Biography

Born in New York City while his father Noah Beery Sr. was appearing on-stage, Noah Beery Jr. was given his lifelong nickname, "Pidge," by Josie Cohan, sister of George M. Cohan "I was born in the business," Pidge Beery observed some 63 years later. "I couldn't have gotten out of it if I wanted to." In 1920, the younger Beery made his first screen appearance in Douglas Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro (1920), which co-starred dad Noah as Sergeant Garcia. Thanks to a zoning mistake, Pidge attended the Hollywood School for Girls (his fellow "girls" included Doug Fairbanks Jr. and Jesse Lasky Jr.), then relocated with his family to a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, miles from Tinseltown. While some kids might have chafed at such isolation, Pidge loved the wide open spaces, and upon attaining manhood emulated his father by living as far away from Hollywood as possible. After attending military school, Pidge pursued film acting in earnest, appearing mostly in serials and Westerns, sometimes as the hero, but usually as the hero's bucolic sidekick. His more notable screen credits of the 1930s and '40s include Of Mice and Men (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (again 1939, this time as the obligatory doomed-from-the-start airplane pilot), Sergeant York (1941), We've Never Been Licked (1943), and Red River (1948). He also starred in a group of rustic 45-minute comedies produced by Hal Roach in the early '40s, and was featured in several popular B-Western series; one of these starred Buck Jones, whose daughter Maxine became Pidge's first wife. Perhaps out of a sense of self-preservation, Beery appeared with his camera-hogging uncle Wallace Beery only once, in 1940's 20 Mule Team. Children of the 1950s will remember Pidge as Joey the Clown on the weekly TV series Circus Boy (1956), while the more TV-addicted may recall Beery's obscure syndicated travelogue series, co-starring himself and his sons. The 1960s found Pidge featured in such A-list films as Inherit the Wind (1960) and as a regular on the series Riverboat and Hondo. He kicked off the 1970s in the role of Michael J. Pollard's dad (there was a resemblance) in Little Fauss and Big Halsey. Though Beery was first choice for the part of James Garner's father on the TV detective series The Rockford Files, Pidge was committed to the 1973 James Franciscus starrer Doc Elliot, so the Rockford producers went with actor Robert Donley in the pilot episode. By the time The Rockford Files was picked up on a weekly basis, Doc Elliot had tanked, thus Donley was dropped in favor of Beery, who stayed with the role until the series' cancellation in 1978. Pidge's weekly-TV manifest in the 1980s included Quest (1981) and The Yellow Rose (1983). After a brief illness, Noah Beery Jr. died at his Tehachapi, CA, ranch at the age of 81. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi