Did you grow up watching the popular sitcom McHale’s Navy? It was a wonderful show that followed Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale and his ragtag band of navy crew members.
The show was a success because of its great writing, direction, and the hard work of the crew members. But what made the show a huge hit amongst viewers was its stellar cast members.
The McHale’s Navy Cast included many talented actors who had roles in film and television and brought their unique talents to this show. For some cast members, McHale’s Navy was the show that made their careers. For others, the show is among their best work.
Sadly, many of these great cast members have passed away. Let’s look back on their incredible careers and this great show…
Ernest Borgnine was a classic American actor known mostly for his work in cinema. His trademark was known to be a gruff actor who also had charm and charisma. He was known for tough guy roles in films such as The Dirty Dozen and The Wild Bunch.
His role on McHale’s Navy was of Lieutenant Commander Quinton Hale. The role was among his most popular and it showed that he had the talent for comedy as well.
He was born in Hamden, Connecticut in 1917 – the son of Italian immigrants from Carpi. As a young boy, he developed an interest in sports but didn’t care for acting.
Upon graduating from high school, Ernest Borgnine joined the Navy – little did he know that this would prepare him for a future television role!
He served in the Navy for 10 years and received many medals for his valor and his service. Among these medals he received the World War 2 Victory Medal.
Upon his return from the Navy, he took up a job in a factory but found it dissatisfying. He had no direction in life and didn’t know what he wanted from life. His mother suggested that Ernest should find a job that allowed him to express his personality.
He took her suggestion seriously and decided to pursue acting. He began his career on stage and then eventually graduated to film and television.
In television, he began having bit parts on shows such as Little House on the Prairie, Magnum PI, Murder, She Wrote, and The Love Boat. It was his role on McHale’s Navy that made him a huge television star.
He died of lung failure in 2012 at the age of 95.
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Gavin MacLeod was an American character actor who became famous with his role as Merrill Stubing in The Love Boat.
But he also had a role as Joseph “Happy” Haines in McHale’s Navy which audiences loved. He was born in New York in 1931. Though he wasn’t from a showbiz family, he took up an interest in acting at an early age.
After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Fine Arts, he began working at Radio City Music Hall after serving in the US Air Force. During this time, he also started looking for acting jobs.
It was also at this time that he decided to change his name. He was born as Allen George See and felt that this name wasn’t ideal for an actor. He chose the name “Gavin” from a character he saw in a television drama. He then chose the surname “MacLeod” from his drama coach at Ithaca College.
After playing a few bit parts in television shows, he landed the role as “Happy” Haines in McHale’s Navy. He became a household name from the show even though he left after only two seasons. He later found success with his role in The Love Boat.
He also had a great film career, appearing in many Blake Edwards’ comedies including Operation Petticoat, High Time, and The Party.
Apart from his work in film and television, he also hosted a show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He and his wife would discuss marriage and their Christian Faith on the channel.
He died at age 90 in May 2021 after a long illness.
Edson Stroll was born in 1929 in Chicago. He had a career in the US Navy starting in the late 1940s. Upon leaving the Navy, he began a career as a bodybuilder.
It was during his time as a bodybuilder that he also developed an interest in acting. He began taking acting classes at the American Theater Wing in New York. He began his career on stage and then graduated to bit parts on TV show.
His most notable role, however, was as Virgil Edwards on McHale’s Navy. He was the designated heartthrob of the show – as Edson was also a sex symbol during the time.
He later spent much of his career doing comedic roles, including collaborations with The Three Stooges.
He died of cancer in 2011.
The character of Harrison “Tinker” Bell was played by one of America’s most popular character actors, Billy Sands.
He was born in New York in 1911 and began his acting career quite late in life, not appearing on television until the 1950s. He had begun his career on stage but it was the small screen where Americans could see the breadth of Billy’s talents.
Apart from his role on McHale’s Navy, he also had a recurring role on The Phil Silvers Show. He also had guest appearances on some of the most popular shows of the era. These included appearances on shows such as The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Here’s Lucy, All in the Family, and Car 54, Where Are You?
His filmography also included roles in The Harrad Experiment, Rocky, The World’s Greatest Lover, and High Anxiety.
He died of lung cancer at the age of 73 in 1984.
The 1960s belonged to actor Gary Vinson who appeared in 3 popular TV shows – Pistols n Petticoats, The Roaring 20s and of course, his role as Quartermaster George Christopher aka “Christy” in McHale’s Navy.
He was born in El Segundo, California in 1936. His first experience with acting came at the age of 15 when he appeared in a short film called Does Christ Live In Your Home? This film was made in Hollywood and it ignited Gary’s passion for acting.
He began acting professionally on television in the 1950s. He appeared on shows such as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Laramie, Colt .45, The Rough Riders, and many more!
