Eddie Albert (April 22, 1906 – May 26, 2005) was a popular American stage, film, character actor, gardener and humanitarian activist, perhaps best known for starring as Bing Edwards in the Brother Rat films. He was nominated for Oscars in 1954 for his performance in Roman Holiday and in 1972 for The Heartbreak Kid. In an acting career that spanned nearly seven decades, two of his better known television roles were Oliver Wendell Douglas on the popular 1960s sitcom, Green Acres, and Frank MacBride on the popular 1970s crime drama, Switch. He also had a recurring role as Carlton Travis on Falcon Crest, opposite Jane Wyman.
Albert was born as on 22 April 1906. His year of birth was frequently shown as 1908, but this is incorrect. While many Hollywood figures have often given years of birth later than their true ones (in order to present themselves as being younger than they are), the motivation in this case was that Albert's parents were unmarried when Albert was born, but had married by 1908.
He was born Edward Albert Heimburger in Rock Island, Illinois, and was the oldest of five children of Christian German immigrants, Frank Heimberger, a real estate agent, and Julia Heimberger, a stay-at-home mother. Just one year after he was born, he and his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where his family had a difficult time getting used to adjusting Eddie's life in the city, rather than living in a small town, and tempers flare between him and his family. When he was 6, he was forced to get his first job as a newspaper boy. During World War I, he was taunted as "the enemy" by his classmates in the third grade. At age 14, he enrolled at Central High School where he joined the school's Drama Department. His interests were restricted to the stage, but he had a strong appetite for reading - everything from philosophy to science. After graduation from high school in 1924 he entered The University of Minnesota where he majored in business, and subsequently looked for a business job. However, all that changed in 1929, when the stock market crashed, he got to work for several odd jobs such as, an amateur singer, a trapeze performer, an insurance salesman and a nightclub singer. Albert dropped his last name "Heimberger", because it was almost invariably mangled into "Hamburger". In 1933, he traveled to New York City, where he co-hosted on the popular radio show, The Honeymooners -- Grace and Eddie Show, which ran for three years. Also in 1936, he was also offered a film contract from Warner Bros., due to his popularity on the radio show.
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, reprising his Broadway role as cadet "Bing" Edwards. 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 afterwards primarily as a way of preventing him from getting other work). One example of the pictures he was doing during this period is Treat 'Em Rough (1942) with William Frawley and Peggy Moran, in which he played a boxer called "the Panama Kid."
World War II
Albert served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II. A genuine war hero, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943, when he rescued 70 wounded Marines while under heavy enemy fire. He later described some of these events during a short interview in a segment of a program about the war, which appeared on the History Channel.
Albert returned from the war a different actor with a darker screen persona, although it would take another ten years before he became better known to audiences. He appeared in "The Longest Day" (1962), on the Normandy Invasion. The film Attack! (1956) provided Albert with his most serious role as a cowardly, psychotic Army captain whose behavior threatens the safety of his company, including a wounded lieutenant played by Jack Palance. In a similar vein he played a psychotic United States Army Air Force colonel in Captain Newman, MD, opposite Gregory Peck.
Profound character actor
Since 1948, Albert enjoyed being both a popular and beloved character actor, and guest-starred in more than over 90 TV series. He made his guest-starring debut on an episode of The Ford Theatre Hour. This part led to other roles such as The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, Suspense, Lights Out, Somerset Maugham TV Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Studio One, Danger, The Philco Television Playhouse, The Phillip Morris Playhouse, Your Show of Shows, General Electric Theater, Front Row Center, and The Alcoa Hour, among others. He also had a recurring role as lawyer, Oliver Wendell Douglas, on Petticoat Junction, a parent show of Green Acres, in 1965.
The 1950s also saw a return to Broadway for Albert, including roles in Miss Liberty (1949-1950) and The Seven Year Itch (ran 1952-1955). In 1960, Albert replaced Robert Preston in the lead role of Professor Harold Hill, in the Broadway production of The Music Man.
1950's and 1960's movie career
The 1950s saw Albert appear in film roles, such as Lucille Ball's husband in The Fuller Brush Girl (1950} and 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 man-stealer who wanted to use a beautiful woman.
