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R.G. Armstrong

Updated on June 2, 2016
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I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 7 April 1917 (Birmingham, Alabama, USA)

Died: 27 July 2012 (Studio City, California, USA)
Cause of Death: Natural Causes

Film and TV Appearances: 183+

Award Nominations: 2 (2 Wins)

Years Active: 1954 - 2001

Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

as the Warden in the episode "The Box" (season 1)
as the Warden in the episode "The Box" (season 1)

Early Life

Born Robert Golden Armstrong, Jr on 7 April 1917, R.G. Armstrong was the son of Fundamentalist Christian parents. His mother wanted him to be a pastor but he became interested in acting while attending Howard College (now Samford University) in Homeward, Alabama (he enrolled in 1938).

Transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he and fellow classmate Andy Griffith began acting with the Carolina Playmakers. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

When I was in school here in 1938, I was aspiring to be a writer. Back then, coming from the steel mills like I did, you didn't admit you wanted to be a writer. If you did, you were considered a sissy. And you certainly didn't admit you wanted to be a poet.

— R.G. Armstrong (about attending Howard College)

In the mid-1950s, he attended the Actors Studio in New York. On Broadway, he appeared in the original productions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (as Dr. Baugh) and Orpheus Descending (as Sheriff Talbott). Other plays he appeared in on Broadway were End as Man, The Miracle Worker (as Captain Keller), and The Long Dream (as Chief of Police Gerald Canley).

Two years after making his film debut in Garden of Eden (1954), Armstrong moved to Hollywood and appeared in many films and TV shows, particularly westerns. In 1960 he appeared in the TV series The Westerner, which was created by Sam Peckinpah. The two became friends with Armstrong appearing in four of Peckinpah's films - Ride the High Country (1962); Major Dundee (1965); The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970); and Pat Garret & Billy the Kid (1973).

R. G. Armstrong played righteous villainy better than anybody I’ve ever seen.

— Sam Peckinpah

Films

Other films Armstrong appeared in were Manhunt (1958); No Name on the Bullet (1959); Ten Who Dared (1960); He Rides Tall (1964); 80 Steps to Jonah (1969); The Great White Hope (1970); The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972); Gentle Savage (1973); The Black Bounty Killer (1975); Stay Hungry (1976); The Car (1977); Texas Detour (1978); Steel (1979); Where the Buffalo Roam (1980); Lone Wolf McQuade (1983); Children of the Corn (1984); Jocks (1986); Predator (1987); Ghetto Blaster (1989); Dead Center (1993); Invasion of Privacy (1996); The Man in the Iron Mask (1998); and The Waking (2001).

R.G. Armstrong was also a favourite of actor/director Warren Beatty. He appeared in three of Beatty's films - Heaven Can Wait (1978); Reds (1981); and Dick Tracy (1990) as Pruneface.

El Dorado (1966)

as Kevin MacDonald
as Kevin MacDonald

Television

The majority of R.G. Armstrong's roles was on television beginning in 1956 with a guest part on the TV series West Point. T.V. shows he had a regular role in were The C.A.T (1966-1967) as Police Captain McAllister; Dynasty (1982) as Alfred Grimes; Friday's Curse (1987-1989) as Lewis Vendredi; and Millennium (1997-1998) as The Old Man.

Made for TV films and mini-series he appeared in were Manhunter (1974); A Twist in the Tale (1977); Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978); The Time Machine (1978); The Legend of the Golden Gun (1979); The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979); Stockers (1981); The Shadow Riders (1982); Oceans of Fire (1986); LBJ: The Early Years (1987); Independence (1987); War and Remembrance (1988-1989); Don't Look Back (1996); and Purgatory (1999).

TV shows Armstrong guest starred on included Have Gun - Will Travel; The Rifleman; Maverick; Cheyenne; The Andy Griffith Show; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Wagon Train; Perry Mason; Laramie; Rawhide; The Fugitive; Bonanza; The F.B.I.; Gunsmoke; The Invaders; Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color; Cannon; Police Story; Starsky and Hutch; Baretta; Fantasy Island; The Dukes of Hazzard; Trapper John, M.D.; Beauty and the Beast; L.A. Law; Walker, Texas Ranger; and Cybill.

R.G. Armstrong saved my life. I had rheumatoid arthritis really badly and every day for ten months he'd come over and give me a deep tissue massage. I couldn't stand up without breaking a sweat. This was about 1978-79.

— James Coburn

R.G. Armstrong, even though having a long and extensive career in film and television only won two awards. In 1999 he won the Golden Boot award (which honours actors, actresses and crew members for their extensive work in the Western genre). He won the Fright-Fest Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

In later years, Armstrong became semi-retired from films and continued to act in off-Broadway productions. Near-blindness cause him to retire from acting completely in 2001. He then spent his time working in the community in Studio City where he became an honorary sheriff.

Married three times, R.G. Armstrong died in his sleep on 27 July 2012 (24 days after his friend Andy Griffith). He was cremated and was survived by his five children and (at the time of his death) five grandchildren.

White Lightning (1973)

Major Dundee (1965)

Major Dundee (The Extended Version)
Major Dundee (The Extended Version)

R.G. Armstrong appears in this movie as Reverend Dahlstrom.

 

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