But it was his role as Chris Higbee in The Roaring 20s, that made him a household name in television. He continued to entertain audiences with his role as “Christy” in McHale’s Navy.
He also appeared in popular comedy films such as High School Caesar and A Majority of One. Sadly, Gary Vinson took his own life in 1984 at the age of 47. While he didn’t live long, he left behind a great legacy of roles in film and television.
Carl Ballantine was known as “The Great Ballantine” and was a popular magician in addition to being a great actor.
He was born in 1917 in Chicago. He was from a modest background and was the son of immigrants from Ukraine and Poland. He began his career as a magician in the 1930s. His talents would soon lend him appearances on popular TV shows including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show.
His popularity and his natural charisma helped him land roles in TV shows and films as well. He was cast as Torpedoman Lester Gruber in McHale’s Navy. He appeared in the sitcom as well as the 1964 film based on the show.
He continued his career working on television shows such as The Queen and I, One in a Million, and Garfield and Friends. He also had bit parts on shows such as Trapper John MD, What’s Happenin’ Now, Fantasy Island, and The Cosby Show.
His film career included roles in Penelope, The Shakiest Gun in the West, My Giant, Susan’s Plan and Farwell to Harry.
He died at the age of 92 in 2009.
Bob Hastings was born in 1925 in New York. He began his career as a singer, appearing on the radio show National Barn Dance.
He soon became a star during the Golden Age of Radio in the United States. He later served as a navigator in the US Army Air Corps during World War 2.
Upon returning from his military service, he resumed his radio career – appearing as Archie in a radio adaptation of the Archies Comics. He then began seeking work in television which was going through its own Golden Age in the 1950s.
His first major role was as a lieutenant on The Phil Silvers Show. But it was his role as Elroy Carpenter in McHale’s Navy that made him a household name on television. He was one of the few performers who managed to have a great career in two different mediums.
Much of his later career was spent having small roles in popular TV shows as well as doing voice-over work for popular animated series.
He died from prostate cancer at the age of 89 in 2014.
Tim Conway grew up in Ohio and majored in Television and Radio from Bowling Green State University. Upon his graduation, he served in the US Army for 2 years.
Upon his return to Ohio, he began working on various radio programs in Cleveland. He eventually became a big star on local radio stations and would appear on local TV programs as well.
His big break in mainstream TV came when he was cast as a regular player on The Steve Allen Show. This led him to get cast as Ensign Parker on McHale’s Navy which made him a national treasure. Audiences loved his bumbling, aloof, and naïve character!
He then continued to have a successful TV career, including having his own sitcom called The Tim Conway Show.
For newer generations, he became most known as the voice of Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob Squarepants. He died in 2019 at the age of 85 due to complications from normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Joe Flynn was a popular character actor who was born in 1924 in Youngstown, Ohio. During the Second World War, he served in the US Army’s Special Services Branch as an entertainer – providing comfort to the troops during the war.
He later studied Political Science at the University of Southern California, but it was clear that he was destined for a career in acting.
He began his career as a ventriloquist and as a radio disc jockey. He also directed plays and starred in a sitcom called Yer Old Buddy.
After a failed attempt in politics – he tried to run for the Ohio Senate – he decided to pursue acting full-time. He appeared in several Disney films and also was lauded for his performance in the horror film The Indestructible Man.
He later had recurring roles in popular TV shows such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Real McCoys, and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.
It was his role as Captain Wally Burton Binghamton that made him a national star! He continued to act regularly in film and television following his work on McHale’s Navy.
He was also a popular guest on talk shows – appearing a dozen times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He died of a heart attack while swimming in 1974, at the age of 49.
BOBBY WRIGHT & YOSHIO YODA
The two surviving members of McHale’s Navy are John “Bobby” Wright and Yoshio Yoda. Bobby Wright was from a showbiz background, as his parents were country music singers.
He traveled to Hollywood to audition for a role for a project spearheaded by director Peter Tewksbury. While he didn’t land the role, he did get cast as Willy Moss in McHale’s Navy.
He played the character throughout the series and became a star through his debut role! On the side, he also pursued a career in music and then went on to focus on performing country music over pursuing acting.
He’s now retired and is still remembered for his work on McHale’s Navy and his music career.
Yoshio Yoda is a Japanese actor who played Takeo Fujiwara in McHale’s Navy. Upon completing this role, he appeared in one episode of Love, American Style. He didn’t pursue an entertainment career afterward except for working as an associate producer for The Walking Major.
He became a US citizen and lived in Hawaii, where he worked as the VP of Marketing for Toyota for over a decade. He’s retired now and lives in California.
Are you a fan of McHale’s Navy?
Do you think newer generations know about the show?
Or is it up to fans to introduce this classic sitcom to them?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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