James R Olson, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and ‘Gunsmoke’ Actor, Dead at 91

by Samantha Whidden
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James R Olson, who is best known for his roles in “The Andromeda,” “Rachel, Rachel,” and for appearances in classics like “Gunsmoke,” is reportedly dead at the age of 91. 

According to The Malibu Times, James R Olson died on April 17th at his home in Malibu. The late actor was born in Evanston, Illinois, and served in the U.S. Army as an M.P. from 1952 to 1954. . Following his service, Olson moved to New York City to study in Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s School. He then starred in various Broadway shows, including “J.B.,” “Romulus,” “The Three Sisters,” and “Of Love and Remembrance.” 

Following his experience on Broadway, James R Olson went on to make more than 90 appearances in both film and television. Along with “The Andromeda Strain,” other movies Olson was in are “The Sharkfighters;” “Moon Zero Two;” Commando;” and “Amityville II: The Possession.” He also co-starred opposite Joanne Woodward in the 1968 film “Rachel, Rachel.”

For his television roles, James R Olson appeared in “Hawaii Five-O;” “Gunsmoke;” “Columbo;” Ironside;” and “The F.B.I.” The late actor retired in 1990.

Olson is survived by his two nieces Susan Baker (Chuck Baker) and Robin Olson (Christopher Evans); a nephew, David James Olson (Caryn Olson); and three grandnephews, Peter Olson Evans, Andrew Olson Evans, and Calvin James Olson.

James R Olson Thought In Order to be a ‘Real’ Actor, He Had to be In Theater 

During an interview with the Pittsburgh Press, James R Olson opened up about his career and the advice he received when he first started out in the acting industry. “In my younger years, I thought that to be a real actor, you had to be in the theater,” Olson explained. “Anyone who went into moves had sold out.”

However, Olson didn’t seem to mind his success in film. “Well, since I’ve sold out, I’ve been paid to travel to many new countries. I’ve had six months in London; a taste of Continental life in France; and I’m negotiating to do a picture in Rome. A couple of months there would suit me fine.”

Along with “The Andromeda Strain” and “Rachel, Rachel,” James R Olson was known for his role in “The Sharkfighters.”

According to IMDb, “The Sharkfighters” takes place during World War 2. When U.S. scientists were working in Cuba attempting to find an effective shark repellent to be used by servicemen stranded in shark-infested waters. Olson played the role of Ens. Harold Duncan. Also starring alongside the late actor was Victor Mature, Karen Steele, Philip Coolidge, and Claude Akins. 

“The Sharkfighters” was released in November 1956. However, producer Sam Goldwyn Jr. admitted that the film didn’t hit the mark when it came to being successful. “We spent a year and a half doing the big scene. And I’m afraid I didn’t function so well on the story aspect,” he explained. He also admitted that the film “fell flat on its face.”

Outsider.com