Hollywood Star Kurt Russell’s Father Is ‘Bonanza’ Actor Bing Russell

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Kurt Russell has been a familiar face in Hollywood for decades now — not only for his acting work but also for his long-standing relationship with actress Goldie Hawn, with whom he shares a blended family that includes actors Kate Hudson, Oliver Hudson and Wyatt Russell.

In fact, Kurt has been acting since he was a kid, getting his Hollywood debut in an uncredited role in the 1963 film “It Happened at the World’s Fair” when he was just 12. The son of actor and professional baseball player Bing Russell, Kurt was born with the acting bug it seems.

He spent his teen years as a child actor before landing a 10-year contract with The Walt Disney Company in 1966. Infamously, Walt Disney wrote the words “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper just before he died. Kurt’s time working for Disney made him the “studio’s top star of the ’70s,” according to Robert Osborne.

By the ’70s, Kurt was working frequently in Hollywood, however, he did take time off to play professional baseball, just like his father had. However, an injury ended his professional career and saw Kurt continue to focus on acting.

Kurt’s career, in which he moved between acting and baseball, is rather unique for someone working in Hollywood today, but it’s actually not that strange when viewed in the context of his father’s career. Bing, who was both an actor and professional baseball player himself, starred on the hit series “Bonanza” and even counted Elvis Presley as a fan! Let’s take a look at his career.

Born Neil Oliver Russell on May 5, 1926, in Brattleboro, Vermont, Bing, as he was known, always had dreams of becoming an actor. He studied drama at his high school, but it wouldn’t be until after his 20s that Bing made a major impression in Hollywood. That’s because the focus of his younger years was baseball.

When he was growing up in the 1930s and ’40s, Bing’s father ran a floatplane service in St. Petersburg, Florida, near the New York Yankees’ spring training camp. Due to this, Bing became an unofficial mascot for the baseball team and subsequently befriended players such as Lefty Gomez, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. In fact, the latter even gave Bing a baseball bat just before he officially retired from the sport, according to sports journalist Tom Hoffarth.

Baseball would continue to play an important role in Bing’s life, as he went on to own the Portland Mavericks team. The Mavericks were a unique team as they were the only independents in the Class A Northwest League. Bing’s time owning the Mavericks set a few records including hiring Lanny Moss, the first female general manager, as well as the first Asian American manager.

The Mavericks’ try-outs were also open to anyone, making them a popular side for former major league players and those who never quite made it, who just couldn’t give up the sport. This made the Mavericks a memorable side indeed, and in 2014 they were the subject of a Netflix documentary titled “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” in which archival footage of Bing was featured.

As well as baseball, Bing’s other major love in life was acting. Making his debut at the age of 25, Bing appeared in a number of uncredited roles throughout the 1950s before he landed one of his most famous roles in the 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven.”

Another of his major acting roles was as Deputy Clem Foster in the series “Bonanza.” Appearing in 59 episodes, Bing had officially made it in Hollywood by this point. In fact, the actor even counted Elvis Presley as a fan of his!

Kurt Russell recounted a story in a 2015 interview about the moment that Elvis met Bing and just how starstruck he was. It happened when Kurt’s parents visited him on the set of an MGM production. Elvis happened to be there too and he approached Kurt and asked to speak with his dad as he was a big fan. Kurt recounted what Elvis said to Bing next:

“You know, Mr. Russell, I don’t mean to be forward or rude, but I’ve seen you in a lot of Westerns and I love the way you wear your hat. And I was just wondering, I wanted to ask you, if I ever do a Western, would you be okay if I wore my hat that way?”

Bing was ever gracious and apparently told Elvis “thank you” and that of course he could wear his hat the same way as him, that he’d be honored. He would continue to act until his 60s, with his last role in “Dick Tracy” in 1990. Just over one decade later in 2003, Bing would pass away due to complications from cancer. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on through his acting and baseball work, as well as through his four children, including Kurt, and many grandchildren.

Did you know that Kurt Russell’s dad Bing was also a famous actor as well as a professional baseball player? If you learned something from this article, then be sure to pass it on to your friends and family!

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