top of page
  • Writer's pictureAlex Matthews

A Salute to Veterans Day (Part 2)

In honor of Veterans Day (US) on November 11th, The Actors Society gives a salute to the many alumni who have served in the armed forces throughout The Academy’s history. Ranging from the First World War to present conflicts, this list encompasses a few of our alumni who’ve served, and though this list does not contain everyone, their service is not forgotten.

Don Rickles (Class of 1948)

"To this day, when I say that I went to The American Academy [of Dramatic Arts], people are very impressed. The reputation of the school has always been fantastic," said Don Rickles (Class of 1948) in an interview dating from 2009. Hailing from Queens, New York, Rickles enlisted in the Navy out of high school, hoping to be an entertainer in the Special Services Division. Honorably discharged in 1946, Rickles attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Eventually working steadily on television—Rickles appeared on "The Twilight Zone," "Get Smart," "Gilligan's Island," "Newhart," "Murphy Brown," "Hot in Cleveland," and "CPO Sharkey"—Rickles’ success did not happen overnight. Finding a lack of work after graduating, he developed a stand-up comedy act that earned him the moniker "The Merchant of Venom." His persistence paid off and he ultimately landed strong supporting roles in hit films including "Run Silent Run Deep," which starred Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, and "Kelly's Heroes," starring Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland. Additionally, he secured roles in Martin Scorsese’s "Casino," and in the "Toy Story" franchise as Mr. Potato Head. Rickles credited The Academy with helping him develop the confidence needed to perform successfully on stage, and giving him a successful career that spanned decades.

Doc Farrow (Class of 2011)

Doc Farrow was born and raised in Maryland and is known for being an actor, comedian, director, producer, and U.S. Navy Corpsman. After serving for six years in the Navy, Farrow was discharged and stayed for a time in California. In 2009, he enrolled at The Academy, graduating in 2011 and joining the Third Year Company. His talents have led to much success post-graduation, with appearances on shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Will and Grace," "The Good Place," and "Young Sheldon," as well as working with the Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store, and the Icehouse Comedy Club. Feeling a need to highlight the lives of servicemen and women, in the spring of 2013, Doc’s Office Productions was created to bring the experiences and views of veterans to the big screen. The independent production company is dedicated to sharing the lives of veterans with everyone around the globe, and they have recently completed their first short film, "Saved Rounds," which follows an Iraqi War Veteran "Doc" on an emotional journey to find peace and freedom from survivor’s guilt.

Robert Cummings (Class of 1934)

Robert Cummings was born in Joplin, Missouri. Taught to fly by his godfather, Orville Wright, Cummings joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he served as an acclaimed flight instructor during the Second World War. Before his service, Cummings enrolled at The Academy in 1932. While attending, he learned one of the most important lessons an actor can take away: never anticipate. He went on to have a very successful career and became known for his roles in the comedies "The Devil and Miss Jones" and "Princess O’Rourke," but was no stranger to dipping his toes into drama, including two of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers, "Saboteur" and "Dial M for Murder." He received five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Single Performance in 1955. On February 8, 1960, he received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture and television industries.

Spencer Tracy (Class of 1923) and Pat O’Brien (Class of 1923)

Wisconsin natives and lifelong friends Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien attended Marquette Academy in Milwaukee, and chose to enlist in the Navy during the First World War. The pair attended boot camp together, but were never deployed; the war ended before they were sent off. They decided to try their hand at acting, and moved to New York to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Sharing a studio apartment, money was tight and they often lived on meals of rice and pretzels, sharing one decent suit between them. This didn’t take away from their training, and when they graduated in 1923, they started their careers strong. Tracy made his New York debut in a play called "The Wedding Guests," and O’Brien’s debut followed closely in "R.U.R." at the Garrick Theatre. O'Brien spent a decade in the New York theatre, and made his film debut in the Vitaphone Varieties short film, "The Nightingale," released in August of 1930. Tracy starred in "San Francisco," "Father of the Bride," "Bad Day at Black Rock," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Inherit the Wind," "Judgment at Nuremberg," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Tracy was nominated for a record nine Academy Awards for Best Actor, and was the first of nine actors to win the award twice. O’Brien had over 100 screen credits, with some of his most famous coming in "Some Like It Hot" and "Knute Rockne, All American," and a total of eight films with James Cagney. O'Brien received the American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1976 for his impact on the entertainment industry and beyond.

Sterling Holloway (Class of 1923)

After Sterling Holloway graduated from the Georgia Military Academy in 1920 at the age of fifteen, he left for New York, where he attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, Holloway toured with the stock company of "The Shepherd of the Hills," performing in one-nighters across much of the American West before returning to New York where he accepted small walk-on parts from the Theatre Guild, and appeared in the Rodgers and Hart revue "The Garrick Gaieties." With bushy red hair and eccentric voices, he nabbed roles in comedies left and right. His first on-screen appearance came in "The Battling Kangaroo," a silent picture. Over the following decades, Holloway would appear with Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, and John Carradine. In 1942, Holloway enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the Special Services Division. Developing the show "Hey Rookie," which ran for nine months and raised $350,000 for the Army Relief Fund, Holloway’s service can’t be understated. Throughout his career, it soon became clear what his trademark was: his voice, which he lent to classic animated films such as "Dumbo," "Bambi," "The Three Caballeros," "Make Mine Music," "Alice in Wonderland," "The Little House," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocrats," and "Winnie the Pooh." Holloway spoke volumes when he said: "I've always loved the theater very much. I've always been in it. I hate being away from it. I'm very stubborn — I like to do what I want to do. And what I want to do most is theater."

This article was made possible with additional writing from Duke Daniel Pierce and editing from August Sorenson.


bottom of page