James Gregory died on September 16, 2002 at the age of 90, he was an American character actor known for his deep, gravelly voice and playing brash roles such as the McCarthy-like Sen.
Born in the Bronx, New York City, New York on December 23, 1911, and raised in New Rochelle north of the city. In high school he was president of the Drama Club.
He briefly worked on Wall Street as a runner in 1929 and thought of being a stockbroker, but, by 1935, had become a professional actor instead. In 1939, he made his Broadway debut in a production of Key Largo and worked in about twenty-five more Broadway productions over the next sixteen years.
Gregory served three years in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps during World War II. Gregory was the lead in The Lawless Years, a 1920s crime drama entitled which aired forty-five episodes on NBC.
In the series, which ran from 1959 to 1961, he played a New York City police detective named Barney Ruditsky. After his appearance as Sen. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Gregory starred in the film PT 109 (1963) with Cliff Robertson.
James Gregory did a few TV spots as early as 1951, and in 1955 he made the transition from the Broadway stage to live television. The following year, after a couple of earlier uncredited movie appearances, he would also begin his movie career in earnest.
He worked steadily throughout the early years of TV, working for major live television productions from New York to Hollywood. In 1959, James Gregory made television history by costarring in the pilot episode of the The Twilight Zone (1959); the episode “Where Is Everybody?” concerning the relevant topic of the USA winning the space race by sending a manned spaceship to the moon sold the series.
James Gregory would play Dean Martin’s exasperated boss MacDonald in the first 3 of the Matt Helm movies: The Silencers (1966), Murderers’ Row (1966) and The Ambushers (1967). But he won his biggest acclaim as Inspector Frank Luger for the entire run of the TV series Barney Miller (1974) (1975-1982).
This was his signature role; as the Inspector, he would be lovable, irritating, ingratiating, exasperating and humorous, sometimes all at the same time.
He was Barney’s buddy for 7 years, and the series ended with the Inspector getting himself a mail-order bride. James Gregory retired from acting in 1983, with over 100 TV and movie credits.