Hollywood Star Kurt Russell’s Father Is 'Bonanza' Actor Bing Russell(4 photos)

For many years, Kurt Russell has been a well-known figure in Hollywood. In addition to his acting career, he is well-known for his lengthy marriage to Goldie Hawn, with whom he has a blended family that also includes Wyatt Russell, Kate Hudson, and Oliver Hudson.

Kurt really began his acting career at a young age, making his Hollywood debut at the age of twelve in the 1963 movie "It Happened at the World's Fair" in an uncredited part. Kurt seems to have inherited the acting gene from his father, actor and MLB player Bing Russell.

Before signing a ten-year contract with The Walt Disney Company in 1966, he performed in children's plays during his teenage years. Famously, shortly before he passed away, Walt Disney penned the words "Kurt Russell" on a sheet of paper. Robert Osborne described Kurt as the "studio's top star of the '70s," thanks to his time spent working for Disney.

Kurt was working often in Hollywood during the 1970s, but like his father, he took time off to play professional baseball. But Kurt's professional career ended due to an injury, so he continued to concentrate on acting.

Kurt's career, alternating between baseball and acting, is rather unusual for a Hollywood actor these days, but when you consider his father's career, it's not all that odd. Actor and professional baseball player Bing appeared in the popular series "Bonanza" and was also a fan of Elvis Presley! Let's examine his professional history.

Bing, as he was known, was born Neil Oliver Russell on May 5, 1926, in Brattleboro, Vermont. He had always wanted to be an actor. Bing took theatrical classes in high school, but his big break in Hollywood wouldn't come until after he was in his 20s. That's because baseball occupied a large portion of his early years.

Bing's father operated a floatplane business in St. Petersburg, Florida, close to the New York Yankees' spring training camp, when he was a child in the 1930s and 1940s. Because of this, Bing ended up being the team's unofficial mascot and made friends with players like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Lefty Gomez. Sports writer Tom Hoffarth claims that the latter even offered Bing a baseball bat right before he announced his retirement from the game.

As Bing went on to become the owner of the Portland Mavericks franchise, baseball would remain a significant part of his life. Being the sole independent club in the Class A Northwest League made the Mavericks stand out as a team. During his ownership of the Mavericks, Bing broke several milestones, including the employment of Lanny Moss, the first Asian American manager, and the first female general manager.

The Mavericks were a favorite among former big league players and those who never quite made it but couldn't give up the sport since tryouts were also open to everyone. Because of this, the Mavericks became a very memorable team. In 2014, they were the focus of the Netflix documentary "The Battered Bastards of Baseball," which included old video of Bing.

Bing's second great passion in life, aside from baseball, was acting. At the age of 25, Bing made his screen debut in many uncredited appearances in the 1950s until landing one of his most well-known roles in the 1960 movie "The Magnificent Seven."

An other significant part he played was that of Deputy Clem Foster in the television series "Bonanza." By this time, Bing had fully established himself in Hollywood, having appeared in 59 episodes. The actor even claimed to be a fan of Elvis Presley!

In a 2015 interview, Kurt Russell related a story about how starstruck Elvis was when he first met Bing. Kurt's parents paid him a visit when he was working on an MGM project. Being a huge admirer, Elvis happened to be there as well and approached Kurt, asking to talk with his dad. Kurt then related what Elvis had said to Bing:

I don't intend to seem obnoxious or disrespectful, Mr. Russell, but I've seen you in a number of Westerns, and I really like the way you wear your hat. Would it be acceptable if I wore my hat that way if I ever did a Western? That's all I wanted to ask.

Bing was always very kind to Elvis, it seems, saying "thank you" and that he would be honored if he wore his hat in the same manner as him. He would perform until he was sixty years old, playing "Dick Tracy" in 1990 for the final time. Bing would die in 2003, a little more than ten years later, from complications related to cancer. Still, he leaves a lasting legacy as an actor and baseball player, with four children—including Kurt—and several grandkids.

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