R.I.P. Mitchell Ryan, character actor in everything from Dark Shadows to Lethal Weapon
He appeared in Clint Eastwood movies and starred in the sitcom Dharma & Greg.
His name may not be instantly recognizable but his face is no doubt familiar to many TV and movie fans. Mitchell Ryan won his first screen role in the late 1950s and continued to work for the next six decades. He often played military commanders, judges and stern fathers.
Ryan was born January 11, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Raised mostly in Louisville, Kentucky, Ryan served in the entertainment unit of the special services during the Korean War. He found work on stage before getting a small role in the 1958 Robert Mitchell crime film Thunder Road. Ryan then appeared in the shows like Brenner, Naked City and The Defenders.
His first recurring part came in 107 episodes of the spooky daytime drama Dark Shadows. He appeared in the TV Western The High Chaparral then costarred with Lee Marvin in the cowboy movie Monte Walsh. Even though Ryan’s character in the film was an accomplished bronco rider, Ryan had no real-life horse experience. According to The Hollywood Reporter, his nickname on set was “The Lincoln Center Kid.”
Ryan also appeared in Seventies flicks Chandler, A Reflection of Fear, Electra Glide in Blue and The Friends of Eddie Coyle – reuniting with Robert Mitchum. He also appeared alongside Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter and Magnum Force.
On television, Ryan spent the Seventies in shows like Cannon, Barnaby Jones and The Rockford Files. He led a variety of short-lived shows: the unconventional police procedural Chase, the corporate drama Executive Suite and the medical series Having Babies.
Ryan appeared in Eighties shows like Hart to Hart, Dallas and The A-Team before playing his memorable role as retired Army general-turned-drug smuggler Peter McAllister in Lethal Weapon. Ryan nearly played Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation before producers chose Patrick Stewart. Ryan did get a chance to be on the show later, though, playing Riker’s father in the episode “The Icarus Factor.”
In the early 1990s, Ryan played characters in The Golden Girls, Matlock and L.A. Law. He then guest-starred as Jonathan Clayton in a three-part Wings storyline. On the big screen, Ryan appeared in all kinds of Nineties movies from Blue Sky to Judge Dredd to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
In 1997, Ryan began playing Edward Montgomery, the conservative father of Thomas Gibson’s Greg, in the sitcom Dharma & Greg. The show ran for five seasons with Ryan appearing in over 100 episodes.
Ryan published a memoir in 2021 called Fall of a Sparrow about his long career in showbusiness. He was 88.