving wagonloads of fan mail each week.

After walking off the show when his demand for a bigger role was not met, Byrnes ultimately returned, this time as a full-time private investigator. Young Robert Logan was granted the role of “J.R. Hale,” the newly-crowned parking attendant and would-be teen idol. Publicity photos depicted the handing off of Byrnes' comb to his replacement.
Now Logan felt the sensation of a full-on publicity blitz, with his name and face plastered all over movie magazines, heralding his high-profile addition to the series.
Though, in truth, his work on the show was recurring and not completely regular, he still was granted occasional storylines and subplots that showed him off and paired him with various lovely starlets of the day.

This continued until 1963 when the show was abruptly overhauled. Everyone except star Efrem Zimbalist Jr was let go from the series and a new theme song was written to accent the now more serious tone of the program. This proved unpopular with audiences and led to the cancellation of the show.
Next, Logan guest-starred on series such as Mr. Novak (with James Franciscus) and Dr. Kildare (starring Richard Chamberlain.) As 1965 came along, he found himself cavorting with his Sunset Strip predecessor, (the visibly shorter) Edd Byrnes, in Beach Ball, an unimportant, unspectacular piece of fluff more notable for including musical performances by The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, The Four Seasons and even The Supremes.
Logan then landed a role on the hit series Daniel Boone, which starred Fess Parker as the legendary explorer. The first season had been filmed in black & white, but this second season went forward in color... vibrant, radiant, eye-opening color (which was rather at odds with its frontier setting.) The series was always punctuated by fluctuations in the cast, apart from Parker and the actors playing his wife and son, and by the end of the season Logan was no longer part of it. He reportedly left Hollywood after a dispute regarding a script.

Around this time, Logan married Susan Henning and she gave birth to their daughter Courtney. She was nineteen at the time (he was twenty-five.) Henning was a former Miss Teen USA, the double for Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap (1961) and in 1968 worked with Elvis Presley in Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) as well as in his 1968 TV special (seen here.) Robert Logan never married again after their divorce in 1969, though he did continue to pursue a relationship with his daughter, who lived with her mother.

He was not seen on screen again until 1969 when he was cast as one of many soldiers in the WWII George Segal-Robert Vaughn film The Bridge at Remagen. He'd been sailing the Pacific and traveling in Europe when he collided with the Czechoslovakian production, staying behind when it wrapped to make a documentary about the invasion of Prague by the U.S.S.R.

Two more years passed (during which part of the time he lived with boat enthusiast Sterling Hayden!) until he showed up on screen again, this time with a small role in the 1971 western Catlow, which starred Yul Brynner, Leonard Nimoy and Richard Crenna. Logan's fresh-scrubbed, California boy looks had now been replaced by longer hair and a thick mustache.

This movie might have punctuated the end of Logan's career in show business had it not been for a low-budget family film that was released in 1975. The Adventures of the Wilderness Family told the tale of a construction worker with a sickly daughter who uproots his entire family in order to relocate to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Logan had been pursuing a writing career of his own when he met the scriptwriter for this film and wound up starring in it!
The movie, aimed at a young audience, blended wildlife with children, using trained animals for various stunts and situations sure to please its youthful viewers. Logan, who had always loved the outdoors, found a niche here and would continue to put forth more of the same in a series of adventures. (He also had a dangerous encounter with a cougar that left him with 22 stitches long his neck!) By the way, this movie cost $405,000 to produce, but raked in $62 million!

1976 brought a period film called Across the Great Divide, concerning a young orphaned boy and girl who are forced to cross the Rocky Mountains with the uneasy aid of drifter (Logan.) The girl was played by Heather Rattray, who would work with him again in further movies (including replacing the prior actress as his daughter in subsequent Wilderness Family movies.) Her face on posters, often set against the wind or the elements, became a recurring sight for these films.
Logan popped up in the 1977 telefilm Snowbeast as Sylvia Sidney's grandson (!), the two of them operating a ski resort that is beset by a gigantic, white, furry monster! The hooty movie allowed him to put his old skills as a skier to use and placed him in the company of not only Sidney, but also Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux and Clint Walker.
While the movie, worthwhile only as screaming, unintentional comedy, did nothing to improve his standing in Hollywood, he did at least show off his by-now rugged good looks. Sadly, the one chance for some beefcake didn't result in any as he and Svenson soaked in a steamy, heated, outdoor pool as the snow lay about them. When Svenson exits the water, it is faintly revealed that he has on a skimpy Speedo, but Logan is never shown below the shoulders.

