Edward Albert Heimberger (April 22, 1906 – May 26, 2005), known professionally as Eddie Albert, was an American actor, gardener, humanitarian, activist and decorated World War II veteran. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1954 for his performance in Roman Holiday, and in 1973 for The Heartbreak Kid. His other well-known roles include playing Bing Edwards in the Brother Rat films, Oliver Wendell Douglas in the 1960s television situation comedy Green Acres, and Frank MacBride in the 1970s crime drama Switch. He also had a recurring role as Carlton Travis on Falcon Crest, opposite Jane Wyman.
Edward Albert Heimberger was born in Rock Island, Illinois, the oldest of the five children of Frank Daniel Heimberger, a realtor, and his wife Julia Jones. His year of birth is often given as 1908, but this is incorrect. Albert's parents were unmarried when Albert was born and his mother altered his birth certificate after her marriage.
When he was one year old, his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Albert got his first job as a newspaper boy when he was only six. During World War I, his German name led to taunts as "the enemy" by his classmates. He studied at Central High School in Minneapolis, where he joined the drama club. His schoolmate Harriette Lake (later known as actress Ann Sothern), was a few years his junior. Finishing high school in 1924, he entered the University of Minnesota, where he majored in business. When he graduated, he embarked on a business career. However, the stock market crash in 1929 left him substantially unemployed. He then took odd jobs, working as a trapeze performer, an insurance salesman, and a nightclub singer.
Albert stopped using his last name professionally, since it invariably was mangled into "Hamburger". He moved to New York City in 1933, where he co-hosted a radio show, The Honeymooners - Grace and Eddie Show, which ran for three years. Ar the show's end, he was offered a film contract by Warner Bros.
In the 1930s, Albert performed in Broadway stage productions, including Brother Rat, which opened in 1936. He had lead roles in Room Service (1937–1938) and The Boys from Syracuse (1938–1939). In 1936, Albert had also become one of the earliest television actors, performing live in RCA's first television broadcast, a promotion for their New York City radio stations.
In 1938, he made his feature film debut in the Hollywood version of Brother Rat with Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, reprising his Broadway role as cadet "Bing" Edwards. The next year, he starred in On Your Toes, adapted for the screen from the Broadway smash by Rodgers and Hart. His contract with Warner Bros. was abruptly terminated in 1941, purportedly because of an affair he was having with studio head Jack L. Warner's wife. (Warner had previously pulled him off a picture as it was being shot and kept him under contract for a period afterward, primarily as a way of preventing him from getting other work.)
Prior to World War II, and before his film career, Albert had toured Mexico as a clown and high-wire artist with the Escalante Brothers Circus, but secretly worked for U.S. Army intelligence, photographing German U-boats in Mexican harbors. On September 9, 1942, Albert enlisted in the United States Navy and was discharged in 1943 to accept an appointment as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. A genuine war hero, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for his actions during the invasion of Tarawa in November, 1943, when, as the pilot of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft, he rescued 47 Marines who were stranded offshore (and supervised the rescue of 30 others), while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire.
Prolific character actor
Since 1948, Albert enjoyed being both a popular and beloved character actor and guest-starred in nearly ninety TV series. He made his guest-starring debut on an episode of The Ford Theatre Hour. This part led to other roles such as Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, Suspense, Lights Out, Somerset Maugham TV Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Studio One, Danger, Philco Television Playhouse, The Phillip Morris Playhouse, Your Show of Shows, General Electric Theater, Front Row Center, The Eleventh Hour, The Reporter, The Alcoa Hour, among others.
The 1950s also saw a return to Broadway for Albert, including roles in Miss Liberty (1949–1950) and The Seven Year Itch (1952–1955). In 1960, Albert replaced Robert Preston in the lead role of Professor Harold Hill, in the Broadway production of The Music Man. Albert also performed in regional theater. He performed at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, reprising the Harold Hill role in The Music Man in 1966 and playing Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady in 1968.
1950s and 1960s movie career
In the 1950s, Albert appeared in film roles such as that of Lucille Ball's fiancé in The Fuller Brush Girl (1950), as Bill Gorton in The Sun Also Rises (1957) and as a traveling salesman in Carrie (1952). He was nominated for his first Oscar as Best Supporting Actor with Roman Holiday (1953). In Oklahoma! (1955), he played a womanizing peddler, and in Who's Got the Action? (1962), he portrayed a lawyer helping his partner (Dean Martin) cope with a gambling addiction. In Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) he played a psychiatrist with an enthusiasm for farming. He appeared in several military roles, including The Longest Day (1962), about the Normandy Invasion. The film Attack! (1956) provided Albert with a dark role as a cowardly, psychotic Army captain whose behavior threatens the safety of his company. In a similar vein he played a psychotic United States Army Air Force colonel in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), opposite Gregory Peck.
Albert's first television series was Leave It to Larry, a CBS sitcom that aired in the 1952-1953 season, with Albert as Larry Tucker, a shoe salesman who lives with his young family in the home of his father-in-law and employer, played by Ed Begley.
