Jeff Corey

Jeff Corey appeared in over a hundred films, including Home of the BraveThe Devil and Daniel Webster, My Friend Flicka, Bright Leaf with Gary Cooper, Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman, The Killers, Brute Force, Seconds, Mickey One, Getting Straight, The Cincinnati Kid, In Cold Blood, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Wake of the Red Witch, Bird on a Wire, Color of Night, Beethoven 2, and Surviving the Game. He delivered a memorable characterization of Wild Bill Hickok opposite Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man and played the villain, Tom Cheney, in the original True Grit with John Wayne. He played Sheriff Belsoe in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

In television Corey was a regular on NBC’s Helltown and the CBS series Morning Star/Evening Star. He made guest star appearances on Roseanne, Barney Miller, Knott’s Landing, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Archie Bunker’s Place, The A-Team, Rawhide, Night Gallery, Hawaii Five-0, Jake and the Fatman, Kojak, One Day at a Time, The Streets of San FranciscoPicket Fences, and Lou Grant.

dad_bookportraitHis best-known science fiction appearances were in O.B.I.T. an episode of The Outer LimitsThe Cloud Minders episode of Star Trek, in which he played High Advisor Plasus; and Z’ha’dum, the third-season finale of Babylon 5, in which he played Justin. He played Caspay in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He was also the voice of the villain Silvermane in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He appeared in the short-lived Paper Moon, a comedy about a father and his daughter roaming through the American Midwest during the Great Depression and had memorable roles as a burned-out judge who had lost his grip on reality as well as Santa Claus in two separate episodes of Night Court. In 1976, he played Andrew Jackson in the bicentennial Land of the Free.

As a director, Corey’s credits include The Psychiatrist, Night Gallery, Sixth Sense, Alias Smith and Jones, Sons and Daughters, and Meeting of the Minds for PBS, as well as Anna and the King, with Yul Brynner. 

Corey was born in Brooklyn, New York where after high school, he won a scholarship to the famed Feagin School of Dramatic Arts. After working in theater in New York, Corey and his wife, Hope, moved to Hollywood, where he became a highly respected character actor and was one of the founders of the Actor’s Lab.

One of his most notable movie roles was in a 1951 feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, which was later edited to a two-part episode of the television series. His portrayal of a xenophobic vigilante coincidentally reflected what was about to happen to him when he was summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in September of 1951.

Telegram instructing Jeff Corey to appear in front of HUAC

A decorated war hero, Corey refused to give names of alleged communists in the entertainment industry. In June of 1951 the Los Angeles Herald Examiner ran an article stating that, “Jeff Corey is the most successful young actor in Hollywood.” Five months later, in an act of great courage, patriotism, and integrity, he completely walked away from that career.

Corey was blacklisted by the Hollywood studios for twelve years.

Jack Nicholson with his former teacher, Jeff Corey

Unable to work in film, Corey turned to teaching the craft he was no longer allowed to practice. He soon became one of the most influential teachers in Hollywood and before long, the same heads of the Hollywood studios who refused to hire him as an actor were sending their most important stars to work with him.

Corey was the first actor to break the blacklist and in 1962 he began working again in film and television. Corey remained active as an actor and a teacher until his death in 2002.

Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How To Act tells the personal story of this remarkable man, the career he gave up, and the career he discovered through his integrity, courage, and determination to live his life with honor.