Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fond Farewell: I'm Ready to Hatch

We were struck with an untimely death the other day. Beautiful Richard Hatch was taken from us at only age seventy-one with pancreatic cancer. So today we pay tribute to him in pictures as we look back at the man who charmed a generation or two of TV viewers.
Born May 21st, 1945, Richard Lawrence Hatch was a California boy from the start, having come into this world in Santa Monica. A speech class brought out his desire to perform. After going to school in San Pedro, he followed a Los Angeles repertory company to New York, where he worked on stage at every opportunity.
Hatch's first on-screen role was on the brand new soap opera All My Children in 1970. The series starred Rosemary Prinz (then a major name in daytime) for sixth months and sought to tackle topical subjects, such as The Vietnam War, and the struggles of young characters such as her nephew Phil Brent (Hatch.) Later, it was revealed that Prinz was the character's biological mother, not aunt.
Hatch remained on All My Children from 1970-1972, his young character becoming involved with Tara Martin (played by Karen Lynn Gorney.) In real life, Hatch had already been married and had a son, Paul, though the union didn't last.
Phil and Tara were an early-'70s rendition of a super couple, star-crossed though they were. When his parentage was revealed to all by Erica Kane (Susan Lucci), who wanted Hatch for herself, it all went south. (The role was recast in 1973, the character dying in 1981.)
Hatch proceeded to heavy doses of guest-star roles on primetime, including such shows as The Sixth Sense, Kung Fu, Barnaby Jones, The Rookies, Hawaii 5-O and The Waltons, among others. A higher profile part was soon to come his way, however.
The popular Quinn Martin-produced crime drama The Streets of San Francisco had been running for four seasons. It starred Karl Malden and a young Michael Douglas. When Douglas departed at the start of the fifth season (having just won an Oscar for producing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975, and about to renew a big-screen acting career starting with Coma, 1978), the sidekick role was handed off to Hatch.
Hatch was taken under the wing of the Oscar-winning Malden for the fifth (and final) season. Viewers fell away, though, with the absence of Douglas and so the series wound up cancelled.
The fact that his character didn't catch on with Nielsen viewers didn't change the fact that Hatch, with his dark hair, tan face and luminous green eyes, was still a favorite among teenage girls (and surely some guys, too!)
This clipping reveals the actor's fondness for herb tea, wheat germ and granola. It's ironic that one who placed so much emphasis on living and eating healthy would nonetheless be felled by cancer forty years later. We never know...
Now without steady employment, Hatch began appearing on the deliberately campy syndicated soap Forever Fernwood (this was known as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman until an exhausted Louise Lasser departed the program), but it, too, was cancelled soon thereafter.
One of Hatch's most memorable gigs from this time was the TV-movie Deadman's Curve (1978), all about how the pop duo Jan & Dean (whose hit songs included "Surf City," "Sidewalk Surfin'" and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena") saw their careers traumatized by the debilitating car accident of Jan (Hatch.) Bruce Davison played Dean and Pamela Bellwood lent emotional support.
Even bigger things were on the horizon, though, as Hatch burst forth in Battlestar Galactica (1978), a monumentally expensive science-fiction TV series. Intended at first to be a three-part miniseries, it instead was turned into an ongoing series and made a splashy 3-hour premiere with (then) state of the art effects.
Hatch's ingratiating good looks were at last shown to great advantage on a weekly series. Initially, his character was married (to Jane Seymour), but she departed the project when it changed from miniseries to series and her character was killed off, affording Hatch an emotional scene to play.
Now he was a widowed father, battling the evil Baltar and his army of Cylons. Surprising as it may seem, Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor in a Television Series - Drama, but in a bizarre match-up (thanks to there being no miniseries category) lost to Michael Moriarty for Holocaust!
His right-hand man on the show was the equally hunky Dirk Benedict (after Don Johnson turned the role down.) The two of them looked great in their iconic beige and brown uniforms.
The twosome enjoyed considerable chemistry, whether serious or light-hearted, and shared an interest in health food (with Benedict having learned his methods through Broadway costar Gloria Swanson.)
The series, which cost so much to produce, didn't live up to its initial promise and was cancelled after one season. The seven hours of footage for the "pilot" was formed into a feature film version (in "Sensurround!") that was released to try to make back some of the costs. When that performed reasonably well, the less-expensive follow-up show Galactica 1980 (which didn't feature Benedict or Hatch) was green-lit, but it quickly folded, too.
There's an "Awkward Family Photo" element in this poorly-staged promotional photo. Benedict would go on to The A-Team (1983-1987), a successful action-adventure series. Hatch was somewhat less visible, and without a series of his own, though he remained busy for the most part.
Most fans of Galactica find this episode unforgettable, in which the cast members play a futuristic ball game wearing hilariously abbreviated uniforms. (From the Vera Di Milo bikini collection?)
Mr. Hatch had, in fact, always been a skillful athlete in real life. As a shy teen, he did well in track and field and even considered becoming a competitive pole vaulter!
His adeptness at anything athletic was put on display when he took part in the legendary bi-annual TV specials Battle of the Network Stars four times between 1976-1979. (Hatch also appeared in three Circus of the Stars programs.)
In 1980, he played the title role in the telefilm The Hustler of Muscle Beach, though he was a bodybuilder promoter, (sadly) not a male prostitute...
Easily one of his most bizarre gigs came in 1981 when he costarred in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. Peter Ustinov portrayed the famed Chinese sleuth of the 1930s who usually relied upon his "Number One Son" to aid him in his investigations.
Hatch, however, was cast as his "Number One Grandson," a half-Chinese/half-Jewish(!) young man who's endlessly clutzy (as is his girlfriend, Michelle Pfeiffer.) The title villainess was played by, of all people, Angie Dickinson! The questionable (and protested) casting, along with police chief Brian Keith's vulgarity-laden dialogue due to Tourette's Syndrome, has kept this one off of network TV screens for quite a few years.
Hatch appeared as a guest on Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote and T.J. Hooker, among other things, until 1984 when he popped up on Dynasty as an admirer or Claudia Carrington's (played by his old Deadman's Curve costar Pamela Bellwood.)
During his five-episode arc, he lent a shoulder (and more) to Bellwood as she anguished over her husband's growing interest in a male coworker. More TV roles on shows such as Riptide, The Love Boat, MacGyver and Hotel continued.
In 1990, he made a brief return to daytime on the soap opera Santa Barbara. He only stayed three months, though, before departing and having John Hurley take over the role. TV roles on Jake and the Fatman and Baywatch, along with some low-budget movies, kept him occupied.
A startling issue occurred in 2000 when the reality TV series Survivor premiered and one of its chief contestants (and eventual winner) was the deliberately abrasive and frequently naked non-actor Richard Hatch! On the subject, our Richard Hatch had this to say:  "We forget there are other people with our name, and somehow we feel an ownership with our name. Honestly, this is one of the strangest experiences that's ever happened in my life, and I'm having to deal with it."
Thanks to groundswell fan support, Hatch had long wanted to revive Battlestar Galactica and in 1999 he created a 30-minute pilot for a new version of the series, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming. A four-minute trailer was released in order to drum up interest and fan reaction was high. However, an entirely different approach was accepted by Universal and a much-watched reboot miniseries appeared in 2003 on the SyFy Channel. Though ultimately successful as a series (2004-2009), it was initially given a hostile welcome from diehard BG fans.
Before long, however, Hatch came to accept the new rendition of the story, even as an entirely different cast portrayed the roles that he and his costars had earlier enacted. He wound up joining the cast himself on a recurring basis and made 22 appearances over the course of the show's run. When he was taken from us days ago, he'd been enjoying a considerable career resurgence with many projects recently under his belt and still more that have not yet been released.
We adored Richard Hatch (THE Richard Hatch) and will miss his endearing charm.
We loved his penetrating green eyes and his gentle voice.
Now he's entered life's most mysterious portal where, we hope, there is some sort of engaging adventure awaiting or, at least, eternal peace. Thank you, Mr. Hatch, wherever you are, for your forty-five year career before the cameras!

