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'Mannix' Star Mike Connors Dies At 91

Actor Mike Connors, who starred in the TV detective show <em>Mannix</em>, flashes a smile after filming a scene with Dick Van Dyke, for an episode of <em>Diagnosis Murder</em> in 1997. The show centered around an unsolved mystery from <em>Mannix</em>, with Connors returning to his old role as the title character.

For eight years, Mike Connors starred in Mannix — as a hard-nosed private eye on CBS who usually ended up in a fight during each episode.

It was the last series from Desilu Productions, a company formed by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.

Mannix began in 1967, and during its run, Connors became one of the highest-paid television actors.

The show involved a lot of fights, car chases and bullets but the detective also became emotionally involved.

In a 2000 interview on Fox News Channel, Connors said, ""I know that I kept saying I want this character to be as real as possible, to feel the emotions, the ups and the downs, to shed a tear, whatever it took that happens to the average human being."

The show grew to be very popular but it didn't start out that way.

The Hollywood trade magazine Variety reports:

Desilu president Lucille Ball convinced CBS not to cancel the show despite initial poor ratings, and it caught on after being retooled into a somewhat more conventional detective series. Mannix's secretary, played by Gail Fisher, was one of the few African-American actresses on TV at the time. "Here's Lucy" produced a crossover episode in 1971 with Connors and Ball, called "Lucy and Mannix Are Held Hostage."

Connors was nominated four times for an Emmy for his role in Mannix, and in 1970 he won a Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic series.

Connors also starred in the TV shows Tightrope and Today's FBI. He appeared in movies including: Sudden Fear with Joan Crawford, Island in the Sky, The Ten Commandments and a remake of Stagecoach.

In one of his last television appearances, Connors guest starred on an episode of Two and a Half Men in 2007.

He also appeared on Murder, She Wrote, Love Boat and Walker Texas Ranger.

Before finding success on television, Connors was described as a B-rated movie actor.

Reuters reports:

Connors, who was of Armenian descent, was born as Krekor Ohanian on Aug. 15, 1925, in Fresno, California. Tall and athletic, he attended UCLA on a basketball scholarship and was noticed by veteran Hollywood director William Wellman, who steered him into acting.

He changed his name to Mike Connors later in the 1950s.

A family representative told Variety that Connors had been diagnosed with leukemia a week ago.

Connors died on Thursday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 91.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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