Michael George Ansara was born in a small village in Syria, and his family emigrated to the United States when he was two years old. They resided in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a decade before moving to California. He originally wanted to be a physician, but developed a passion for becoming a performer after he began taking acting classes to overcome his shyness. He was educated at the Los Angeles City College, from which Ansara earned an Associate of Arts degree.
During the 1950s, Ansara appeared in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He appeared in a 1951 episode of The Lone Ranger entitled “Trouble at Black Rock”. However, it was the popular television series Broken Arrow (1956), wherein he played the lead role of Cochise, that raised Ansara’s profile and made him a household name. While making the series, the 20th Century-Fox publicity department arranged a date between Ansara and actress Barbara Eden. The two later married and Ansara guest starred on Eden’s I Dream of Jeannie series as the Blue Djinn, who had imprisoned Jeannie in a bottle. He also played King Kamehameha in the Jeannie episode “The Battle of Waikīkī” and in the final season he played Major Biff Jellico in the episode “My Sister, the Home Wrecker.” Michael Ansara and Barbara Eden divorced in 1974. The couple had one son together, actor Matthew Ansara, who died on June 25, 2001, of a heroin overdose.
Ansara starred in his own ABC-TV series, Law of the Plainsman (1959–1960), with Gina Gillespie and Robert Harland. He performed as an Apache Indian named Sam Buckhart who had been appointed as a U.S. Marshal. The series began as an episode of The Rifleman. In 1961, he appeared as Carl in the episode “Night Visitors” of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Ansara also played in the Biblical epics The Robe (1953) as Judas Iscariot, The Ten Commandments (1956) as a taskmaster (uncredited), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) as Herod’s commander. He also appeared as Belshazzar in Columbia’s 1953 movie Slaves of Babylon.
In 1961, Ansara played the role of Miguel Alvarez in the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, co-starring with Barbara Eden and Walter Pidgeon, who played the role of Admiral Harriman Nelson. Ansara later appeared in an episode of the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, playing the rebel sub commander Captain Ruiz in “Killers Of The Deep” (1966). He also appeared in another episode as a Soviet scientist to disarm a defective Soviet atomic satellite that has crashed off the coast of California. The episode title was “Hot Line”, broadcast on November 9, 1964.
In 1962, he starred in a Broadway show with famous silent film actor Ramon Novarro. In 1964 he made his only guest appearance on Perry Mason as Vince Kabat in “The Case of the Antic Angel.” He starred in a supporting role in the 1965 Elvis Presley film, Harum Scarum. (His wife, Barbara Eden, had starred in an earlier Elvis film, 1960’s Flaming Star)
Ansara played The Ruler on episode 22, “The Challenge”, of the television series Lost in Space (March 2, 1966) with a young Kurt Russell as his son Quano and, later that same year, appeared in the feature film Texas Across the River with Dean Martin. He also appeared on Daniel Boone as Red Sky in a 1966 episode. In another 1966 episode of that series, Ansara portrayed Sebastian Drake. In 1967, Ansara guest-starred in the episode “A War for the Gravediggers” of the NBC western series The Road West starring Barry Sullivan, Andrew Prine, and Glenn Corbett, and in the episode “The Savage Street” of the ABC action drama series The Fugitive with Gilbert Roland and Tom Nardini.
In 1969, Ansara guest-starred in the episode “On a Clear Night You Can See Earth” as Murtrah in the ABC-TV series Land of the Giants. Also in 1969, he starred as the sadistic militant Diego in the film “Guns of the Magnificent Seven.” In 1973, he guest-starred in “The Western”, the penultimate episode of the original CBS television series Mission: Impossible. In 1976, he starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (also titled The Message), about the origin of Islam and the message of prophet Mohammad.
Ansara played Killer Kane in the 1979-1980 season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, having previously played two different characters in two episodes of the 1966 science fiction television series The Time Tunnel. In episode #11, he played Colonel Hruda and in episode #28 he played The Curator. He also played the title role in the acclaimed The Outer Limits original series episode “Soldier”, written by Harlan Ellison. He narrated Paul Goble’s “The Gift of the Sacred Dog” at Crow Agency, Montana, on June 17, 1983, and Sheila MacGill Callahan’s “And Still the Turtle Watched” on October 21, 1993, on the PBS series Reading Rainbow. Also in 1979, he starred in the acclaimed miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James A. Michener. In it, he played the great Indian leader Lame Beaver, whose descendants are showcased throughout the centuries alongside the growth of the West and the town that the novel and miniseries are named after.
In 1988, Ansara appeared in an episode of the television series Murder, She Wrote titled “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel”. In 1994, Ansara portrayed the Technomage Elric in the science fiction television series Babylon 5 in the episode “The Geometry of Shadows”. In recent years, he performed voice-acting as Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series as well as the animated film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, an episode of both The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond and the video game Batman: Vengeance.
He is one of seven actors to play the same character (in his case the Klingon commander Kang) on three different Star Trek television series — the original series (“Day of the Dove”), Deep Space Nine (“Blood Oath”) and Voyager (“Flashback”). The other actors who hold this distinction are Jonathan Frakes (Riker; TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise), Marina Sirtis (Troi; TNG, Voyager and Enterprise), Armin Shimerman (Quark; TNG, DS9 and Voyager), Mark Allen Shepherd (Morn; TNG, DS9 and Voyager, although in the first and last, he only appeared in brief cameos) John de Lancie (Q; TNG, DS9 and Voyager), and Richard Poe (Gul Evek; TNG, DS9 and Voyager). Ansara also played Lwaxana Troi’s husband Jeyal on the Deep Space Nine episode, “The Muse”.
Ansara was married three times, first to Jean Byron in 1955; after a year of marriage the couple divorced in 1956. In 1958, Ansara married Barbara Eden, who is best known for the I Dream of Jeannie sitcom series. The couple had a son named Matthew born in 1965. Ansara and Eden divorced in 1974, and he married Beverly Kushida in 1977. On June 25, 2001, his son Matthew died from a drug overdose in Monrovia, California. Ansara resided in Calabasas, California. Ansara died following a long illness at his home in Calabasas on July 31, 2013 at the age of 91. His interment is at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, next to his son Matthew.
- April, 15, 1922
- July, 31, 2013
- Calabasas, California
Cause of Death
- died following a long illness
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
- Los Angeles, California