Can you immediately identify the star of the 1930s  and 1940s who is posing with Donald Gordon in this candid snapshot? (Yes, the guy in the center between a youthful looking Donald on the left and that spiffy period sedan on the right.)

If you came to the conclusion that he is Preston Foster, you would be correct.  C’mon, be honest.  Did you get it right?  (Frank admits that he didn’t until Joe filled him in.)

Foster, who died at 69 in 1970, was one those virile-looking actors most often was seen onscreen in various authoritarian roles — cops, military types, priests, etc.

He was never a huge star, but he certainly was a solid performer in movies and on tv, most often getting top or near-the-top billing. Let’s fill in the blanks about Foster by expanding on the man and the actor.

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— He was a highly versatile actor who appeared in everything from movie musicals to war dramas to science fiction movies.

Foster broke into the movies in 1930 in the musical comedy, Heads Up, starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers (now there is a name from the past).  Two years later, he appeared with Paul Mini in director Mervyn LeRoy’s hard-edged drama, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. In the early Forties, he costarred with Lloyd Nolan and William Bendix in the war drama Guadalcanal Diary. Other titles through the years in no special order included 1949’s I Shot Jesse James, 1943’s My Friend Flicka and 1953’s I, The Jury. That sci-fi outing was 1964’s The Time Travelers.

— He had an extensive career in both movie and television.

From the Fifties on, Foster, like many Hollywood veterans, turned to television in a big way.  Among the many tube series he graced were Gunslinger and Outlaws plus 77 Sunset Strip (remember, “Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!”) in the Sixties.

— He started out as a singer, and remained a musician of some note throughout a career spanning three decades.

Yes, indeed.  In fact, Foster started his show biz career on the stage as a musical personality.  Throughout his movie and tv stints, he remained a composer, song writer and guitarist.  He toured with his wife and daughter in a musical act.

— He was a Coast Guard officer in World War II, and played a captain on a mid-Fifties syndicated tv series.

Foster held the honorary rank of Commodore in the U.S. Coast Guard. In reel life, he portrayed Capt. John Herrick in the mid-Fifties Waterfront series.

— His second wife was a Paramount starlet in the late 1930’s.

Foster was married for the second time in 1946 to the late Sheila Darcy, a starlet at Paramount in 1937. After she married the actor, she quit the business. The couple stayed together until Foster’s death.

— His song compositions include such memorable ditties as “Good Ship Lalapaloo” and “Two Shillelagh O’Sullivan.” 

True.  No further comment.

— He received costarring billing in an early John Ford film that was NOT a western.

Foster costarred with Victor McLaglen in 1935’s The Informer, Ford’s drama about treachery during the Irish rebellion of 1922. The movie earned McLaglen and Ford Oscars but, alas, no award for Foster.

— He costarred in an early Sixties tv series headlined by Gene Kelly.  It’s title is the same as a mid-Forties Bing Crosby movie. 

In 1963, Foster joined the cast of Going My Way, a tv spinoff of director Leo McCarey’s original feature for Paramount in 1944, costarring Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Kelly played the Crosby part.

— After his retirement, he returned to his stage roots in a small playhouse in California.

Foster became executive director of a Southern California live theater operation, and he wrote, directed and acted in plays. The actor was also an avid fisherman until the day he died.  He was buried in La Jolla, California.

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