The Thunder Child
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Biography: Richard Derr
When he attended Stewart Junior High, Derr was 6 ft 3, "his voice deepened and awkward lankiness gave way to square-jawed, blond good looks."
Derr proved to be popular in school. He auditioned for leading roles in plays and was awarded them, edited the school newspaper, was Vice President of his Senior Class, President of the Honor Society, and "Mayor" of the school. He graduated two years early, at the age of 16.
Derr went to work as a bank clerk, while continuing to act in amateur productions - produced by himself and his friends as The Dramateurs.
Pursuing his goal to be a professional actor, Derr became a student of Jaspar Deeter - the director/educator of the Hedgerow Theater in Pennsylvania, and honed his craft there for three years (in the evenings. Daytimes, he still worked at the bank.)
Richard Derr was appearing in the six-hour version of George Bernard Shaw's Man And Superman when he was seen by the New York agent Maynard Morris. (Morris had "discovered" Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne and Gregory Peck.)
Morris got parts for Derr in various plays, and finally he got his "big break." He'd gone to the 20th Century Fox studios in New York to "feed cues" to an actress - it was her screen test. But when Daryl Zanuck saw this screen test in Hollywood - it was Derr whom he liked.
Derr played a German spy in Man at Large, which starred George Reeves, as well as a dozen other movies. He so disliked Tonight We Raid Calais (with Lee J. Cobb, Beaulah Bondi and John Sutton) that he broke his contract with 20th Century Fox.
During World War II, Derr enrolled in the US Army Air Corps, and flew as a navigator on flights between South America and Africa, for the Air Transport Command.
Returning to Hollywood, Derr began to appear in "A" pictures - such as Secret Heart, The Bride Goes Wild, Luxury Liner, and Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc.
Derr also started accepting stage roles, making his New York debut in The Traitor, by Hermsan Wouk - it starred Walter Hampden and Lee Tracy. Other theater roles followed.
Derr alternsated his time between movies and the stage in the late 40s and early 50s...and then starred in When Worlds Collide in 1951.
When Worlds Collide
It would take only four weeks to shoot the movie, and he was back in New York to continue his stage career by January - and soon was starring in Dial M For Murder, which ran for a year and half.
His last television role was a guest shot in the TV series Automan (which starred Robert Lansing, as well as Desi Arnaz Jr. and Chuck Wagner.)
Derr succumbed to pancreatic cancer on May 8, 1992, at the age of 73.
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