LOS ANGELES--Craig Stevens, handsome leading actor whose Broadway, TV and movie career spanned four decades, died May 10, 2000, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center here. He is perhaps best remembered as the star of the "Peter Gunn" TV series. MSTies will remember him as pompous Colonel Joe Parkman in episode 804- THE DEADLY MANTIS. He was 81.
Born Gail Shikles Jr. on July 8, 1918, in Liberty, Missouri, Stevens abandoned all plans for a career in dentistry when he became involved in student productions at the University of Kansas. Trained at Pasadena Playhouse and Paramount's acting school, Stevens was signed to a stock Warner Bros. contract in 1941. His performance as a soft-hearted gangster in 1941's "At the Stroke of Twelve," is well remembered, but in general his performances did not thrill critics and audiences. By 1950, Stevens was reduced to appearing in Bowery Boys movies. But his career took an upswing in 1958 when he was cast in the title role of Blake Edwards jazzy TV private eye series "Peter Gunn." The series was a three-season hit and Stevens grew into the role, which he later recreated in the 1967 theatrical feature "Gunn." Stevens also starred in the British-filmed weekly TV series "Man of the World" (1962) and CBS' "Mr. Broadway" (1964). Stevens married actress Alexis Smith in 1944 and the two became one of Hollywood's most durable couples, touring together in such stage productions as "Critic's Choice" and remaining together until her death from cancer in 1993. In recent years, he was the companion of Frances Bergen, widow of Edgar Bergen and mother of Candice Bergen.