A genial, durable character actor, boyishly handsome yet still ordinary looking, Noah Beery Jr appeared in over 100 films. He began as a child performer in silents and remained busy until the mid-1980s. Beery came from a distinguished family of film actors: his father was one of the most notable screen villains of the first half century of American cinema, and his uncle Wallace Beery was a prolific silent screen star who, in late middle age, became a popular MGM player. Beery, though perhaps less attention-getting in his acting style, nonetheless brought warmth and good humor to an incredibly prolific career spanning over 60 years.
Beery made his film debut at age seven in the beloved Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler, "The Mark of Zorro" (1920), in which his father also appeared. His busiest period of activity began during the Depression when he appeared in scores of Westerns, serials and other action fare, typically as the hero's sidekick. Some of Beery's more notable credits include Howard Hawks' "Only Angels Have Wings" and Lewis Milestone's "Of Mice and Men" (both 1939), Hawks' "Red River" (1948) and Billy Wilder's "The Spirit of St. Louis" (1957).
Beery also appeared in such noteworthy fare as "Sergeant York" (1941), the all-star "Follow the Boys!" (1944), "Inherit the Wind" (1960), George Pal's fantasy "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (1964) and the Dolly Parton musical "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1982). But most of his fare filled out the lower half of double bills; low-budget serials loved by movie-going boys, such as "The Jungle Mystery" (1932), "Tailspin Tommy" (1934) and "Riders of Death Valley" (1941). Among Beery's less-than-immortal features were "Some Blondes Are Dangerous" (1937), "Tanks a Million" (1941), "Dudes Are Pretty People" (1942), "We've Never Been Licked" (1944), "Rocket Ship X-M" (1950) and "Little Fauss and Big Halsey" (1970).
The 1950s marked the start of a very prolific TV career for Beery. His mellow, naturalistic style graced a number of series beginning with "The Adventures of Noah Beery Jr." (syndicated, 1954). He played the circus clown pal of the eponymous teen in "Circus Boy" (NBC and ABC, 1956-58) and joined the cast of "Riverboat" (NBC, 1960-61) in its second season, where he roistered alongside Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. Although his last series role came in the primetime soap "The Yellow Rose" (NBC, 1983-84), his best-known TV stint was as James Garner's amiable father, Rocky, on the long-running detective series "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-80). Bantering with the equally wry Garner, Beery was much-loved by audiences and the show's crew alike. The 1994 TV-movie, "The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A." (CBS), was dedicated to Beery, who had died from the after-effects of a stroke in 1994. From 1940-66, Beery was married to Maxine Jones Beery, the daughter of cowboy star Charles 'Buck' Jones.