In 1965, Albert was approached by producer Paul Henning to star in a new sitcom for CBS called Green Acres. His character, Oliver Wendell Douglas, was a lawyer who left the city to enjoy a simple life as a farmer. The character had similarities to his 1956 role in the movie Teahouse of the August Moon. Co-starring on the show was Eva Gabor. Also starring on the show were familiar actors such as Frank Cady, who played the role of storekeeper Sam Drucker (also a recurring role on the parent show, Petticoat Junction); Sid Melton, who had a recurring role as the incompetent carpenter Alf Monroe; and Mary Grace Canfield, in the recurring role of Alf's sister, Ralph Monroe. Tom Lester was cast as Oliver's and Lisa's farmhand, Eb Dawson, who referred to them as his parents.
The show was an immediate hit, achieving fifth place in the ratings in its first season. By 1971, Green Acres was still reasonably popular but was canceled when CBS decided to discontinue their lineup of rural-themed programs due to changing tastes and because they were sensitive to the fact that they had been disparagingly referred to in the press as the "Country Broadcasting System."
Also in 1965, Albert served as host / narrator for the CBS telecast of a German-American made-for-TV film version of The Nutcracker. The host sequences and the narration were especially filmed for English-language telecasts of this short film (it was only an hour in length, and cut much from the Tchaikovsky ballet).
After a four-year-absence from the small screen, and upon reaching age 69 in 1975, Albert signed a new contract with Universal Television, and starred in the popular 1970s adventure/crime drama, Switch for CBS, as a retired police officer, Frank McBride, who goes to work as a private detective with a former criminal he had once jailed. Co-starring on the show was another veteran movie and television star, Robert Wagner, who played the former con man and now McBride's friendly partner, Pete T. Ryan. Sharon Gless played Frank's and Pete's classy and charismatic receptionist, Maggie. Comedian Charlie Callas played the role of restaurant owner, Malcolm Argos, an informant for the private eyes and another former crook. In its first season, Switch was a hit. By late 1976, the show had become a more serious and traditional crime drama. At the end of its third season in 1978, ratings began to drop, and the show was canceled after 70 episodes.
Eddie Albert's friendship with Robert Wagner's family began in the early 1960s, when they co-starred in The Longest Day. Wagner said of his idol and friend, "The first impression I ever had of Eddie was when I was a kid and went to see 'Brother Rat,' and he was absolutely fantastic in that picture. His humor and his wit and the things that he did were so profound for that time that they kept growing and growing." Wagner also said of his tenure on Switch how much he respected Albert after years of watching his mentor's classic movies. "In the show was an interesting premise: I was always doing it in an illegitimate way and he was doing it in a legitimate way. He always was striving to do better and more and take another look at it, and approached it in a different way, and I learned a lot from him. He was one of the highlights of my life, because I liked him so much. We became friends, as it [working together] was a very joyful experience." The year following the demise of Switch, Wagner was reunited with Albert in The Concorde: Airport '79. Albert and Wagner remained friends until Albert's death.
In 1972, Albert resumed his film career and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as an overprotective father, in The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and delivered a memorable performance as an evil prison warden in 1974's The Longest Yard. In a lighter vein, Albert portrayed the gruff though soft-hearted Jason O'Day in the successful Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain in 1975.
Albert appeared in such '80s films as How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980), Yesterday (1981), Take This Job and Shove It (1981), Goliath Awaits (1981 TV movie), Yes, Giorgio (1982), and as the U.S. president in Dreamscape (1984). His final feature film role was a cameo in The Big Picture (1989).
In the mid-1980s, Albert was reunited with longtime friend and co-star of the Brother Rat and An Angel from Texas movies Jane Wyman in a recurring role as the villainous Carlton Travis in the popular 1980s soap opera Falcon Crest. He also guest-starred on an episode of the '80s television series Highway to Heaven, as well as Murder She Wrote and Columbo, and in 1990 he reunited with Eva Gabor for a Return To Green Acres. In 1993, he guest-starred for several episodes on the popular ABC daytime soap opera General Hospital as Jack Boland, and also made a guest appearance on the Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace the same year.
Albert was active in social and environmental causes especially from 1970s onward. Beginning in the 1940s, his Eddie Albert Productions produced films for various U.S. corporations, as well as documentaries such as Human Beginnings (a for-its-time controversial sex education film) and Human Growth. Albert also narrated and starred in a 1970 film promoting views of the Weyerhaeuser company, a major international logging concern.
He was special envoy for Meals for Millions and consultant for the World Hunger Conference. He joined Albert Schweitzer in a documentary about African malnutrition  and fought agricultural and industrial pollution, particularly DDT. Albert promoted organic gardening and founded City Children's Farms for inner-city children, while supporting eco-farming and tree planting. He was national chairman for the Boy Scouts of America's conservation program and founded the "Eddie Albert World Trees Foundation." Albert was a trustee of the National Recreation and Park Association and a member of the U.S. Department of Energy's advisory board. This notable activism led TV Guide magazine to call him "an ecological Paul Revere."
Albert was also a director of the U.S. Council on Refugees and participated in the creation of Earth Day and spoke at its inaugural ceremony in 1970. (Despite rumors that Earth Day was designated to occur on Albert's birthday, April 22, sources suggest that the date was coincidental.)
In 1945, Albert married Mexican actress María Margarita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell (better known by her stage name Margo). They lived in Pacific Palisades, California, in a Spanish-style house on 1-acre (4,000 m2) of land with a cornfield in front. Albert grew organic vegetables in a greenhouse and recalled how his parents had a "liberty garden" at home during World War I. Albert and his wife had a son, Edward. They also adopted a daughter, Maria. Margo Albert died from a brain tumor on July 17, 1985.
Eddie Albert suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his last years. His son put his acting career aside to care for his father. Despite his illness, Albert exercised regularly until shortly before his death. His hobbies included boating, jogging, swimming, wine making, beekeeping, sculpting, organic gardening, and world travel.
Eddie Albert died of pneumonia in 2005 at the age of 99 at his home in Pacific Palisades. He was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, next to his wife, Margo and his Green Acres co-star Eva Gabor. Albert's family was joined by many mourners at a private funeral, including Nanette Fabray, Shirley Jones, Jane Wyman, Robert Wagner, Charlie Callas, Sharon Gless, and several of Eddie's Green Acres co-stars, including Sid Melton, Mary Grace Canfield, and Frank Cady.
For contributions to the television industry, Eddie Albert was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6441 Hollywood Boulevard.
Brother Rat (1938)
On Your Toes (1939)
Four Wives (1939)
Brother Rat and a Baby (1940)
An Angel from Texas (1940)
My Love Came Back (1940)
A Dispatch from Reuter's (1940)
The Great Mr. Nobody (1941)
Four Mothers (1941)
The Wagons Roll at Night (1941)
Thieves Fall Out (1941)
Out of the Fog (1941)
Treat 'Em Rough (1942)
Eagle Squadron (1942)
Lady Bodyguard (1943)
Ladies' Day (1943)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood in Uniform (1943) (short subject)
Strange Voyage (1946)
Rendezvous with Annie (1946)
The Perfect Marriage (1947)
Hit Parade of 1947 (1947)
Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947)
Time Out of Mind (1947)
Unconquered (1947) (scenes deleted)
The Dude Goes West (1948)
You Gotta Stay Happy (1948)
Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) (cameo)
The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)
You're in the Navy Now (1951)
Meet Me After the Show (1951)
Actors and Sin (1952)
Roman Holiday (1953)
The Girl Rush (1955)
I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
Operation Teahouse (1956) (short subject)
The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956)
The Sun Also Rises (1957)
The Joker Is Wild (1957)
Orders to Kill (1958)
The Roots of Heaven (1958)
The Gun Runners (1958)
Beloved Infidel (1959)
The Young Doctors (1961)
Madison Avenue (1962)
The Longest Day (1962)
Who's Got the Action? (1962)
The Two Little Bears (1963)
Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)
The Party's Over (1965)
7 Women (1966)
Columbo (TV) (1971)
The Lorax (1972) (TV) – Narrator (voice)
The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
The Borrowers (1973) (TV)
The Longest Yard (1974)
The Take (1974)
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
The Devil's Rain (1975)
Moving Violation (1976)
Birch Interval (1977)
Border Cop (1979)
The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979)
How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980)
Foolin' Around (1980)
Take This Job and Shove It (1981)
Goliath Awaits (1981 TV movie)
The Act (1982)
Yes, Giorgio (1982)
Stitches (film) (1985)
Head Office (1985)
Brenda Starr (1989)
The Big Picture (1989) (Cameo)
Return to Green Acres (1990)
General Hospital (1993)
Headless! (1994) (short subject)
Death Valley Memories (1994) (documentary) (narrator)
1.^ Eddie Albert Biography (1908?-)
2.^ USATODAY.com - 'Green Acres' star Eddie Albert dies at 99
3.^ "Organic Eddie," Grand Times, 1996. http://www.grandtimes.com/eddie.html
7.^ Fort Walton Beach, Florida Playground Daily News, March 20, 1970
10.^ Ted Williams "The Insightful Sportsman" (Camden, Me., Down East Books, 1996) Also available at |http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/hardtoget/myth5/pg25-29.html
11.^ Congressional Record, July 18, 2005, Section 22
13.^ portions may be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3382029653866127786
14.^ Pacific Palisades Post, June 2, 2005
15.^ Walters, Charles. "The Last Word," Acres USA, July, 2005, Vol. 35, No. 7
16.^ Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2005
19.^ Edward Albert, Internet Accuracy Project http://www.accuracyproject.org/cbe-Albert,Edward.html "Edward Albert was also a photographer, sculptor, singer/songwriter, musician (guitar), and a linguist/dialectician who was fluent in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese."
20.^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame database". HWOF.com.