When Syrian immigrant Michael Ansara enrolled at Los Angeles City College in the early 1940s, his ambition was to become a doctor. But instead he found his true calling as an actor.
Ansara, who died on July 31 at age 91 in Calabasas, Calif., may have been best known as Klingon commander Kang, the towering, intimidatingly deep-voiced leader of a band of swarthy, warlike extraterrestrials who confronted Capt. James Kirk (William Shatner) and the Starship Enterprise crew in “Day of the Dove,” a classic episode of the original Star Trek television series.
Ansara was so deftly brooding and menacing as Kang that he was later called on to reprise the role in the Star Trek spinoffs Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, donning the bumpy latex forehead that makeup artists gave to the Klingons in the later series.
In nearly half a century as an actor, Ansara played scores of other roles, appearing in films ranging from The Ten Commandments to Rambo and in TV series such as the original Dragnet, Perry Mason, and The Man from Uncle. Because of his dark complexion and exotic good looks, he often was cast as a Native American, and he had a starring role in the 1956-58 series Broken Arrow as Apache chief Cochise.
Here are some intriguing facts about Ansara:
- He began studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in an effort to overcome shyness.
- He was married from 1958 to 1973 to actress Barbara Eden, and appeared in her comedy series, I Dream of Jeannie, on several occasions — each time as a different character (see photo, right). In her memoir, Eden described him as “a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity.”
- He was a close friend of action movie star Charles Bronson.
- According to his New York Times obituary, he was frustrated with the limitations of the Cochise character in Broken Arrow. “Cochise could do one of two things,” he once said.”Stand with his arms folded, looking noble; or stand with his arms at his sides, looking noble.”
- His final acting role was in 2001, as the voice of Mr. Freeze in a video game, Batman: Vengeance.