He performed in two more outdoor adventures in 1978, the first being The Sea Gypsies. In it, he and his two daughters (one of them played by Rattray again) and a female reporter (and a boy stowaway) take off on a sailing trip around the world. They are shipwrecked on an Alaskan island, however, and must learn how to survive.
Next came The Further Adventures of the Wilderness Family (aka: Wilderness Family 2), which had the pioneer-like clan battling winter elements including an avalanche. By the way, the wife's face on this poster....!! I'd be on the horn to my agent so fast, demanding a redo! LOL
The water was clearly good, so the makers went back to the well a third time with 1979's Mountain Family Robinson. This time the family faces the possibility of eviction while continuing the regular activities involving animals and the elements. (How annoying, though, that Logan wasn't shucked down for a dip in the makeshift hot tub shown below like all the rest of them!) Fortunately, these movies stopped short of something like "The Wilderness Family Meets the Harlem Globetrotters." Logan settled into a beautiful house near Aspen, Colorado where he skied and occasionally came out of the woodwork to act again.
He made an attempt at changing gears when he filmed a Quinn Martin television pilot movie in 1979. It was meant to serve as the introduction to the spy series A Man Called Sloane, but NBC executive Fred Silverman didn't like him and had him recast. Thus, Robert Conrad took on the series (which barely lasted a dozen episodes before being cancelled.) It was Quinn Martin's final show to be created. The telefilm was finally aired with the name Death Ray 2000 in 1981.
Also in 1981, Logan tried his hand at writing and penned the script for a movie called Kelly, all about a young girl (not Heather Rattray by this point!) who travels from the city and her mother to live with her estranged father in the wilds of Alaska. This marked the end of Logan's cycle of outdoor family-oriented films, though he would still be drawn to location work.

A Night in Heaven (1983) is an absolute camp riot about uptight schoolteacher Lesley Ann Warren letting her hair down (and her panties down!) for student-cum-stripper Christopher Atkins. Logan was cast as her handsome, but dreary, aerospace engineer husband.
My own personal taste runs closer to tan, manly Logan than it does to the “cute” Atkins, but nevertheless, we were supposed to buy into the incredible sexual appeal of the stripping sprite.
Logan entered the pantheon of camp history when, in the film's lunatic climax, he takes a quivering, squealing Atkins out to a lake, makes him disrobe completely at gunpoint and then lowers the barrel of the gun at his lascivious little friend.
If you come here regularly, you know how much I love blue-eyed men with tan skin, even if they've had white added to their temples, ala Reed Richards, to make them appear older than they are.
In 1984, Logan played a priest on an episode of Riptide and also filmed another TV pilot. Unfortunately for him, it would result in another case of being replaced for the eventual series. The show was called 1st & Ten, an early HBO comedy in which (then-svelte) Delta Burke inherits a raucous professional football team through her divorce from the owner.

Logan played the quarterback of the team, a banged-up thirty-seven year-old (Logan was forty-three) whose best days are behind him. Although second-billed in the credits, he isn't even given a photo to go with his name the way everyone else in them is. When the series proceeded, his character was written out as having retired and Geoffrey Scott (of Dynasty) was hired as the new high-living quarterback.

Things clearly were not looking up on the career front. He took on a role as a federal agent in the action flick Scorpion (1986.) Scorpion starred former Karate champion Tonny Tulleners (yes...), but also featured Don Murray, Ross Elliott and even Billy Hayes (the real life source for the movie Midnight Express (1978.)

The following year, he returned to his comfort zone with Man Outside, playing a lawyer-turned-hermit who has retreated to the forests of Arkansas. He piques the curiosity of anthropology teacher Kathleen Quinlan (shown below), but is also accused in some recent cases of child abduction, thanks in part to his reclusive, antisocial attitude. In 1988, was third-billed in the NASCAR-themed Born to Race, starring Joseph Bottoms, and with George Kennedy and Marc Singer.
Since this, Logan has made but two on-screen appearances. One was a fleeting appearance in a low-budget movie about Irish independence called Patriots (1994) and the other was as the top-billed name in Redboy 13 (1997), a cold war spoof in which he played the chief villain. He is seventy-three today and appears to have exited show business.

