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Dick Peabody is best remembered for his role of 'Army Private Littlejohn' in the World War II television series, "Combat!" (1962 to 1967).
Richard Peabody was born April 6, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri. His father was a writer for the motion picture trade paper "Boxoffice." Both parents were teachers.
In 1942, at age 17, he joined the Navy. Four years later, he was honorably discharged as an Electronic Technician's Mate First Class. Afterward, Peabody began studying electrical engineering at Kansas City Junior College. After a year, he switched to the University of Kansas City and a liberal arts course because "I wanted fame and I couldn’t find anyone who could name a famous electrical engineer."
A succession of jobs producing screen advertising and TV commercials followed. A film he wrote and directed for the Greater Kansas City Ford Dealers caught the attention of director Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, Nashville, The Player) who recommended that he be hired by The Calvin Company to make educational and industrial films.
On the advice of Academy Award–winning director Nick Grinde, Peabody decided to broaden his background to include performing and went to work as a TV news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Kansas City. Later, he moved to Denver to host a radio jazz show. He augmented his income with freelance writing jobs, including writing advertising copy, documentary films, radio and TV commercials, and a weekly column for a Denver night life magazine. He also found time to produce a pilot film for television in association with orchestra leader Dick Jurgens.
Peabody formed his own radio commercial production company. In 1960, the Denver Advertising Club, awarded first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place to radio commercials written and produced by Peabody.
Two years later, he took a self-inventory and realized that he was hungry for public recognition, bored with what he was doing, and tired of moving from place to place. He concluded that acting in Hollywood would be the answer. Because he is unusually tall and considers himself homely, Dick felt his appearance would give him an advantage over other aspiring thespians. He viewed himself as an ideal Western villain type.
On his first day in Los Angeles he got a job doing the all night show at Radio Station KMPC. The next day, Robert Altman offered him a small part in the first episode of a new TV series called Combat! Peabody was soon signed by ABC-TV to a five-year contract as a co-star playing Littlejohn.
Altogether, he has co-starred in 120 prime-time TV shows, six feature motion pictures, and has done dozens of TV voice-overs and radio spots, including an award–winning Stan Freberg TV commercial for Jeno’s Frozen Pizza.
In 1971, he joined KFI Radio (NBC) in Los Angeles as a talk show host in a program originating from Universal Studios. He conducted over 500 celebrity interviews with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
Back surgery sidelined Peabody's acting career in 1985 and forced him to devote more time to writing — which is what he has always enjoyed most.Peabody and his wife, Tina, a former New York and Los Angeles model, live in the Sierra foothills with their dog, Adam, and their cats, Petunia and Bart, in a house overlooking an apple orchard and Christmas tree farm.
In the Mountain Democrat newspaper, Peabody reminisced about Combat!: "We were widely known in the industry as a 'happy' show. The guest stars liked to work with us because playing soldier is a lot of fun and they were under no pressure to take sides in intramural disputes. There were no disputes.
"Although none of us in the cast of Combat! were acquainted before the shooting started, we developed a genuine regard for each other in a short time." That affection has lasted more than thirty years.