Upside Down Under

North Dakota goes Hollywood… Several weeks ago we posted information in this space about North Dakota’s professional athletes. If you’re walking through the state capitol halls you’ll find portraits of the likes of Fido Purpur and Virgil Hill.

By Marvin Baker

You’ll also find portraits of actress Angie Dickinson and national news anchor Eric Severeid.

For many years, Dickinson, who grew up in Kulm, was North Dakota’s Hollywood connection. Then, Josh Duhamel of Minot came along and everyone kind of forgot about Angie Dickinson.

And that’s to be expected. Dickinson portrayed a police woman in a 1970s TV series, but Duhamel, who was born about the time Dickinson was going on the air, made a name for himself in the TV series Las Vegas from 2003-08.

These aren’t the only North Dakotans who have made acting or TV a career. There are a lot more of them than you might think.

• Have you ever heard of Michael Forest? Maybe not, but you certainly know about Star Trek, the original series from 1966-69. Forest, who was born Gerald Charlebois and grew up in Harvey, played the Greek god Apollo in a 1967 episode that held the crew of the Enterprise hostage.

• Sally Fraser is an actress who grew up in Williston and played some key roles in TV and movies. Perhaps her best known parts were in the TV series “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hitchcock,” and the 1954 TV presentation of “A Christmas Carol.” She also played a minor role in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller “North by Northwest.”

• Have you ever heard of Phyllis Frelich? Neither have I. Turns out, this Devils Lake native was a very productive actress.

After attending the North Dakota School for the Deaf, she went on to play key roles in numerous TV programs. They included “Barney Miller,” “Spencer for Hire,” “Santa Barbara,” “Hunter,” “Pacific Blue,” “ER,” and “CSI-Crime Scene Investigation.” Frehlich died in 2014 from complications of progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare degenerative neurological disease for which there are no treatments.

• Tom Hatten is another North Dakotan who made it in Hollywood. Hatten, a Navy veteran who grew up in Jamestown, is probably best known for his role as Popeye in the children’s show that aired on KTLATV 5 in Los Angeles.

But he had other parts too. He appeared as Capt. Murdock in several episodes of “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” and portrayed a German officer in the hit comedy series “Hogan’s Heroes.”

• Jan Maxwell has had an illustrious acting career as well. She was born in Fargo in 1956, graduated from West Fargo High School and Moorhead State University and later went on to star in the CBS series “The Good Wife,” as well as “Law and Order,” which aired on NBC. Maxwell was perhaps best known for her work on Broadway. She performed in “A Doll’s House,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Dinner Party.”

• Everybody knows Clint Ritchie, right? If you are a fan of daytime drama, you will. The Grafton native played Clint Buchanan in “One Life to Live.”

He also co-starred in numerous TV shows in the 1960s including “The Wild Wild West” and “Batman.” He was also in the war movies “Patton” and “Midway.”

• Michael Soltis’ name is somewhat known in Minot circles. He grew up there but has been living in Vancouver several years. His claim to fame was in the feature films “Battlestar Gallactica,” “Walking Tall” and “X-Men Too.”

• Ann Sothern was a Valley City native who had a long and successful career in movies and television. In fact, in 1954, she had her own program called “The Ann Sothern Show.”

The program didn’t have the best TV ratings, but was cast against the more popular “Untouchables.”

Sothern was on the “Jack Benny Show,” and had a recurring role in “The Lucy Show.” She also starred in “Alfred Hitchock Presents,” played opposite Jerry Van Dyke in the comedy series “My Mother the Car,” and was rumored to replace Vivian Vance after she announced she was leaving “The Lucy Show.”

• There are numerous other minor actors who have starred on TV in films and on Broadway. There are perhaps as many musicians who got their start in North Dakota, most notably Bobby Vee and Jonny Lang. So if you think there is no route to stardom think again. The people listed here started in the early ‘50s and continued through 2015. North Dakota has some incredible talent; it just needs to be tapped, that’s all.

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