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.
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.