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William Gargan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Dennis Gargan
William Gargan in Black Fury trailer.jpg
Frame from trailer for Black Fury (1935)
Born(1905-07-17)July 17, 1905
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 17, 1979(1979-02-17) (aged 73)
Died in flight between New York City and San Diego
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery (San Diego), California
Years active1925–1958
Mary Kenny
(m. 1928; his death 1979)
Publicity photo of Gargan for the radio series Martin Kane, Private Eye, 1949-1952
Publicity photo of Gargan for the radio series Martin Kane, Private Eye, 1949-1952

William Dennis Gargan (July 17, 1905 – February 17, 1979) was an American film, television and radio actor. He was the 5th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967,[1] and in 1941, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Joe in They Knew What They Wanted. He acted in decades of movies including parts in Follow the Leader, Rain, Night Flight, Three Sons, Isle of Destiny and many others. The role he was best known for was that of a private detective Martin Kane in the 1949–52 radio-television series Martin Kane, Private Eye. In television, he was also in 39 episodes of The New Adventures of Martin Kane.

Early years

Gargan was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was the younger brother of actor Edward Gargan, whose birthday July 17 he shared. His father was a detective, and his mother was a teacher. He graduated from St. James School in Brooklyn.[2]

On leaving school, Gargan became a salesman of bootleg whiskey to New York speakeasies and then joined a detective agency.


While visiting his brother on a musical comedy stage, he was offered a stage job which he accepted. He began his stage career in Aloma of the South Seas.[2]


Gargan's first film was Rain.[2] Later, he played in Misleading Lady and had character roles in many Hollywood productions, including starring in three films as detective Ellery Queen.

He was cast in a number of stereotypical Irish parts in films playing policemen, priests, reporters, and blustering adventurers. In 1945, he played Joe Gallagher in The Bells of St. Mary's, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.

In 1935, Gargan went to England and made several films.[2]

In 1940, Gargan was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Joe, the foreman, in They Knew What They Wanted.[3]


Gargan was best known for his role as private detective Martin Kane in the 1949–52 radio-television series Martin Kane, Private Eye, sponsored by U.S. Tobacco. He also appeared as a private detective in the NBC radio show Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, which ran from 1951 to 1955.


Gargan starred in 39 episodes of The New Adventures of Martin Kane, a syndicated series premiering September 14, 1957, and distributed in Europe by United Artists Television for Ziv Television Programs.

Later years

Gargan's acting career came to an end in 1958 when he developed throat cancer, and doctors were forced to remove his larynx in 1960.[4] Speaking through an artificial voice box, Gargan became an activist and spokesman for the American Cancer Society, often warning about the dangers of smoking.[5] In 1964, Mutual of Omaha presented its annual Criss Award to Gargan for "his inspirational self-rehabilitation efforts and his outstanding contributions to established rehabilitation programs."[6]

No longer able to act, he formed William Gargan Productions, making traditional films and television films in Hollywood.[7]


Gargan and his wife, Mary, had two sons, Leslie and Barrie.[8]


He died of heart attack aged 73 on February 17, 1979 on a flight between New York City and San Diego. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego, California.

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1943 Philip Morris Playhouse Roberta[9]


Gargan's autobiography Why Me? was published by Doubleday in 1969.[10] A reviewer described the book as "a compelling story of the life, faith and courage of a man who as an actor was a notable success."[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d "Radio-Television". Altoona Tribune. March 25, 1952. p. 13. Retrieved July 6, 2015 – via open access
  3. ^ "William Gargan". Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Cancer Society to Hear Actor William Gargan". The Bakersfield Californian. September 11, 1962. p. 36. Retrieved July 6, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ Reinehr, Robert C. & Swartz, Jon D. (2010). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Scarecrow Press. p. 107. ISBN 9781461672074.
  6. ^ "William Gargan, Actor, Will Get 8th Criss Award". The Lincoln Star. September 14, 1965. p. 3. Retrieved July 7, 2015 – via open access
  7. ^ Swinford, T. William (March 12, 1964). "Suburbs Beat Hollywood – for Family Life". Arlington Heights Herald. p. 19. Retrieved July 6, 2015 – via open access
  8. ^ "Gargan's Family Ill". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. September 21, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved July 6, 2015 – via open access
  9. ^ "Air Ya Listenin?". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. May 14, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via open access
  10. ^ Why me?; an autobiography. OCLC 794.
  11. ^ McLeod, Edyth Thornton (June 10, 1969). "Beauty After Forty". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. p. 25. Retrieved July 7, 2015 – via open access

External links

This page was last edited on 28 April 2020, at 04:46
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