MOORPARK — Actor Rick Jason, who played the hard-boiled leader Lt. Gil Hanley on the 1960s television drama "Combat!," was found dead Monday in his house. He was 74.
Jason died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and was found by his wife about 5 a.m., said Ventura County Deputy Coroner Craig Stevens. He left no note, and authorities only said that he was despondent over personal matters. Funeral arrangements were pending.
In a career that spanned more than 35 years and included notable roles on stage, film and television, Jason continued to be known most widely for his portrayal in the World War II drama that ran from 1960 to 1967.
As recently as this month, he attended a "Combat!" reunion in Las Vegas to meet fans and be reunited with fellow cast members, according to the show's Web site.
"Combat!," which also starred the late Vic Morrow, focused on the front line of U.S. infantrymen and illustrated the ravages of the European invasion. The show attracted guest stars such as Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Sal Mineo, Ted Knight, Eddie Albert and James Coburn.
Members of the cast maintained close ties, and six of them went on a reunion cruise in 1996. It was the first time they had been together since Morrow died in a 1982 helicopter accident while he was filming "Twilight Zone: The Movie."
Before his success on TV, Jason starred with Joi Lansing and Dan Tobin in Orson Welles' "The Fountain of Youth," a 1956 television comedy about love and the search for eternal youth.
Tobin portrayed a scientist enamored of a blond bombshell actress played by Lansing, who eventually throws him over for a handsome, much younger man, played by Jason.
His other credits included the popular 1960 television series "The Case of Dangerous Robin," in which he was suave insurance investigator Robin Scott. The show ran for 38 episodes and made Jason one of the first actors to use martial arts on television.
Jason had a recurring role in 1973 on the daytime soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and also made guest appearances on "Murder, She Wrote" in 1984, "Matt Houston" in 1982 and "Wonder Woman" in 1976.
He also wrote "Scrapbooks of My Mind: A Hollywood Autobiography."
Jason was born May 21, 1926, in New York City. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II from 1943 to 1945 and then returned to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before pursuing his acting career.
The "Combat!" Web site says Jason enjoyed collecting wine, sculpting and painting, flying, playing guitar and breeding tropical fish.
After leaving Hollywood and moving to Moorpark with his wife, Cindy, Jason continued to do voice-overs for commercials.