Steve Cochran (May 25, 1917 – June 15, 1965) was an American film, television, and stage actor, the son of a California lumberman. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1939. After a stint working as a cowpuncher, Cochran developed his acting skills in local theatre and gradually progressed onto Broadway, film, and television.
From 1949 to 1952, he worked for Warner Brothers (mostly supporting roles, often playing boxers and gangsters) and appeared in many films including The Chase (1946), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Copacabana (1947), A Song Is Born (1948), Highway 301 (1950), The Damned Don't Cry! (1950), Of Love and Desire (1963), and Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951), which inspired Johnny Cash to write his song "Folsom Prison Blues".
One of his most memorable roles was as psychotic mobster James Cagney’s deceitful, power-hungry henchman, Big Ed Somers, in the gangster classic White Heat (1949). In 1953, Cochran formed his own production company, Robert Alexander Productions, where he won critical acclaim for two of his performances in his company's films. Cochran played a disgraced, alcoholic itinerant farmer struggling to regain the love of his family inCome Next Spring (1956), a troubled drifter in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il Grido (1957), produced in Italy. Cochran also played Billy in one of Sam Peckinpah's lesser known films, The Deadly Companions (1961). Cochran's company attempted to produce some television series and other films such as The Tom Mix Story (with Cochran as Mix), but they were never produced with the exception of a television pilot where he played John C. Fremont in Fremont the Trailblazer. Cochran's final film was Mozambique (1965).
Cochran starred in a string of B movies throughout the 1950s, including Carnival Story (1954). He frequently appeared in episodes of the most populartelevision series of the era, such as Bonanza, The Untouchables, Route 66, Bus Stop, Stoney Burke, and the 1959 episode "What You Need" ofCBS's The Twilight Zone.
Cochran was a notorious womanizer and attracted tabloid attention for his tumultuous private life, which included well-documented affairs with actresses such as Mae West, Jayne Mansfield, Barbara Payton, Joan Crawford, Sabrina, Merle Oberon, Kay Kendall, Virginia Lord, Ida Lupino andMiroslava. Perhaps his most famous affair was with Mamie Van Doren, who later wrote about their sex life in graphic detail in her tell-all autobiographyPlaying the Field: My Story (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1987). He was also married and divorced three times, to actress Fay McKenzie, and to non-celebrities Florence Lockwood and Jonna Jensen.
Cochran was the grandfather of film and television producer Alex Johns, who co-executive produced more than seventy episodes of the animated television series Futurama.
On June 15, 1965, at the age of forty-eight, Cochran died on his yacht off the coast of Guatemala due to an acute lung infection. His body, along with three female assistants, remained aboard for ten days since the three women did not know how to operate the boat. The boat drifted to shore in Port Champerico, Guatemala and was found by authorities. There were various rumors of foul play and poisoning, and Merle Oberon tried to use her influence to push for further police investigations. No new evidence was found.