1906 - 2005
Academy Award-nominated actor Eddie Albert was a successful Hollywood movie actor who became a household name due to his role in the very popular 1960's TV series “Green Acres”.
Edward Albert Heimburger was born in Rock Island, Illinois, attended the University of Minnesota, and began working on stage and in the theater. He later moved to New York and appeared on Broadway. But it was in a role in the stage comedy “Brother Rat”–which depicted life at a military institute–that he was spotted by Warner Brothers and given a contract. (Albert appeared in the film version of “Brother Rat” along with another Warner contract player, Ronald Reagan.) But gossip at the time indicated Albert was allowed to ride out his contract, after he was caught “fooling around” with the wife of studio chief Jack Warner. He joined the Navy in World War Two, and soon after, his film career got back on track with a number of well-regarded roles in such films as “Smash-up” and “Oklahoma!”. He was nominated for Oscars for his roles in 1953's “Roman Holiday” and 1973's “The Heartbreak Kid”.
Albert also accepted television roles in the 1950's and 60's, but it was his portrayal as lawyer turned farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on “Green Acres” that leapfrogged the actor into stardom. Based on the 1940's radio series “Granby’s Green Acres”, that show’s creator Jay Sommers teamed up with television producer Paul Henning to bring viewers a comedy that ran for five straight years on CBS. Albert played the straight man to Eva Gabor as wife Lisa, and a bevy of talented regulars who watched and commented as Oliver tried to turn a run-down farm near fictional Hooterville into a success. “Green Acres” was truly a surrealistic sitcom, with a talking pig and a town that defied reality. (What other series would feature a 250 pound pig named Arnold who loved television and fell in love with a basset hound?) It was probably the most interesting creation of Henning, who achieved comedy success with “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction”. (Indeed, the three series would occasionally interlap during their runs.) And like all gifted series, “Green Acres” was blessed with a wonderful theme song, written by the late, great Vic Mizzy, performed by Albert and Gabor in the opening credits.
“Green Acres” was still riding high in the ratings when CBS cancelled the show in 1971–an attempt to “modernize” its schedule by purging it of rural comedies. (“Hillbillies” also died that year; “Junction” was given the axe a year earlier.) After “Green Acres’” cancellation, Albert continued to be featured in both film and on television; he co-starred with Robert Wagner in the comedy-drama “Switch”, which ran for three seasons; he also appeared briefly on the 1980's prime-time soap “Falcon Crest”.
His role as a farmer on “Green Acres” was an extension of Albert’s concern about the environment and farming; he fought hard for the ban of the pesticide DDT and spoke out on other key ecological issues after the show’s run. Eddie Albert may have played a farmer on television, but his love of the earth was even deeper than his “Green Acres” role.
Eddie Albert died of pneumonia May 26th, 2005 at his Southern California home, surrounded by care givers and his son, Edward Albert, who had put his own acting career on hold to care for his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Eddie Albert was 99 years of age. old.
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