Planet of the Apes TV Series cast

Actor Ron Harper — Alan Virdon on the ‘Planet of the Apes’ TV Series — Has Died at 88

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Actor Ron Harper, perhaps best known as astronaut Alan Virdon on the 1974 Planet of the Apes television series, has reportedly died at the age of 88 following years of battling Alzheimer’s disease induced dementia. It should be noted that this news has not been covered by mainstream outlets at this point.

However, on March 21, his daughter Nicole posted the following image and message:

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Message posted from Nicole Harper

It was while attending Princeton that Harper (born January 12, 1936) learned the skills that would prove invaluable in later life. A chance meeting with renowned scientist Albert Einstein resulted in the advice, “For a happy life, you should do what most you enjoy.” At that moment, plans to become an attorney were quickly forgotten and he embarked on an acting career.

Studying with Lee Strasberg, his budding career was interrupted soon after it began when he found himself drafted into the Navy. Only after being discharged was he able to return to his acting studies. He was signed by Universal to a three-year contract that guaranteed him three pilots, the first of which was 87th Precinct (the series of which ran from 1961 and 1962).

His other regular roles beyond Planet of the Apes were alongside George Burns and Connie Stevens in the comedy Wendy and Me (1964 to 1965), another sitcom in the form of The Jean Arthur Show (1966), the World War II drama Garrison’s Gorillas (1967 to 1968), the third season of Land of the Lost (1976), and the soap operas Loving, Capitol and Generations (between 1988 and 1991). From there he continued to appear in a variety of TV shows and movies.

Harper like everybody else was excited getting signed for the show and was disappointed by the fact it had such a short run. “Just before the series aired,” he’s quoted as saying in the forthcoming Volume II of The Unofficial Oral History of Planet of the Apes, “I did an interview and they said, ‘Well, you’ve finally got one that’s gonna go. It can’t miss.’ The motion pictures made something like $160 million, and everybody expected the series to be a shoo-in. I thought we were going to be on for at least a couple of years. It didn’t work out that way. It was very disappointing, because it really should have and could have been much more than it was.”

Learn more about Ron Harper’s Planet of the Apes TV show character of Alan Virdon.

2 thoughts on “Actor Ron Harper — Alan Virdon on the ‘Planet of the Apes’ TV Series — Has Died at 88

  1. I’d like to know your source for reporting Ron Harper’s death, I cannot find any news besides this website to confirm it.

    1. Hi. It was posted initially by the Facebook group Planet of the Apes TV Series Fans, stating that a message had been received from Ron Harper’s daughter, Nicole. The original image they posted has been inserted into the article.

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