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Subject: ARCHIVE: October 10, 1919 ~A century ago Janos Prohaska, Hungarian-born Hollywood actor was born. Anytime you saw a gorilla, bears, alien, or sea creature suit in a Hollywood TV series or film of the 1960s/70s, it was likely the athletic and prolific Prohaska, who was born 100 years ago today!
Tragically, Prohaska, 54, was killed with his son in plane crash w/34 others in on film crew, on a return chartered flight from a movie shoot, in March 1974.
(October 10, 1919, Budapest, Hungary
March 13, 1974, Inyo County, California, United States)
He is best remembered for his recurring comic role as The Cookie Bear in The Andy Williams Show from 1969 to 1971. Prohaska also appeared in multiple roles on such TV series as The Outer Limits, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Lost in Space, and a few episodes of Gilligan's Island, where he plays a gorilla. His only credited role on that series appears in the episode "Our Vines Have Tender Apes." In 1967 he appeared as a white gorilla in the "Fatal Cargo" episode of the ABC-TV sci-fi series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
...On NBC-TV's Star Trek his turns as the Horta in Star Trek's March 1967 episode, "The Devil in the Dark",
and as 'Mugato' (credited, curiously enough, as the Gumato) in "A Private Little War" episode, are the best known of these.
Often nicknamed "The Great Janos", he specialized in performing different out-of-this-world creatures and exotic animals, especially apes. He was employed in numerous television series and feature films during the 1960s and early 1970s. Among others, he worked for the aforementioned The Outer Limits; in particular, as already mentioned, the monster from "The Probe", the last Outer Limits episode, whose movements were similar to that of the Horta. He also appeared in series such as The Munsters, Lost in Space, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan's Island, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy (both of which starred Desilu co-founder Lucille Ball) and Land of the Giants; and movies such as Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971, with Ricardo Montalban, William Windom, Jason Evers and James B. Sikking). His most famous talking role was the "Cookie Bear", which he played on The Andy Williams Show between 1969 and 1971.
He was married to Irene M . Knoke [29 June 1969 - 13 March 1974 -his death]. He and his son Robert, 27, were killed along with 34 others on March 13, 1974 at 8:28 p.m. in the crash of a chartered Sierra Airlines Convair CV-440 aircraft near Bishop, California while filming the ABC/Wolper Productions television series Primal Man. The plane flew into a mountain ridge in darkness, but the exact cause of the crash was never determined, and its one of the only THREE aviation mishaps to be unsolved by the NTSB in its forty year history.
Originally, the plane used for the charter, a prop-driven Convair 440, tail number N4819C, was to be used on a regularly scheduled passenger flight to Mammoth, which was scheduled to depart Burbank at 3:45 p.m., with the return flight from Mammoth being the charter - Flight 802. However, because of a problem with one of the generators on N4819C, the flight was cancelled, and its passengers were dispatched on another Sierra Pacific flight.
By 5:30 p.m., the problem with the generator (a blown fuse) on aircraft N4819C was remedied, but because of the late hour, a night takeoff would have been necessary from Mammoth Lakes Airport, and since the airport was restricted to daylight operations only, Flight 802 was rescheduled to pick up the Wolper Production crew at the Bishop Airport.
Because the airport in Bishop is located about 45 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, the airline arranged bus transportation for the production crew from Mammoth Lakes to Bishop. The plane finally left Burbank at 6:14 p.m., and arrived at the Bishop Airport just over an hour later at 7:20 p.m. The production team was pressed for time - All were scheduled to report for more filming in Malibu on Friday, March 15th.
Powered by two 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2800-CB16 "Double Wasp" 18 cylinder air cooled radial engines,
the plane then took off at 8:24 p.m. and slammed into the ridge at the 7,000-foot level less than five minutes later.
Eyewitnesses said the Sierra Pacific plane blew up like a fireball, its ton and a half of aviation gasoline igniting, after slamming into the ridge about five minutes after takeoff from Bishop Airport Wednesday night. According to Sheriff Floyd Barton, who saw the fireball from eight miles away on the valley floor, the plane exploded and "looked like a giant napalm bomb going off."
Days later, on March 19th, 1974, Nancy J. Jacob, wife of David Jacob, the key grip on the production, and one of the 35 persons killed in the crash, filed suit against Sierra Pacific Airlines, the Mammoth Mountain Corporation and 50 unidentified persons. Her Superior Court suit sought $5,000,000 in general damages, and accused the pilot and Sierra Pacific Airlines of "negligently, wantonly, recklessly and unlawfully flying a plane." The on-scene investigation by the NTSB into the crash's cause was completed on March 22, 1974.
Prohaska's ashes were interred at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica. During the late 1980s revamp
of the DC Comics character Blackhawk by Howard Chaykin, the leader of the eponymous group
of World War II fighters was revealed to be named Janos Prohaska, in tribute to the actor.