Doug McClure

 

CULT HERO: HI, I'M actor Doug McClure. You may remember me from such movies as The Land that Time Forgot, Satan's Triangle and Warlords of Atlantis. But - sigh - I'm willing to bet most of you have encountered me one step removed - as the inspiration for the Simpsons' resident bonehead thesp, Troy McClure. Before my unexpected death from lung cancer - I was only 59 - I was the original himbo. The he-man's he-man; a faintly preposterous rhapsody of jaw-line and tight shorts.

Born in 1935, I studied at UCLA and earned my acting spurs in 1950s beach movies. Graduating to westerns, I scored the role of happy-go-lucky gunslinger Trampas in The Virginian. A willingness to accept whatever parts came my way made me popular with casting agents and I appeared in a string of buddy flicks, often playing dim yet likeable side-kicks. A few critics commented on my smoldering screen presence but folks mostly admired my oaken pecs and gravity-defying quiff.

Television came knocking in the early 1970s - tiring of formulaic action dreck I churned out a string of unassuming comedies which toyed with the straight-up persona painstakingly cultivated in the preceding decade. I'm especially proud of The Playmates, a wacky farce starring a pre-Mash Alan Alda. In 1973, I entered the prime of my career when I took the lead role in an ambitious filming of Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Land that Time Forgot. Scripted by science fiction legend Michael Moorcock and boasting sumptuous special effects, this lavish dinosaur adventure should have been a smash hit but it flopped spectacularly. Disconcertingly, it has recently become something of a geek favourite. Fifteen years deceased and the indignity still chills my marrow.

For an encore, I teamed up with Hammer Horror veteran Peter Cushing on an adaptation of Burroughs' At the Earth's Core. Cushing got to play the scheming boffin, while I ended up slumming it as a dimbo henchman. How I've suffered for my audience! Then in 1977 I donned pith helmet and jungle gear once more for The People that Time Forgot. It was, even by my standards, rather a ludicrous endeavor and I lost my appetite for dinosaur features after that.

Arguably my most enduring performance came right at the end when I landed the lead in a hot new series, One West Waikiki. Set in Florida, it was poised to become the biggest cop show since 'Miami Vice'. Alas cancer struck and in 1995 I shuffled demurely off stage. Remember me next time you're chortling at my Simpsons facsimile. To my mind he is more paean than pastiche.

Edward Power

More on Doug McClure at: www.celebhost.net/dougmcclure