Obituary: George Peppard

George Peppard, actor, director, producer: born Detroit 1 October 1928; six times married (two sons, one daughter); died Los Angeles 8 May 1994.

BREAKFAST at Tiffany's seemed a sophisticated piece when it came out in 1961, directed by Blake Edwards and written by George Axelrod from the novella by Truman Capote. The sexually ambiguous 'I' of the story, the struggling writer based on Capote himself, had become a full-blooded practising heterosexual - involved with a lady known only as '2E' (played by Patricia Neal), who leaves him dollars 300 on the bedside table after their rendezvous. To the strains of 'Moon River', he gives her up for Holly Golightly, who is played by Audrey Hepburn.

George Peppard played the role, that of the all-American boy gone to seed who rediscovers Real Values when he finds True Love. Peppard himself had no difficulty in hinting at the decadence of the character, and indeed in his first film he had played a first-year student at a military academy which was a hotbed of perversion and corruption - The Strange One (1957), adapted from Calder Willingham's novel End as a Man. Peppard played a victim, but there was a glint in the eye, a flick of the tongue, which suggested that he could not wait to be the next school bully. He continued to be promising in his next few films, and something more than that in Home from the Hill (1959), as the hero's illegitimate brother, investing his scenes with warmth and humour.

Breakfast at Tiffany's made Peppard a star, and he appeared in a number of important pictures over the next few years, eventually achieving billing over such names as James Mason, Sophia Loren and Alan Ladd. The titles included How the West was Won (1962), The Victors (1963) and Operation Crossbow (1965). In The Carpetbaggers (1964), he played an unscrupulous playboy modelled on Howard Hughes, as first written up by Harold Robbins in his bestseller of the same title. Peppard had his best screen chance in John Guillerman's The Blue Max (1966), as an ambitious working-class member of a crack German officer corps, despised by his aristocratic colleagues and determined to prove, by fair means or foul, that he is better than any of them. It was his last major film, which is doubly curious because, like The Carpetbaggers, it was a very big movie at the box-office. With a couple of hits like these, an actor can coast for two or three years, but after Rough Night in Jericho (1967), a western with Jean Simmons and Dean Martin, Peppard was offered little of interest.

This was partly his own fault. In 1965 he was making Sands of the Kalahari for Cy Endfield and Stanley Baker, who expected it to rival the popularity of their earlier Zulu. Peppard walked out during filming, to be replaced by Stuart Whitman. The film not only failed, but the industry looked askance at Peppard, never trusting or liking any actor who causes shooting to begin all over again. With his cool, blond baby-face looks and a touch of menace, of meanness, he had established a screen persona as strong as any of the time. He might have been the Alan Ladd or the Richard Widmark of the Sixties: but the Sixties didn't want a new Alan Ladd. Peppard began appearing in a series of action movies, predictably as a tough guy, but there were much tougher guys around - like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, whose films had now become television staples.

John Guillerman, making his first two Hollywood films, cast Peppard in the thrillers New Face in Hell (1967) and House of Cards (1968). In the second of these he was an expatriate American caught up in the dirty tricks of the French political right, and in the first a down-at-heel private eye. Peppard's private eye brought him an offer to play another, in a television series, Banacek. It ran from 1972 to 1974 and brought renewed acclaim to Peppard and several movie offers. He chose to play a busted cop who sets out to clear his name in Newman's Law (1974). He himself produced, directed and starred in Five Days from Home (1978), playing another ex-lawman, one who this time has been convicted of the manslaughter of his wife's lover; the film went direct to television.

When Peppard returned to that medium, it was as Hannibal, the grinning, cigar-chomping leader of The A-Team, an NBC series which ran from 1983 to 1986. Righting wrongs, correcting or uncovering injustices, the A-Team went about their work with rare good-humour and a considerable amount of violence, explosive if not bloody. They were very popular, particularly with children, but the show was expensive to produce and needed the injection of new ingredients to hold its audience; and the producers preferred to put it into syndication.

More recently, Peppard had returned to the stage, and was in London briefly in 1990 in the two-hand play Love Letters, opposite Elaine Stritch. In 1992 he embarked on a tour of The Lion in Winter with Susan Clark.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape