Mike Connors Will Always Be Our Joe Mannix

By George Khoury

 

Mike Connors has the Midas touch. His Karma must be strong and active-things just fell into place for

Mike. Born Krekor Ohanian in 1925 to Armenian parents, Mike was raised in Fresno, California. A star

basketball player in high school, he was nicknamed, “Touch.”

 

When World War II began, Mike joined the Air Force. When the war ended Mike knew he had to

develop a career so he was awarded a basketball scholarship and went to study at the University of

California. Mike played under legendary coach John Wooden. It was because of the unique expressions

he made when he got the ball that caught the attention of famous director William Wellman. Wellman,

a two-fisted and hard drinking director from the old school, took a liking to Mike and suggested that he

try dramatics and pursue acting.

 

Under the name “Touch Connors,” Mike appeared on a local Los Angeles show, “Jukebox Jury.” Young

actors starting in the business would sit at a table and rate records. It was an early American Bandstand

without the dancing.

 

In 1953 Wellman put Mike in a film-“Island in the Sky” with a star-filled cast. By staying on the set and

watching Wellman work with such stars as John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., Lloyd Nolan, James Arness,

Andy Devine, Bob Steele, Fess Parker and the popular Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer Mike got the best education

possible.

 

His next film was a hard-hitting adventure film “Swamp Women.” It was an early Roger Corman movie.

Shot in the swamps of Louisiana its poster claimed “Flaming Passion and Weird Adventure.” Eventually

Krekor Ohanion became Mike Connors since there was an actor named George O’Hanlon.

Mike had the good luck to appear in another Corman film, “The Day the World Ended” in 1955. It was

a typical 1950s horror flick with mutant monsters brought to life because of nuclear testing. Mike was

eager to branch out so in 1957, he raised almost $150,000 from friends to make “Flesh and the Spur.”

Mike was the Executive Producer. The film starred John Agar and Marla English. The box office numbers

are unavailable.

 

Would you believe that Mike appeared as a herder in the Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic with Charlton

Heston- “The Ten Commandments.” “I always thought that Heston was stuffy and above it all,” Mike

said recently in an exclusive Senior Scene Magazine interview. During the 1950’s Mike appeared in

most every dramatic show on television. He played cowboys, newspapermen, lawyers, submarine

commanders as well as comedy.

 

In 1959 he starred in his own series, “Tightrope.” It was a crime adventure series that lasted one year.

It got Mike noticed. Lucille Ball and her husband Gary Morton had the perfect vehicle. It was a series

featuring an anti-hero detective-Joe Mannix.

 

Mannix was developed in the Sam Spade, and Phillip Marlowe mold. Not slick and urbane like a Nick

Charles. Not philosophical like a Charlie Chan and certainly not as cerebral as Sherlock Holmes. Mannix

could take a punch… as a matter of fact in every episode he took many. During the run of the series

(1967-1975) he shot and wounded 12 times, knocked unconscious over 55 times. Maybe it was his loud

checkered sports jackets that offended thugs. It was a unique show in many aspects. The opening credits

were split screened with an offbeat type face. He also drove souped up cars. I can still hear the squeal of

the tires as Mannix tries to elude hoods in an underground parking lot. His assistant was played by Gail

Fisher-a Black actress. There was always hip banter between them, maybe slightly suggestive.

He used his skills in comedy to co-star with Lucy in an episode of Here’s Lucy entitled, “Lucy and Mannix

Held Hostage.” Mike was nominated for 4 Golden Globes and 4 Emmy Awards while Gail was nominated

for 4 Emmys 3 Golden Globes-she won two.

 

In our interview Mike had nothing but positive words for John Wayne, James Gardner, Ward Bond,

Loretta Young as well as Lucille Ball. “Lucy knew lighting and production like a union pro. She fought to

keep the series going after the first year. Her production company produced the show.”

“I live a quiet life with my wife of 64 years. I golf, play tennis and enjoy the grandchildren. I just did a

“Two and a Half Men” shot. I golf with Tim Conway, Bob Newhart and Bob Wagner regularly. I am still

recognized by fans. My life in California is wonderful. Tell my fans I am happy and healthy.”

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