'Land of the Lost', 'Planet of the Apes' actor Ron Harper dies

 March 26, 2024

Ron Harper, the television actor known for roles in Land of the Lost and Planet of the Apes, has died. He was 91. 

His daughter told the Hollywood Reporter that Harper died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.

With roles in sitcoms, sci-fi and soap operas, Harper was a familiar face to TV audiences for decades, even if many of his shows were unfortunately short-lived.

Harper is probably best known to TV viewers who came of age in the 1970s.

'Land of the Lost' actor dies

He starred as the astronaut Alan Virdon in the 1974 CBS series Planet of The Apes, based on the 1968 sci-fi movie with Charlton Heston and its four sequels. The TV series starred Roddy McDowall, who played the apes Cornelius and Ceaser in the original movies.

Unfortunately, the show's ratings couldn't keep pace with its expensive budget, and it was cancelled after 14 episodes.

In 1976, Harper played Uncle Jack Marshall in the third and final season of the NBC sci-fi adventure series Land of the Lost. Harper's fictional brother, Rick Marshall, was written out of the story when actor Spencer Mulligan left the show. Harper was born in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, a small town near Pittsburgh. After graduating from Princeton, he passed on a law fellowship at Harvard to pursue his dreams of being an actor.

"I kept saying to myself, ‘Should you waste your good education being an actor?’ And that little voice within me kept saying things like, ‘What do you want to take that fellowship to Harvard Law for? Be an actor. Starving is fun,’” he said in 1966.

“And like the fool that any actor has to be, I listened to that dumb little voice.”

Prolific TV actor

Harper's TV career started off with small roles in 1960s Westerns like Tales of Wells Fargo, The Tall Man, Deputy, and Shotgun Slade. In 1961, he landed his first starring role as detective Bert Kling in the NBC police drama 87th Precinct, which lasted 30 episodes.

He had another star turn as Jack Conway, the husband of tenant Wendy (Connie Francis) in the short-lived George Burns sitcom Wendy and Me (1964-1965), which also starred Burns as the owner of the apartment where the Conways live.

Harper appeared alongside Hollywood icon Jean Arthur in the 1966 CBS sitcom The Jean Arthur Show, and he played Lt. Craig Garrison on the 1967-1968 World War II series Garrison's Gorillas.

His other shows include Another World, Remington Steele, Beverly Hills: 90210, and The West Wing, among many others. His last acting credit was as a minister in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale. In 2009, he was offered a cameo in a film reboot of Land of The Lost but turned it down.

Harper is survived by his daughter Nicole Longeuay, son-in-law Daniel, granddaughters Ronnie and Harper, and ex-wife Shirley. His first wife was actor Sally Stark.

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