In 1965, after years of turning down lead roles in Mister Ed and My Three Sons, Albert was approached by producer Paul Henning to star in a sitcom for CBS called, Green Acres, a spinoff of Petticoat Junction. His character Oliver Wendell Douglas was a lawyer who wanted to leave his busy city life as a lawyer and enjoy the simple life as a farmer running his own farm. Co-starring on the show was Eva Gabor who had a good chemistry with Eddie. Also starring was Tom Lester as Oliver's ranch hand, Eb Dawson. (One of his co-stars, (Tom Lester), said that Albert was very angry when other actors did not know their dialogue, and he insisted that the cast would say things, the right way. During the first season the show was an immediate hit, coming #5 in the ratings. By 1971, Green Acres still had good ratings, but CBS had decided to discontinue their lineup of rural 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".
1970's & 1980's film work
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). He was reunited with former Switch co-star (Robert Wagner) in the movie The Concorde: Airport '79, and also 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), Yes, Giorgio (1982), and as the president in Dreamscape (1984). His final film role was as the chairman in Head Office (1985).
After a four-year-absence from the small screen, and upon reaching 70 in 1975, Albert starred in the popular 1970s crime drama, Switch for CBS, about a retired police officer who chooses to work as a private detective. Co-starring on the show was the very young Sharon Gless as Frank's & Pete's classy & charismatic receptionist Maggie, and veteran actor Robert Wagner, who played Albert's TV ex-con man and friendly detective, Pete Ryan, and both Gless and Wagner had the best chemistry on the set with the veteran actor. Long before his co-star (Robert Wagner) would star with Albert in the series, his first experience was watching his mentor and friend in the 1938 classic movie, Brother Rat when Wagner was only eight years old, and Wagner had his first impression with him, while he was growing up. During its first season Switch was a hit, but by the end of its third season in 1978, ratings were beginning to drop, and the show was cancelled.
In the mid-1980s, Albert was known for endorsing the popular public service message, the National Arbor Day Foundation, and was reunited with co-star of the Brother Rat and An Angel from Texas movies, Jane Wyman, in a recurring role as Carlton Travis in the popular 1980s soap opera, Falcon Crest. He also guest starred on a popular episode of the 80s television series, Highway to Heaven, and in 1990 he reunited with Eva Gabor for a Return To Green Acres.
Hobbies and Activism
Eddie Albert had eight hobbies such as: boating, jogging, swimming, winemaking, beekeeping, sculpting, organic gardening and world travel. He was an out-spoken environmental and humanitarian activist supporting issues such as creating gardens in inner cities. He was one of the first people to call for a ban on the pesticide DDT.
In 1969 he and his son (Edward Albert, Jr.), sailed to Anacapa Island of the coast of California, to examine the effects of DDT on the pelican population.
Albert helped to launch the first Earth Day in 1970, which was designated on April 22, partly in honor of his birthday. He was also a special consultant at the World Hunger Conference in Rome in 1974, and a director to the U.S. Commission on Refugees.
Albert married actress María Marguerita Guadalupe Boldao y Castilla O'Donnell (better known by her stage name Margo) on December 5, 1945, and they remained together until her death of a brain tumour on July 17, 1985.
Eddie and Margo Albert lived in Pacific Palisades, California. Their home was described as unpretentious. It was a Spanish-style house on an acre of land with a cornfield in the front yard. Eddie grew organic vegetables in a greenhouse he had in the back yard, and fondly remembered how his parents had a "liberty garden" at home during the First World War.
The Alberts had two children: Edward and Maria.
Edward Laurence Albert was born on February 20, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. He is an actor, musician, singer, and linguist. He married Katherine Woodville in 1978, and they had one daughter. He put his acting career aside for eight years to care for his father in his last years.
Maria Albert Zucht, married, with one daughter, Mia, worked as her father's business manager.
Eddie Albert suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his last years. It has been noted that he excercised regularly until shortly before his death. This type of activity is reportedly rare among most Alzheimer patients.
On May 26, 2005, he died at the age of 99 at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California. He was interred at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California, next to his deceased wife, Margo. Eddie's family were joined by several mourners at a private funeral, including those actresses Nanette Fabray, Shirley Jones, Jane Wyman, and several of Eddie's co-stars, Mary Grace Canfield, Frank Cady, and Robert Wagner.
Eddie Albert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6441 Hollywood Boulevard.
Eddie: "I don't really care how I am remembered as long as I bring happiness and joy to people." (Source: IMDB.com)
Eddie, in a personal journal: "By the time I leave this Earth, I hope to have improved our relationships here and now, so that in the next generation my son, daughter and friends have my shoulders on which to stand, so it's easier to make their contribution." (Source: ABC News)
Edward Jr. about his dad: "With Papa, the thing that was most important was the quality of love and, almost equal to love, growth. Since I was little, he emphasized growth. That's something he passed on to me." (Source: Grandtimes.com)