George Harvey Presnell (September 14, 1933 – June 30, 2009) was an American actor and singer. He began his career in the mid-1950s as a classical baritone, singing with orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States. His career reoriented away from classical music to musical theatre in 1960 after Meredith Willson cast him in the lead role of his new Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. His portrayal of “Leadville Johnny” was a resounding success and he reprised the role in the 1964 film version of the musical (co-starring Debbie Reynolds), winning a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal.
Presnell went on to star in a few more films during the 1960s, including the Glory Guys (1965), with Tom Tryon, Senta Berger, James Caan, and Michael Anderson, Jr.; When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965), with Connie Francis; and Paint Your Wagon (1969), with Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, and Ray Walston; but by the early 1970s that aspect of his career came to a standstill. From 1970 to 1995 he mostly worked as a musical theatre performer on Broadway, the West End, and in touring productions out of New York.
In his early 60s, Presnell saw a resurgence in his movie career which lasted until his death. He played character roles in films like The Whole Wide World (1996), with Vincent D’Onofrio and Renée Zellweger; Joel & Ethan Coen‘s Fargo (1996), with Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Peter Stormare; Larger Than Life (1996), with Bill Murray; John Woo‘s Face/Off (1997), with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage; Steven Spielberg‘s Saving Private Ryan (1998), with Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, Jeremy Davies, and Matt Damon; and Patch Adams (1998), with Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Films in the 2000s included Robert Redford’s The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), with Will Smith, Damon, and Charlize Theron; Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001), with Jeff Daniels (who also directed), Mr. Deeds (2002), with Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, and John Turturro; Old School (2003), with Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell; Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Evan Almighty (2007), with Steve Carrell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, and John Goodman; and Taylor Hackford’s Love Ranch (2010), with Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon and Bryan Cranston.
Presnell also appeared on television as Mr. Parker in The Pretender and Lew Staziak in Andy Barker, P.I.. He had recurring roles as Dr. Sam Lane on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Arthur Brooks on Dawson’s Creek. Other notable guest spots include Frasier, Nash Bridges, Star Trek: Voyager, The Outer Limits, Monk, and ER.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) – directed by Charles Walters
- The Glory Guys (1965) – directed by Arnold Laven
- When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965) – directed by Alvin Ganzer
- Paint Your Wagon (1969) – directed by Joshua Logan
- The Great Man’s Whisker’s (1972) – directed by Philip Leacock – TV movie
- Blood Bath (1975) – directed by Joel M. Reed
- The Whole Wide World (1996) – directed by Dan Ireland
- Fargo (1996)** – directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
- Larger Than Life (1996)* – directed by Howard Franklin
- The Chamber (1996) – directed by James Foley
- Tidal Wave: No Escape (1997) – directed by George Miller – TV movie
- Face/Off (1997) – directed by John Woo
- Julian Po (1997) – directed by Alan Wade
- The Guardian (1997) – directed by Rob Cohen – TV movie/pilot
- A Bright Shining Lie (1998) – directed by Terry George – TV movie
- Everything That Rises (1998) – directed by Dennis Quaid – TV movie
- Saving Private Ryan (1998) – directed by Steven Spielberg
- Patch Adams (1998) – directed by Tom Shadyac
- Walking Across Egypt (1999) – directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
- The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) – directed by Robert Redford
- The Family Man (2000) – directed by Brett Ratner
- Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001) – directed by Jeff Daniels
- Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot (2001) – directed by Larry Shaw – TV movie
- Super Sucker (2002) – directed by Jeff Daniels
- Mr. Deeds (2002)* – directed by Steven Brill
- Old School (2003)* – directed by Todd Phillips
- Flags of Our Fathers (2006) – directed by Clint Eastwood
- Evan Almighty (2007) – directed by Tom Shadyac
- Bait Shop (2008) – directed by C.B. Harding
- Love Ranch (2010) – directed by Taylor Hackford – posthumous release