Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mike Road

He played good guys and bad guys on a host of TV shows in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but you never saw him in his biggest role. That’s because Mike Road played the voice of Race Bannon on the great action/adventure cartoon “Jonny Quest.”

There’s a report on David McRobie’s blog that Mike Road has passed away. The post doesn’t say when it happened or how. I can’t verify the report as I haven’t seen it elsewhere, but wire services are sometimes notoriously late with stories about the deaths of people in animation.

Even if Mr. McRobie, who I don’t know, has been given the wrong information, this is a good opportunity to post something about Road on the internet as there isn’t really much gathered together in one place.

Road was born Milton Brustin in Malden, Massachusetts in 1918; his World War Two Army enlistment record lists his occupation as an actor but the Census taken the year before in 1940 reveals he was making his living painting signs.

His big TV break came in the summer replacement show “Buckskin” in 1958. The
Boston Globe wrote about it in its edition of June 29, 1958.

Former Malden Man Gets The Starring Role in “Buckskin”
The resident director of the John Hancock Summer Theatre in 1952, Mike Road, has won a regular starring role in the new TV series “Buckskin” which will be seen every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. over ch. 4 and the NBC-TV network.
Mike, a Maiden boy who started acting while a student at Lincoln Junior High and Malden High, is cast as Tom Sellers the Marshal of Buckskin, Montana, a frontier town which is the nerve center of a territory through which the displaced persons of the post-Civil War period are moving to make a new homes and fortunes in the West. Mike is shown here with Tommy Nolan who stars as Jody O'Connell, through whose eyes the rough life of the Montana frontier will be seen in “Buckskin.”
The Malden thespian started acting doing "character parts" while still a student at Lincoln Junior High, Malden. At Malden High Mike decided on a professional career in the theatre despite discouraging advice from people who knew the theatre.
"They told me I had talent, but that the acting business was too tough," Mike says. The young actor put the advice to the test and found the advice was sound. A series of jobs from waiter to truck driver, to usher kept him "not quite alive" for several years in New York while he looked for a Broadway part.
The dearth of New York parts led to taking "room and a little board" jobs in New England summer stock companies. The background finally paid off and Mike was off and running—for three weeks in the Broadway play "The Moonvine." He shared a dressing room with another aspiring actor in "The Moonvine"— Yul Brynner.
After the Broadway play closed came a Hollywood with RKO and jobs in "Tender Comrade" and "Hitler's Children." Mike returned to Broadway and the longest run of his career—14 months in "Dear Ruth."
Directorial ambitions have kept the actor busy between engagements in recent years. In 1952 he was resident director at the John Hancock Summer Theatre at the John Hancock Hall. He has directed feature films in Sweden and an, as yet unsold, pilot film for American television.
Mike is married to an actress Ruth Brady. They have a daughter, Donna Brady Road. Mike's brother, Charles Brustin, lives on Furnace Brook Parkway in Quincy.

The Lewiston Evening Journal ran this syndicated squib on June 16, 1962 with a bit more about his career.

Mike Road Got Start in Boston
HOLLYWOOD—Mike Road made his acting debut as a teenager with a little theatre group in Boston and, later, while trying to connect on Broadway, accepted all kinds of jobs to keep himself in eating money. First, he was an usher at a theatre in the Yorkville section of New York while also acting with a stock company across the river in Hoboken. Other jobs included that of waiter, stock boy in a clothing store, elevator operator and sign painter.
Mike made his Broadway debut in “Doodle Dandy of the U.S.A.,” which ran ten days. His next short-lived play was “The Moonvine.” Finally, however, he landed the leading male role in “Dear Ruth,” which ran six months.
Hollywood beckoned, but lean times forced him again into sideline jobs such as house painter, delivery man for a florist and a hi-fi salesman. In time, he played leading roles in such plays as “Separate Rooms, “The Square Needle” and “Twin Beds.”
His role of Marshal Sellers in the “Buckskin” TV series led to a variety of appearances in the medium, including some of the Warner Bros. headliners, “77 Sunset Strip,” “Lawman,” “Hawaiian Eye,” and “SurfSide 6.” The studio put him under contract in August, 1960.
Prior to this, Road established himself as a director in the repertory and stock company field. His stars, here included Vincent Price, Ilona Massey, Luther Adler, Kim Hunter and Uta Hagen. In Sweden, he directed Signe Hasso in the feature film, “True and False.”
He is a native of Boston, and is married to Ruth Brady (July 21, 1948). They have two daughters, Donna and Terry (by a previous marriage). [Yowp note: Ruth died in Los Angeles on June 3, 1997]

Road was also one of the stars of “The Roaring 20’s,” a show about newspaper reporters and crime. The Towanda News of September 9, 1961 offered this bit of trivia.