As a world traveler, outdoorsman and adventurer, Logan lived a more colorful life than some of the parts that are written for actors to perform. He also chose to live on his own terms, which meant little cow-towing to the studio and the established systems of la la land, though this did his acting career no favors. He does retain a certain following though, principally from those who cut their teeth on his wholesome wilderness movies. Wherever he is (and you hear precious little about that!), we hope he's happy and healthy.

7 comments:

chris prouty said...

THANK YOU for this post. I've always dug Mr. Logan, and there is not a lot of information on him out there. Beautiful man!

NotFelixUnger said...

What a hunk! I recognized the face but never knew the name. It all came back to me when I started reading about "A Night in Heaven."

Ya see, I've always love "A Night in Heaven" and could never figure out why Warren would be interested in a cash-strapped toddler when she had that hunk to keep her warm.

And that coming from an Atkins fan!

Seems to me the Goldie Hawn movie, "Wildcats," may have been a rip off of that show with him and Burke.

The picture of him as the soldier from "The Bridge at Remagen" looks amazingly like Colin Farrel to my eyes.

My one complaint on all of this is I would have enjoyed more shirtless pictures!

Thank you!

XXOO

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Wow, this is a pretty significant filmography from someone I have never even heard of. And I was definitely around for Adventures of the Wilderness Family. I think I was just old enough that I would not have thought it was cool at the time, but it would be right up my alley as an adult.

The impulse to leave Hollywood and the "big city" to move to the wilderness sounds pretty compelling every day I'm stuck on the 405 for four hours a day. And it looks like that's the way Robert Logan felt in real life too.

I'm hoping that Lesley Ann would have sided with Robert Logan in real life, rather than Chris Atkins (though adorable in an early Robert Logan kind of way. :-)).

Armando Kotch said...

I saw him only in A Night in Heaven, and I'll choose Robert Logan, young or older, over Chris Atkins any time. There are a lot of second- and third-tier actors that are good looking, masculine, and sexy. I like them a lot better that most of the A-list hunks, who are too glamourized and prettified to my taste.
Gotta go. One Million Years B.C. is on right now!
Thanks for this hunky post.

Poseidon3 said...

Chris, glad to hear from you. I can personally vouch that there is not a lot out there about Robert Logan! This post is an attempt to remedy that a bit. ;-)

NotFelix, it's true that "Wildcats" came after "1st & Ten." Delta only stayed two seasons, but the show continued with the female owner concept (with Shanna Reed and Shannon Tweed - hows that for a pair of names together?!) taking over in her wake. And I, too, would like to have seen him shirtless more, especially as he matured, but he seems to have had an aversion to it....

Dave, I think I saw maybe one or two of these Wilderness movies as a teen and that was it. I know that I wished I had a Dad like him, though, when I saw them! LOL

Armando, I agree completely. And, yes, I saw where TCM had a string of old caveman and viking/barbarian movies on the other day! Neat. They also reran the obscure "Miss Robin Crusoe" that I once profiled here and then lost when my DVR was wiped clean, so it was nice to get it back (for now!)

Thanks all, for your remarks. It's nice to see that some of you appreciated this glimpse at Mr. Logan!

joel65913 said...

How good you are to us Poseidon, always strengthening our knowledge of some of the lesser known players of Hollywood.

I dropped by to give another glance at your recent tribute to Mary Ann Mobley when I heard of her passing, a sad occurrence, and found this new review of an actor I was unfamiliar with. I must admit I've never heard of Robert Logan until now although apparently I've seen some of his work. Handsome man, he did look a great deal like Wagner when he was young although the resemblance faded some as he aged. I'll have to give his credits a look and see if I can remember more about him.

Thanks for the efforts!

Chellis610 said...

Poseidon, if you had seen the original "Wilderness Family", then you'd know that Mr. Logan has several shirtless scenes in it. Why he didn't become a bigger star is beyond me.