Donald Patrick Murray was born on July 31, 1929 in Hollywood, California. Don was the only child of Dennis Aloisius, a Broadway dance director and stage manager, and Ethel Murray, a former Ziegfeld performer. He attended East Rockaway High School in East Rockaway, New York where he played football and was on the track team. Upon graduation from high school, he went on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, he soon made his Broadway debut in the 1951 play “The Rose Tattoo”, as Jake Hunter. After taking a three-year break from acting, in order to assist orphans and war casualties during the Korean War, he returned to America in 1954 and resumed acting, by appearing alongside Mary Martin in the 1955 stage version of “The Skin of Our Teeth”. Upon seeing his performance in the play, director Joshua Logan decided to cast him in 20th Century Fox's film version of “Bus Stop”. His performance as the innocent cowboy who is determined to get Cherie was well received, and he was nominated for a BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer and for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1957, he starred as reserved, married bookkeeper Charlie Sampson in “The Bachelor Party”. The same year he starred in one of his most successful roles in the drama “A Hatful of Rain”. He portrayed Johnny Pope, a morphine addicted Korean War veteran. The film was one of the first to show the effects of drug abuse on the addicted and those around him. Don appeared in one Euro-western: “Kid Rodelo” (1965) with Janet Leigh and Broderick Crawford.
He starred as a blackmailed United States senator in “Advise & Consent” (1961), a film version of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Allen Drury. He also co-starred with Steve McQueen in the film “Baby the Rain Must Fall” (1965) and played the ape-hating Governor Breck in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972).
In addition to acting, Murray directed a film based on the book “The Cross and the Switchblade” (1970) starring Pat Boone and Erik Estrada.
Murray starred with Otis Young in the ground breaking ABC western television series “The Outcasts” (1968–69) featuring an interracial bounty hunter team in the post-Civil War West.
In 1979, he starred as Sid Fairgate on the long-running prime-time soap opera ‘Knots Landing’. He also scripted two episodes of the program in 1980. However, in 1981 Murray decided to leave the series after two seasons to concentrate on other projects, although some sources say he left over a salary dispute. Although he effectively distanced himself from the series after that, Murray later contributed an interview segment for ‘Knots Landing: Together Again’, a non-fiction reunion special made in 2005.
Don is scheduled to saddle up again in 2015’s western film “The Hard Ride” directed by Thadd Turner.
Today we celebrate Don Murray’s 85th birthday.