Terry Becker
Date of Birth
Aug 05, 1930
Birth Place:
New York City, NY

Biography

Actor, director, producer, and writer Terry Becker has been a familiar figure on television since the 1950s, on series such as The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Becker was born in New York City in 1930, and he discovered as early as elementary school that acting in plays helped keep him out of trouble. He later attended Morris High School in the Bronx (where his classmates included future actor Ross Martin, a close friend); it was there that he tried directing and discovered that he enjoyed it as well. Becker turned to drama after he graduated, studying at the American Theater Wing. His teachers included Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, and he also made the acquaintance of playwright Paddy Chayefsky, who was to become a giant in the world of television in the 1950s. As an aspiring young actor in post-World War II New York, he crossed paths with such up-and-coming players as Marlon Brando, Ben Gazzara, and Tony Franciosa. Becker made his television debut on the same installment of Philco Playhouse that saw the debut of Ernest Borgnine. Becker went on to appear in parts of varying sizes, from bits to starring roles, in dozens of early live-television dramas. He never made the jump to series work, though, preferring instead his one-off performances on the small screen, interspersed with occasional film work and stage productions. Becker wanted to direct for television as well as the stage, but in those years he was getting far more offers as an actor. One of the few directing jobs that he did procure backfired: He went out to Hollywood to direct a pilot that was never made and was forced to turn back to acting in order to survive in the movie capital. Becker often played highly motivated characters, such as earnest villains, dedicated, selfless heroes, or victims; in the Twilight Zone episode "I Am the Night -- Color Me Black," he portrayed a man due to be hanged in a matter of hours for what even the sheriff conceded was a justifiable homicide. He also appeared in two feature films, Teacher's Pet (as Mr. Appino) and Compulsion (as Benson), during the late '50s. In 1965, Becker joined the cast of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Chief Francis Sharkey, the top noncommissioned officer aboard the submarine Seaview. Producer Irwin Allen gave Becker very little to do (and very little money) during his first season on the show, preferring that the actor find his own niche or leave the cast. Ironically, once Becker had established a rapport with the series' star, Richard Basehart, and turned his role into something more substantial, Allen tried to renege on his promise of more money. Becker vowed to leave the show, insisting that a death scene be written for his character, but Allen was unable to find a replacement actor and finally resigned Becker for more money. Becker brought an authentic working-class New York element to the role and his work with Basehart over the next two seasons was one of the highlights of the program; the two always made sure they had at least one good, interesting dialogue scene together on each show. Although he never directed any episodes of Voyage, Becker moved out of acting and into producing, writing, and directing following the series' cancellation in 1968. In collaboration with Gene Reynolds and James L. Brooks, Becker developed and later directed several episodes of the series Room 222, which won him an Emmy Award for directing during the 1969-1970 season; he subsequently helmed episodes of Mission: Impossible, M*A*S*H (which was co-produced by Reynolds) and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Becker also went into partnership with Carroll O'Connor, an old friend from his days acting in New York, to form a production company. He wrote and directed the horror movie The Thirsty Dead (1975), but spent most of his time in the '70s shepherding various series into production, including Bronk (with Jack Palance). Becker continues to write, direct, and produce, and he makes occasional appearances at conventions devoted to '60s television and science fiction. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Provided by Rovi