October 13th, 2013
The name of Leif Erickson is immediately identifiable to millions of film and television viewers, most of whom would be unaware that he is equally noted and respected as an actor in the theater.
His film credits, ranging from “Conquest” with Greta Garbo to “The Fleet’s In” with Betty Button, to most recently, “By The Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” are a catalog of outstanding performances.
So, too, his listings in television guides, including five full years as the star of “High Chaparral.”
For Erickson, though the memorable moments have been principally on stage. His most recent theatrical performance, Robert Anderson’s “I Never Sang For My Father” was, in fact, counted as his favorite characterization before “John Brown’s Body.” Erickson began his stage career in Max Reinhardt’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He had been a vocalist with Ted Fio-Rita’s orchestra for a year before becoming an actor. After a series of film roles for Paramount, Erickson went to New York to play featured roles on B roadway in “Rocket To The Moon,” “Higher and Higher” and “Margin For Error.” Before going on duty with the Navy in 1942, Erickson had returned to Hollywood to make “H.M. Pulham, Esq.” and “Nothing But The Truth” among other films.
After the war, during which he had served with distinction in the Pacific, there were more films, notably “Joan of Arc” with Ingrid Bergman, “snake Pit” with Olivia de Haviland, “Sorry Wrong Number” with Barbara Stanwyck, “On The Waterfront” and many others. In 1953 he was in New York costarring with Deborah Kerr in “Tea and Sympathy.” After two years on Broadway, Erickson returned to Hollywood, this time appearing in television’s major dramatic shows, among them “Playhouse 90” and “Climax,” as well as in several major films. “the stage beckoned again, this tim with the coveted role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the national company of “Sunrise at Campbello,” Later he was to costar with Helen Hayes in “The Miracle Worker,” “Skin Of Our Teeth” and “The Glass Menagerie” which they played in repertory throughout Europe and south American for a year on a U.S. State Department cultural exchange tour.
Meanwhile, there was “High Chaparral” which for five years ranked among television’s most admired series. Erickson still finds time for his hobbies – photography, reading, music, cooking, politics, sailing his 44-foot motor cruiser and flying his own plane.