By Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.
Before embarking on his long career as a much-in-demand actor on radio, TV, and in the movies, Stacy Harris—born in Big Timber, Quebec, Canada in 1918—was the dictionary definition of a “jack-of-all-trades.” Among his previous occupations were pilot, sailor, boxer, champion archer, artist (he was a political cartoonist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune), and newspaper reporter (sportswriter for The San Francisco Chronicle). But show business was where Stacy would toil the longest, because…with all those other jobs you might start wondering why he had trouble holding onto them. (Just joking, of course.)
Stacy Harris spent many years in the military; he had enlisted in the Army as a pilot right out of high school, but a plane crash in 1937 injured his leg…and as a result, rendered him “4F” when he attempted to re-enlist at the start of World War II. Undaunted, Harris became a merchant seaman and then ambulance driver for the Free French in Africa, and then was transferred to the Foreign Legion (as a dispatch rider), where he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Discharge in hand, Stacy would soon find work in the aural medium—particularly in the world of daytime drama, where he appeared on such programs as Pepper Young’s Family (as Carter Trent) and The Strange Romance of Evelyn Winters (Ted Blades).
One of Stacy’s earliest high-profile jobs was on another daytime series—though it was geared more to a kid audience than housewives. On The Adventures of Superman, Harris was one of three actors (the others being Gary Merrill and Matt Crowley) to portray Batman, Supe’s fellow DC Comics super crimefighter. The creative minds behind the radio Superman decided to introduce The Dark Knight to the show as a way to give actor Clayton “Bud” Collyer (who played The Man of Steel) a little R&R from the rigors of the series, but Batman never really caught on in the same way as The Kid from Krypton did.
It wouldn’t be until radio’s This is Your FBI made a move to the West Coast (it was a New York-based program in its early years) that Stacy Harris would get regular work. He became FBI’s star as Special Agent Jim Taylor, who investigated the various cases on the series as sort of a representation of all of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s agents. This is Your FBI was one of two shows on the airwaves to spotlight the work of the Feds (the other was The FBI in Peace and War) — and although Peace and War enjoyed a longer run on radio, This is Your FBI had FBI head J. Edgar Hoover’s stamp of approval. Recognizing an effective public relations tool when he saw one, Hoover declared it “the finest dramatic program on the air.” This is Your FBI premiered over ABC on April 6, 1945 and sold plenty of Equitable Life insurance until January 30, 1953. Producer-director Jerry Devine was most enthused about adding Stacy to the program, remarking to a newspaper columnist: “Stacy has just the sort of voice I need for the quiet authority of the special agent on my show. On top of that, he’s a good actor, and it’s a combination on radio which can’t be beat.”
Stacy Harris made certain that Jerry Devine wasn’t just talking out of his hat. His radio appearances include The Adventures of Christopher London, The CBS Radio Workshop, Confession, Dangerous Assignment, Ellery Queen, Escape, The First Nighter Program, Frontier Gentleman, Gangbusters, Gunsmoke, The Halls of Ivy, Hollywood Star Playhouse, Jason and the Golden Fleece, The Line-Up, The Lux Radio Theatre, Night Beat, O’Hara, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Romance, Screen Directors’ Playhouse, The Silent Men, Somebody Knows, Stars Over Hollywood, The Story of Dr. Kildare, Suspense, Tales of the Texas Rangers, The Whisperer, The Woman in My House, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. One of Stacy’s longest and most rewarding collaborations was with Jack Webb: Harris made the rounds of such Webb-connected series as Jeff Regan, Investigator, Pat Novak for Hire, and Pete Kelly’s Blues. In fact, he was particularly in-demand on Jack’s Dragnet, in which he specialized in portraying lowlifes constantly crabbing about not being able to catch a break.
It was his association with Jack Webb that got Stacy Harris established in motion pictures, too. Harris made his movie debut in a 1951 noir entitled Appointment with Danger, in which he plays the “inside man” at a post office (Webb and his future Dragnet co-star Harry Morgan play the bad guys!). Webb would also use Stacy as the main villain when he brought Dragnet to the big screen in 1954, with Harris playing the ulcerated Max Troy (a sour stomach and disposition to match). Stacy would appear on the TV Dragnet multiple times (both the 1952-59 and 1967-70 incarnations), not to mention the Webb-produced Adam-12, Emergency!, and O’Hara, U.S. Treasury (on which he had a recurring role as Agent Ben Hazzard). Jack and Stacy were such good friends that Webb even named his elder daughter “Stacy” in tribute.
Stacy Harris’ other recurring TV roles were as “Detective Vic Beaujac” on N.O.P.D. and “Mayor Clum” on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. Harris was a busy beaver when it came to the small screen, making the rounds of such hit shows as Have Gun – Will Travel, The Untouchables, Rawhide, Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Virginian, and so many more. According to the IMDb, Stacy’s final credit was an episode of the short-lived horror anthology Circle of Fear; he left this world for a better one rather early after succumbing to a heart attack in 1973 at the age of 54.
Copyright 2018 Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. and RSPT LLC. All rights reserved.