Class of 1917
Rainey was born in Mountain Home, Idaho, the son of Vyrna (née Kinkade), a teacher, and Archie Coleman Rainey. He first acted on the stage while in high school. Rainey graduated from Centralia Junior College in Washington state and the Cornish Drama School in Seattle. He then moved to Conecticut to study acting at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio. Growing up in the outdoors and learning to ride horses helped him in his career as a tough-guy film presence later in life. Like many young actors, he worked odd jobs including logger, fisherman, fruit picker, carpenter, clam digger and working on an oil tanker before becoming a successful actor. He worked as a radio actor as well as a touring stage actor before breaking into films. His Broadway debut was in a 1939 Chekhov production of The Possessed that had a run of 14 performances. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After the war he moved to Ojai, California, where he, Woodrow Chambliss and other actors who had studied under Chekhov founded the Ojai Valley Players.
Rainey was a familiar face in motion pictures, including his 1949 film debut White Heat, Perfect Strangers, The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen and Two Rode Together with James Stewart.
He guest starred on many television series, including The Adventures of Kit Carson, Bonanza, The Invaders, The Brothers Brannagan (in the 1961 series finale "The Hunter and the Hunted"), The Tall Man, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Dundee and the Culhane, and The Untouchables, and he co-starred in the acclaimed television movie My Sweet Charlie. The tall austere, authoritative-looking actor was a natural at playing leaders.
In the 1961-1962 season, he co-starred with Robert Young in the unsuccessful CBS series, Window on Main Street, in which he portrayed the role of newspaper editor Lloyd Ramsey. Then a child actor, Tim Matheson, had a recurring role in Window on Main Street, as did the actress Constance Moore.
Rainey portrayed the stepfather of Lee Majors' Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man), and the adoptive father of Jaime Sommers (The Bionic Woman) (credit pictured). He played the role of Dr. Frederick Mixter in the 1981 film Halloween II. He appeared in the 1987 miniseries Amerika.
Rainey played a general on CBS's M*A*S*H, and a judge on both The Waltons and Matlock. He played presidents on Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Later television appearances, in the 1990s and 2000s, include ER and recurring roles on Wiseguy, Ned and Stacey, and The King of Queens. He could also be seen in some commercials in the middle 1970s through the 1980s, such as REACH brand toothbrushes; a Johnson & Johnson product. During that time, he was part of Trinity Square Repretory Company in Providence, Rhode Island.
Ford Rainey was a bachelor until the age of forty-six, when, in 1954, he married Sheila Hayden and settled in New York City, where sons Robert and James were born. The family moved to Malibu, California, where a daughter, Kathy was born.
Rainey remained in Malibu with his wife while he acted and enjoyed hobbies such as beekeeping and bird breeding until his death on July 25, 2005 of a stroke, at the age of ninety-six. His interment was in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. James Rainey is a writer for the The Los Angeles Times. Robert, a chiropractor, was the apparent victim of a robbery-murder in his office in Los Angeles. He was found by a patient on May 31, 2012.
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