Unlike a lot of the movie heroes you've heard about, Ed Kemmer is the real deal. He distinguished himself in 47 missions as a World War II fighter pilot before being shot down and captured. He later escaped from the German prisoner of war camp that served as the inspiration for The Great Escape. In civilian life, he delivered his own daughter in the back seat of a police cruiser that didn't quite make it to the hospital in time. Who better to serve as one of TV's first heroic role models?
At the start of the 1950s, television was poised to sweep the national imagination. A contagious creative spirit gripped the handful of writers, producers and actors drawn to the new medium. Emerging from TV's "anything goes" atmosphere were pioneering sci fi programs such as Captain Video, Rocky Jones and Space Cadet. Leading this spirited pack was Commander Buzz Corry of Space Patrol. Edward Kemmer, a struggling actor possessed of homegrown good looks and earnest demeanor, portrayed Buzz Corry, and is remembered fondly by fans of the show nearly 50 years later. "When I started the show I didn't even own a TV set," Kemmer laughs. "Someone did a survey that showed we had more adults watching than kids. Of course in those days of early TV most people would watch anything."
It was future castmate Lyn Osborn who contacted Kemmer while he was working at the Pasadena Playhouse about auditioning for the part of Buzz Corry. Kemmer easily won over the show's producers. You might think that landing the part of the nation's leading space hero would bring him financial security, but as Commander Buzz Corry, star of a national television program, Kemmer pulled down a whopping $8.00 per show. Osborn, as Kemmer's comic sidekick, Happy, received the same. The remaining cast got $5.00. A raise was imminent after the show was picked up by ABC, but Kemmer and his castmates earned every penny of their salaries, memorizing wordy scripts and performing them live with a minimum of rehearsal.
Ed leaves little doubt that live TV was no walk in the park. "You'd work with people who did a lot of stage and a lot of movies," he remembers. "They'd come and do Space Patrol, and they would walk off swearing and sweating saying, 'Never! Never again will I do a live show!' 'Well,' I'd always say, 'the first 500 shows are the toughest.'"
When Buzz Corry touched down for the last time, Kemmer moved into motion picture acting. A quick study, he hustled through an entertaining array of programmers and horror movies including Giant From the Unknown and Earth vs. the Spider, as well as all of the major TV soap operas."I did 20 solid years of soaps, which were very good. But 20 years is enough."
The Crater Kid © 2000 Marty Baumann, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED