William Gargan

William Gargan

from the trailer for the film Black Fury (1935).
Born (1905-07-17)July 17, 1905
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died February 17, 1979(1979-02-17) (aged 73)
Died in flight between New York City and San Diego
Cause of death heart attack
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery (San Diego), California
Years active 1925–1958
Spouse(s) Mary Kenny (1928–1979) (his death)
1949 promotional photo of Gargan for Martin Kane, Private Eye

William Gargan (July 17, 1905  February 17, 1979) was an American film, television and radio actor.

Early years

Gargan was born William Dennis Gargan on July 17, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the younger brother of actor Edward Gargan, whose birthday July 17 he shared. His father was a detective, and his mother was a teacher. He graduated from St. James School in Brooklyn.[1]

On leaving school, Gargan became a salesman of bootleg whiskey to New York speakeasies and then joined a detective agency.


While visiting his brother on a musical comedy stage, he was offered a stage job which he accepted. He began his stage career in Aloma of the South Seas[1]


Gargan's first movie was Rain[1] later he played in Misleading Lady and had character roles in many Hollywood productions, including two appearances as detective Ellery Queen.

He was cast in a number of stereotypical Irish parts in films playing policemen, priests, reporters, and blustering adventurers. In 1945 he played Joe Gallagher in The Bells of St. Mary's, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.

In 1935, Gargan went to England and made several movies there.[1]

In 1940, Gargan was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Joe, the foreman, in They Knew What They Wanted.[2]


Gargan was best known for his role as private detective Martin Kane in the 1949–51 radio-television series, Martin Kane, Private Eye, sponsored by U.S. Tobacco. He also appeared as a private detective in the NBC radio show Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, which ran from 1951 to 1955.


Gargan starred in 39 episodes of The New Adventures of Martin Kane, a syndicated series premiering September 14, 1957, and distributed in Europe by United Artists Television for Ziv Television Programs.

Later years

Gargan's acting career came to an end in 1958 when he developed throat cancer, and doctors were forced to remove his larynx in 1960.[3] Speaking through an artificial voice box, Gargan became an activist and spokesman for the American Cancer Society, often warning about the dangers of smoking.[4] In 1954, Mutual of Omaha presented its annual Criss Award to Gargan for "his inspirational self-rehabilitation efforts and his outstanding contributions to established rehabilitation programs."[5]

No longer able to act, he formed William Gargan Productions, making traditional films and television movies in Hollywood.[6]


Gargan had a wife, Mary, and two sons, Leslie and Barrie.[7]


He died aged 73 on February 17, 1979, on a flight between New York City and San Diego. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, California.[8]

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1943 Philip Morris Playhouse Roberta[9]


Gargan's autobiography, Why Me? was published by Doubleday in 1969.[10] A reviewer described the book as "a compelling story of the life, faith and courage of a man who as an actor was a notable success."[11]


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Radio-Television". Altoona Tribune. March 25, 1952. p. 13. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  2. "William Gargan". oscars.org. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  3. "Cancer Society to Hear Actor William Gargan". The Bakersfield Californian. September 11, 1962. p. 36. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  4. Reinehr, Robert C. & Swartz, Jon D. (2010). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Scarecrow Press. p. 107.
  5. "William Gargan, Actor, Will Get 8th Criss Award". The Lincoln Star. September 14, 1965. p. 3. Retrieved July 7, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  6. Swinford, T. William (March 12, 1964). "Suburbs Beat Hollywood--for Family Life". Arlington Heights Herald. p. 19. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  7. "Gargan's Family Ill". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. September 21, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  8. William Gargan at Find a Grave
  9. "Air Ya Listenin?". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. May 14, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved July 21, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  10. "Why me?; an autobiography.". WorldCat. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  11. McLeod, Edyth Thornton (June 10, 1969). "Beauty After Forty". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. p. 25. Retrieved July 7, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Gargan.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/5/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.