Howard Culver (June 4, 1918 - August 4, 1984) was an American radio and television actor, best known as hotel clerk Howie Uzzell during the entire run of TV's Gunsmoke. On radio he starred in the title role of the Western adventure series Straight Arrow, which aired on Mutual from May 6, 1948 to June 21, 1951.
Culver grew up in Los Angeles, and he was first heard as an actor on CBS while he was a teenager. He served in the Navy for three years during World War II, returning to continue on many San Francisco and Hollywood-based radio shows. In 1948, he was the last actor to portray Ellery Queen on radio's The Adventures of Ellery Queen. After Straight Arrow, he co-starred with Mercedes McCambridge as reporter Jud Barnes on ABC's Defense Attorney (1951–52).
Straight Arrow opened with an introduction by announcer Frank Bingman, who remained close friends with Culver for years:
- To friends and neighbors alike, Steve Adams appeared to be nothing more than the young owner of the Broken Bow cattle spread, but when danger threatened innocent people, and when evildoers plotted against justice, then Steve Adams, rancher, disappeared. And in his place came a mysterious, stalwart Indian, wearing the dress and war paint of a Comanche, riding the great golden palomino Fury. Galloping out of the darkness to take up the cause of law and order throughout the West comes the legendary figure of Straight Arrow.
Jack French recalled Culver in his 1996 essay on Straight Arrow:
- McCann Erickson decided the new series would be broadcast from Los Angeles, and they quickly chose their cast from West Coast talent. Howard Culver, who had been the narrator of We Deliver the Goods and the announcer on Chandu the Magician, was selected for the title lead. At the time, he had a small goatee, which would be later be shaved off before his first personal appearance as Straight Arrow... Frank Bingman was hired as the announcer. He had started in radio at age 19 on Life of Mary Southern but was best known then as the voice of Cresta Blanca Wine. Bingman was surprised to find out that Culver occupied his spare time at the studio by knitting. While on the Joan Davis Show,Verna Felton had taught Bingman to knit, but he was a "closet knitter," since he was embarrassed to knit in front of other men. "Well, I don't give a damn what they say!", Culver told Bingman, sounding very unlike Straight Arrow. Thereafter, they both knitted in the studio, and later these two buddies donated their time at local military hospitals, teaching wounded vets to knit... Culver, much like Clayton "Bud" Collyer had been doing for years as Clark Kent/Superman, used his regular voice for Steve Adams and then lowered it for Straight Arrow.
Much information about Culver and Straight Arrow was published in the newsletter, Pow Wow, edited by William and Teresa Harper of North Augusta, South Carolina.
Films and television
In addition to his regular role on Gunsmoke, he made numerous TV guest appearances on such shows as Dragnet, Adam-12, and CHiPs. His films included the role of the newscaster in Hal Ashby's Shampoo (1975).
Culver died in 1984 during a vacation in Hong Kong, China.