4 comments:

petercox97 said...

Richard Hatch is one of those beautiful actors that just seems to hover over my television memory. I've always loved him in my own quiet little way. With those looks his leading man status should have been prevalent everywhere. I don't think I really became aware of him until Battle of the Network Stars, but not the one that used to be featured annually on ABC. I seem to remember Battle of the Network Stars becoming syndicated and airing early on Saturday mornings and I would set my alarm like it was a school day so I could crotchwatch for ninety minutes and the guys never seemed to shy away from their mandatory micro speedos. As for his stunning attire on that Battlestar Galactica episode, Vera Di Milo never looked that good. Boy, how great would it have been on Dynasty if Hatch had been wooing both Steven and Claudia? Then again, Steven would not have appreciated him. Look how callously he threw away that incredibly gorgeous Grant Goodeve. That Steven, he has to be the most homophobic gay man I've ever seen on television. Thanks for the loving tribute.

Rick Gould said...

One of the most naturally handsome men of his time! Thanks for the great post and memories, as always.
Rick

Gingerguy said...

He was just gorgeous. I saw the obit the other day and was sad and shocked that he was 71, I think of him as eternally 28. I remember watching "Dead Man's Curve" so clearly, and never missed an episode of "Battlestar" (though except for Dirk and Richard, and Miss Seymour's costumes,I found it boring).
I recently tried to watch Charlie Chan and all I remember is Michelle Pfeiffer, that is so funny. I sort of remember him on Dynasty, they had tons of lookers on that show. I had to click on the picture of Pamela Bellwood to see if her hair was as dry as I remember-yupp it was. That is a sad loss for an actor who was a big part of my childhood tv watching. Thanks for a nice tribute Poseidon.

Poseidon3 said...

Petercox, your recollections of Hatch mirror my own. Not an obsession, like I could sometimes get, but a more subdued admiration/attraction. If you look closely at the Battlestar game clothing (under the pads) the tops are like bras that expose everything! It's just nuts...! I'm grateful for them, though. LOL I understand what you're saying about Steven on "Dynasty." I would NEVER be able to have resisted Grant Goodeve! I think the writers just messed with the role too much. He was gay, then he was bi, then he was gay, then AIDS came about, so he was straight, then finally gay. It was unreal!! At least (according to the reunion movie) he was finally settled with Bart Fallmont, though no longer played by dead-hot Kevin Conroy, but someone else entirely....

Thanks, Rick! I'm glad you liked this and enjoyed peering over Richard Hatch's career (and other attributes!)

Gingerguy, because I really never saw anything much of his after "Dynasty" and the occasional guest part, he was always young in my mind, too! It seemed like he disappeared, but he actually worked quite a bit. What's hilarious about Pamela Bellwood is that this was a GOOD hair period for her on the show. Before, it ran hot and cold, and after, it got more and more highlighted to the point of creamy blondeness, which was not a good look on her. She had a baby and hey tried to disguise it and eventually she became obsolete, much to her dismay. I was agog at the backless, draped dress in the one snap that she wore TO WORK at La Mirage!! Ah, the '80s!