Leif Erickson was a famous film, stage, and television actor, who made an impact in the Western world. He was born near San Francisco, in Alameda, California named William Wycliffe Anderson. Prior to acting, he played music as a vocalist and trombone player in a band. He began his acting career with Paramount Pictures introduced under the name “Glenn Erickson.” He was often the lead in these films. The first films were band films based on Zane Grey novels.
World War II
For four years he took time off of acting and joined the United States Navy. He ranked up to Chief Petty Officer in World War II in the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit and served as a military photographer. He would shoot film in combat zones and as an instructor. During his time, he was shot down twice in the Pacific and later on received two Purple Hearts. The actor was in the Unit that filmed and photographed the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. With over four years of service, he shot more than 200,000 feet of film for the Navy.
Post-war his acting career included noted films such as On the Waterfront, The Snake Pit, Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Invaders from Mars, Mirage, A Gathering of Eagles, Roustabout, Sorry, Wrong Number, and The Carpetbaggers, and Arabian Nights.
Throughout his career, he worked with an array of well-known actors and actresses. He starred in a stage and film versions of Tea and Sympathy and across actress Debora Kerr, as her husband. In the 1937 release of Conquest, Erickson worked with Greta Garbo, playing her brother. The actor was even asked to play in the musical Show Boat, his past musical tendencies and skills coming into play in the 1951 remake. Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977) was his last feature film.
Television shows were also a big part of his career. He appeared in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and the 1967-1971 NBC The High Chaparral, as Big John Cannon. In the role, he portrayed an Arizona rancher trying to establish a cattle empire. His guest tv spots were Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Cannon, Rawhide, The Rifleman, The Rockford Files, Hunter, and Fantasy Island.
Off-screen, Erickson’s life moved very swiftly. Relationship-wise, he married multiple times. First to actress Frances Farmer. The day their divorce was final, he married another actress, Margaret Hayes. They remained married for a month. Three years after that marriage dissolved, he married Ann Diamond. Together they had two children, Susan Irene and William “Bill” Leif. In 1986, the actor died in Pensacola, Florida of lung cancer.