Los Angeles, CA
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Los Angeles, CA
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John Smith (March 6, 1931 - January 25, 1995) was an American actor remembered in particular for his leading roles in two NBC western television series, Cimarron City and Laramie.
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Full Name at Birth
Robert Errol Van Orden
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John Smith (Born Robert Errol Van Orden) (March 3, 1931 Los Angeles, California - January 25, 1995 Los Angeles, California) was an American actor remembered in particular for his leading roles in two NBC western television series, Cimarron City and Laramie.
A descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor of New Netherland in the 17th century, Smith was born in Los Angeles, California, to Errol and Margaret Van Orden. Robert Errol Van Orden, as he was named at birth, graduated from Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles and enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles. He sang with a dance band and played football and basketball and engaged in gymnastics during his school years.
In the early 1940s, Smith joined the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir and appeared in several films, including Bing Crosby's Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, as an uncredited choir member.
Errol Van Orden
Margaret Van Orden
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Biography by Sandra Brennan
Actor John Smith may best be remembered for starring in the television westerns Cimarron City (1958-60) and Laramie (1959-63), but he also played supporting roles in numerous feature films. Smith was born Robert Earl Van Orden in Los Angeles. He began his career singing with the Bob Mitchell Choir Boys. The musical group appeared in two Bing Crosby efforts Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1946). While one might think a distinguished-sounding name such as Robert Van Orden has as star quality all its own, the actor himself didn't agree and partially as a jest decided to change his name to the more generic John Smith. Accompanied by agent Henry Willson (the man who provided Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson with their stage names), Van Orden went before a skeptical judge. When asked why he would adopt such a plain-jane name, Van Orden claimed that he would be the only actor in Hollywood with that name. Thus far, he has been right. As John Smith, his film credits include The Kettles on Old Mac Donald's Farm (1957), Circus World (1964) and Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1981).
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