John Lawrence Russell (January 3, 1921 – January 19, 1991) was an American actor, and World War II veteran, most noted for playing Marshal Dan Troop in the successful ABC western television series Lawman from 1958 to 1962.
Born in Los Angeles, California, he fit the Hollywood image of tall, dark, and handsome. He attended the University of California as a student athlete. Following the outbreak of World War II, he joined the United States Marines, though he was initially rejected because of his height [6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)]. He was commissioned as second lieutenant on November 11, 1942, and was assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment. His division was sent to Guadalcanal, where he served as an assistant intelligence officer. He contracted malaria and returned home with a medical discharge.
Russell's first film appearance was in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) as Otis Hopper. Russell was contracted to 20th Century Fox in several supporting roles and later was signed with Republic Pictures. He primarily played secondary roles, often in western films, including William A Wellman's 1948 Yellow Sky, but in 1952 starred opposite Judy Canova in Oklahoma Annie.
In 1955, Russell was given the lead role in a television drama called Soldiers of Fortune. The half-hour adventure show placed him and his sidekick, played by Chick Chandler, in a dangerous jungle setting. While the show proved popular with young boys, it did not draw enough adult viewers to its prime slot and was canceled in 1957.
In 1957, Russell made a memorable appearance as a tough lawman in Untamed Youth.
In 1958, Russell portrayed Matt Reardon, a gunslinger befriended by Cheyenne Bodie in "The Empty Gun" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker in the title role. In the story line, Reardon tries to make amends to Martha Fullerton (Audrey Totter), the widow of the first man that he killed in a gunfight. Standing between them is her vengeful son, Mike (Sean Garrison), who calls out Reardon for a final gunfight. Tod Griffin plays Sheriff Frank Day.
In 1959, Russell guest starred in an episode of NBC's adventure series Northwest Passage, a fictionalized account of the exploits of Major Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War.
In 1958, Russell was cast in his best-known role as Marshal Dan Troop, the lead character in Lawman, an ABC/WB hit western series that ran for four years. Co-starring with Peter Brown, who played Deputy Johnny McKay, and Peggie Castle as Birdcage Saloon owner Lily Merrill, Russell portrayed a U.S. frontier peace officer mentoring his younger compatriot. At the same time that Lawman premiered, Russell played an outlaw, along with Edd Byrnes and Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., in the 1958 season premiere episode "Ring of Sand" of Sugarfoot, another ABC/WB western with Will Hutchins in the title role.
Russell appeared in other motion pictures for Warner Brothers, notably as a Sioux chieftain in Yellowstone Kelly with other Warner Brothers Television contract stars as well as the Howard Hawks 1959 western, Rio Bravo, which starred John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan.
In 1969, Russell appeared in five episodes of It Takes a Thief starring Robert Wagner as SIA agent William Dover. They included #29 "Guess Who's Coming To Rio?" (January 9, 1969), #43 "Saturday Night In Venice" (September 25, 1969), #48 "The Blue, Blue Danube" (October 30, 1969), #50 "Payoff In The Piazza" (November 13, 1969) and #52 "A Friend In Deed" (November 27, 1969).
Throughout the 1960s to the 1980s, he returned to secondary roles, appearing in more than twenty films, including three directed by his friend Clint Eastwood. One of these was as Marshal Stockburn, the chief villain in Eastwood's 1985 film Pale Rider.
Russell appeared in the second season of the Filmation children's science fiction series Jason of Star Command. He played the role of Commander Stone, a blue-skinned alien from Alpha Centauri. He replaced James Doohan, who played the Commander in the previous season but left to start working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
John Russell died from emphysema in 1991 and was interred in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, a former U.S. Veterans Administration cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
1. Obituary Variety, February 4, 1991.
2. Hollywood Stars and Their Service in the Marine Corps
3. p.180 Wise, James E. and Rehill, Anne Collier Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines 1999 Naval Institute Press
4."The Empty Gun: Cheyenne". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 3, 2014.