Born Edward Heddy on July 4, 1925, in Santa Paula, California, actor Eric Fleming endured a rough childhood. Running away numerous times to escape an abusive home life, he finally succeeded in the mid 1930s, making his way east where he found a series of odd jobs in order to support his hard-scrabble existence. After the divorce of his parents, Fleming returned to California and took odd jobs on the Paramount Studios lot. The 6'3" Fleming worked at a number of menial jobs until the outbreak of World War II, when he joined the Merchant Marine. During his tenure, he was seriously injured when the iron block he was lifting slipped and crushed his face. Multiple rounds of plastic surgery gave him a handsome visage but left him with limited facial gesturing ability. Nonetheless, at the age of 19 he was cast in a military training film and was bitten by the acting bug. After his departure from the service following the war, he made his way to Chicago and eventually New York, where he found work as an actor on the legitimate stage.

Eric Fleming

Mid 1960s portrait of Eric Fleming

By 1950, he made his way to Broadway and acted in the productions of The Tower Beyond Tragedy, Stalag 17, and Portrait of a Lady. In order to pay the bills between shows, he also worked in early live television, briefly starring on the DuMont children's show Major Dell Conway of the Flying Tigers and making several appearances on Hallmark Hall of Fame. Never making much money, in the mid 1950s Fleming left Broadway behind for the lure of film work in Hollywood. His first film appearance was in the Paramount science fiction flick Conquest of Space (1955; with Walter Brooke and William Hopper).

the films of eric fleming

Conquest of Space (1955)

Eric Fleming

From Fleming's first film, the Paramount science fiction release Conquest of Space

Fright (1956)

Nancy Malone and Eric FlemingNancy Malone and Eric Fleming

From the low-budget independent horror flick Fright. LEFT and RIGHT: Fleming as Dr. James Hamilton falls in love with patient Nancy Malone

Queen of Outer Space (1958)

Eric Fleming and Zsa Zsa GaborLaurie Mitchell and Eric FlemingPaul Birch, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Eric Fleming

From the campy Allied Artists science fiction film Queen of Outer Space, which has earned its place as a cult classic. LEFT: Astronaut Eric Fleming hooks up with Zsa Zsa Gabor, a scientist on the all-woman planet Venus. CENTER: Fleming unmasks Laurie Mitchell as the hideously scarred queen of Venus. RIGHT: With Paul Birch and Zsa Zsa Gabor

Curse of the Undead (1959)

Eric Fleming

Fleming looks for a vampire who is also a gunslinger in the Universal-International horror/western Curse of the Undead

Rawhide (1959-1965 CBS TV Series)

Eric Fleming and Mari BlanchardEric Fleming and Jock MahoneySheb Wooley, Eric Fleming, and Clint EastwoodEric Fleming

From the CBS western series Rawhide. LEFT: With Mari Blanchard in a 1961 episode. CENTER A: With Jock Mahoney in a 1960 episode. CENTER B: With costars Sheb Wooley and Clint Eastwood. RIGHT: Fleming as Gil Favor

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Eric Fleming and Doris DayDoris Day, Eric Fleming, and Dom DeLuise

From the entertaining Doris Day romp The Glass Bottom Boat, released by MGM. LEFT: Fleming as Edgar Hill. RIGHT: With Doris Day and Dom DeLuise

later years

Although he is best remembered as a western actor due to his long-running series Rawhide, the bulk of Fleming's films were horror and science fiction B's; the most notorious of these is Queen of Outer Space (1958; with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Laurie Mitchell). Not long after the release of that film, Fleming was offered a starring role on the CBS TV series Rawhide, on which he portrayed Gil Favor from 1959 to 1965. Fleming's contract with CBS precluded his taking roles in films, which so irked him and Rawhide co-star Clint Eastwood that both left the series after the seventh season. Upon his departure, he took a supporting role in MGM's comedy The Glass Bottom Boat (1966; with Doris Day and Rod Taylor). His performance as CIA agent Edgar Hill was instrumental in MGM's casting him in a two-part TV film, costarring Anne Heywood, to be shot on location in Peru. Sadly, Fleming drowned while shooting scenes for the film on September 28, 1966, just two days before he was to be married. The lifelong bachelor was survived by his mother.

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The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) with Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, Paul Lynde, Edward Andrews, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, and Alice Pearce
Curse of the Undead (1959) with John Hoyt, Kathleen Crowley, and Michael Pate
Queen of Outer Space (1958) with Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dave Willock, Laurie Mitchell, Lisa Davis, Paul Birch, Marilyn Buferd, Tania Velia, and Joi Lansing
Fright (1956) with Nancy Malone
Conquest of Space (1955) with Walter Brooke, Mickey Shaughnessy, William Hopper, Benson Fong, Ross Martin, and Vito Scotti

Rawhide, 1959-1965 CBS TV Series. Fleming portrayed Gil Favor from 1959 to 1965. Also in the regular cast was Clint Eastwood
Major Dell Conway of the Flying Tigers, 1951-1952 DuMont TV Series. Fleming portrayed Major Dell Conway from April to May 1951

Bonanza, episode The Pursued: Parts 1 and 2, originally aired October 2, 1966
Bonanza, episode Peace Officer, originally aired February 6, 1966
Studio One, episode The Strong Man, originally aired June 9, 1958
Flight, episode Master Sergeant, originally aired 1958
Suspicion, episode Heartbeat, originally aired November 11, 1957
The Phil Silvers Show, episode The Face on the Recruiting Poster, originally aired October 16, 1956
The Phil Silvers Show, episode Hollywood, originally aired January 3, 1956
Hallmark Hall of Fame, episode To My Valentine, originally aired February 1, 1953
Hallmark Hall of Fame, episode The General's Bible, originally aired January 18, 1953
Hallmark Hall of Fame, episode Joan of Arc, originally aired December 7, 1952
Cameo Theatre, episode Dark of the Moon, originally aired January 6, 1952

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Watch Eric Fleming's 1955 science fiction film Conquest of Space
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