Mike Road Breaks Age-Old Tradition
Mike Road, as Lt. Joe Switolski, crime-buster in ABC-TV's (Ch. 7) “The Roaring 20’s” series, has broken with tradition for this or any period by his refusal to play the role with a hat on his handsome head.
“If the wardrobe man presents me with one of the snap-brim models during rehearsal, says Mike, "I have a convenient way of losing it before the scene is shot.
“This is my ‘secret weapon’ as an actor — nothing more. I don’t hate hats, as such. I just thought it was a good gimmick to keep me from looking like all the other crime-busters in show business.”

Road should have been busy elsewhere. In January, 1961, he and Peter Breck were announced as stars of a new Warners cop show called “Las Vegas File” for ABC but it never arrived on the fall schedule, despite word the following month that the network had purchased 26 one-hour episodes. Jonny Quest came along three years later and Road’s baritone was perfect for role. And, as you can see above, he had a bit of experience with the B-movie detective/Johnny Dollar-style dialogue that Race Bannon was given on necessary occasions. He was given a few other roles in H-B cartoons, notably Zandor in “The Herculoids” but Road, more or less, had one voice.

By the ‘70s, he returned to stage directing in Los Angeles; he won the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle award in 1973 and the L.A. Times talks in 1988 about a one-woman play he was directing. Whether he preferred acting or directing hasn’t been revealed in available press clippings, but when you think of Mike Road, you’ll think of the white-haired guy who protected and befriended Dr. Benton Quest’s pre-teen son.

9 comments:

  1. Mike Road also voiced the caveman Ugh in Dino Boy, part of Space Ghost & Dino Boy (Hanna-Barbera, 1966).

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  2. RIP Mike R. Already read about it on one of the major Facebook sites (CARTOON RESEARCH,I think). And the Johnny Carson who voiced Dino Boy HIMSELF as most by now KNOW was NOT the late pre-Leno TONIGHT" SHOW host..despite other well known voices cropping up in HB.

    THe Tony Curtis episode of the FLINTSTONES, the fifth (?) season's "The Return of Stony Curtis'(title notwithstanding his only appearance, and yes, THE TOny Curtis), had Mike Road in, I think, his only appearance on the 'Stones.Seve C.

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    1. No, Steve. The one FLINTSTONE episode Mike Road guested in was Season 4's 'Fred Meets Hercurock' as director Go-Go Levine, in sort of a Phil Silvers imitation. This was during the one prime-time season of JONNY QUEST. The usual FLINTSTONE supporting actors of the time- John Stephenson, Henry Corden, Howard Morris, Doug Young, Allan Melvin- must have all been unavailable.

      Road also played the father in 1974's VALLEY OF THE DINOSAURS and returned to voice Zandor in new episodes of THE HERCULOIDS in 1981.

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    2. Ah, thanks. With 166 made, I get them confused. And here we're talking a recurring theme, showbiz (much like the adventure episodes and their subthemes like the west and spies). Thanks.

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    3. The father voiced by Mike Road in The Valley of Dinossaurs (Hanna-Barbera, 1974) was the explorer John Butler.

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  3. Sorry to hear of Mike Road's passing. I just recently saw him in a " Wild Wild West " episode. Knew the voice right off without waiting for the credits. He could equally play comedy and drama. Very funny as the D.A. in the " Bewitched " two part episode about Benjamin Franklin. Of course, he will always be Race Bannon to me. We've lost another great.

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  4. ... is this the same Mike Road adoringly clad in wet-suit and swim fins in the 1960s sci-fi gem, 'Destination Inner Space?' if he is, he's quite an attractive man.

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  5. I was doing research on Mike Road at Newspapers.com - looks like he was married to Broadway actress Norma A. Lehn for a brief time (1942) before being married to Ruth Brady. Oh, looks like he also had an organization called Foodoholics Anonymous in Hollywood - apparently one of his favorite foods was pie a la mode.

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  6. Mike Road had a daughter named Terri. Not sure of her mothers name but Terry was raised without knowing her father. She lived in PA and later was a federal government employee in Wash DC. I know she went to visit him once in California. She was a little overweight when she went to the supermarket with him shopping one day. When she asked Mike to buy some candy, he said, "That candy aisle is filled with poison and when I look down that aisle, I only see cross and bones." Terry said it was hard because he would only eat healthy foods during her stay. I don't think she ever saw him again and that was in the 60's.

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