Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

'Mannix' Star Mike Connors Dies at 91

by Associated Press /
Mike Connors as Joe Mannix in the MANNIX episode, "Deadly Affair," on Oct. 19, 1973.CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

LOS ANGELES — Mike Connors, who starred as a hard-hitting private eye on the long-running television series "Mannix," has died. He was 91.

The actor died surrounded by family Thursday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital from complications of leukemia that had been diagnosed a week earlier, said his son-in-law, Mike Condon.

"Mannix" ran for eight years on CBS beginning in 1967. Viewers were intrigued by the tall, smartly dressed, well-spoken detective who could mix it up with the burliest of thugs and leap on the hood of a racing car to prevent an escape. Episodes normally climaxed with a brawl that left the culprits bruised and beaten.

 Mike Connors during Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 60th Anniversary - Inside and Reception at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif. Mathew Imaging / FilmMagic for Academy of Television Arts and Sciences/Getty Images

"Up until Mannix, most private investigators were hard-nosed, cynical guys who lived in a seedy area and had no emotions," Connors theorized in 1997. "Mannix got emotionally involved. He was not above being taken advantage of."

In the first season, Joe Mannix was a self-employed Los Angeles private investigator hired by a firm that used computers and high-tech equipment to uncover crime. The ratings were lukewarm. Connors feared the series would be canceled but it was produced by Lucille Ball's Desilu studio, and CBS was reluctant to antagonize its biggest star.

In the second season, Mannix opened his own office and combated low-lifes by himself. The ratings zoomed.

When "Mannix" was revised the office acquired a secretary, played by African-American actress Gail Fisher.

The network was concerned that affiliates in the South might object to her character but "there wasn't any kind of backlash," Connors recalled.

Another highlight was the theme music by legendary screen composer Lalo Schifrin.

Connors also starred in the TV series "Tightrope!" and "Today's FBI." Each lasted one season.

His movie and TV career stretched from the 1950s to 2007, when he had a guest role on "Two and a Half Men."

Connors made his film debut in 1952's "Sudden Fear," which starred Joan Crawford. Other films included "Island in the Sky," ''The Ten Commandments," and a remake of "Stagecoach."

Connors, born Krekor Ohanian in 1925, was from an Armenian community in Fresno. He served in the Air Force during World War II and played basketball at the University of California, Los Angeles.

After graduation he studied law for two years but his good looks and imposing presence attracted him to acting. In an era when film actors were given names like Tab and Rock, he appeared as Touch Connors — "Touch" being his basketball nickname. He later changed it to Michael and finally, Mike.

Connors and his wife, Mary Lou, were married in 1949 and had two children: a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Dana. Their son, beset by hallucinations starting in his teens, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and before his death lived in a small residential care facility. Connors and his wife championed efforts to erase the stigma of mental illness.

In addition to his wife, daughter and son-in-law, Connors is survived by a granddaughter, Cooper Wills.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news

Have feedback?

How likely are you to recommend nbcnews.com to a friend or colleague?

0 = Very unlikely
10 = Very likely
Please select answer

Is your feedback about:

Please select answer

Leave your email if you’d like us to respond. (Optional)

Please enter a valid email address

Thank you!

Your feedback has been sent out. Please enjoy more of our content.

We appreciate your help making nbcnews.com a better place.