Jack Colvin

Jack McGee in 'The Incredible Hulk'

Saturday 10 December 2005 01:00

Jack Colvin, actor: born Lyndon, Kansas 13 October 1934; died Los Angeles 1 December 2005.

The character actor Jack Colvin stepped out of roles as detectives, doctors, pimps and thieves to get his longest screen run as the sharp-eyed, hard-nosed tabloid newspaper reporter Jack McGee on television in The Incredible Hulk.

The headline-hunting National Register journalist tried to track down the mild-mannered, compassonate scientist Dr David Banner, who went on the run after accidentally injecting himself with an overdose of gamma rays during an experiment to test human strength, causing him to turn into the green-skinned, raging man-beast the Hulk during moments of stress. (The Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation also required a switch of actor, from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno -a former Mr Universe - as Banner involuntarily burst out of his famous splitting shirt to terrorise wrongdoers with his alter ego.)

McGee went on his trail after witnessing a bizarre murder, believing the creature was responsible and suspecting the scientist's secret - while everyone else believed him to be dead. Banner usually stayed just one step ahead while looking for an antidote to free him from his other self. Ironically, though, McGee was saved from a plane crash and a forest fire by the Hulk.

The Marvel comic story, created by Stan Lee, was turned into two live-action television films, The Incredible Hulk and The Return of the Incredible Hulk, in 1977, with Colvin as the relentless reporter, a role he continued through five series (1978-82) and another one-off adventure, The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988). However, the actor originally had doubts about playing McGee, saying:

When they told me the title, I laughed. But then they gave me two scripts to read and I knew the series would go. People identify tremendously with the frustration, the rage and the anger that breaks out in a man.

Born in Kansas in 1934, Jack Colvin became a student of the actor and teacher Michael Chekhov at the age of 17 and performed on stage for many years before teaming up with Yvonne Wilder as the comedy duo Colvin and Wilder in the 1960s. Although he never became a major star, Colvin took supporting roles in films alongside big names such as Peter Ustinov (Viva Max!, 1969), Robert Redford (Jeremiah Johnson, 1972), Paul Newman (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972), Burt Lancaster (Scorpio, 1973), Charles Bronson (The Stone Killer, 1973), John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn (Rooster Cogburn, 1975), and Rock Hudson (Embryo, 1976).

He was also seen in many television programmes, including Tarzan (1968), Kojak (1974), The Six Million Dollar Man (1975-77), The Rockford Files (1976), Cagney & Lacey (1986) and Murder, She Wrote (1987, 1991). He taught acting at the Michael Chekhov Studio USA West, in Hollywood.

Anthony Hayward

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