One of the more talented "barrel-chested surfer boys" of the early '60s to follow in the wake of Tab Hunter and Troy Donahue, Jeremy Slate gained instant notoriety as a playboy hunk who set many a female heart aflutter.
Born February 17, 1926, in Atlantic City, NJ, Slate first fell into the public spotlight at age 34, when cast as second-string fiddle to Keith Larsen in the CBS prime-time series The Aquanauts. Larsen and Slate played Drake Andrews and Larry Lahr, professional deep-sea divers who spent their days salvaging for treasure off the Southern California coast. The adventure drama debuted on CBS Wednesday evening, September 14, 1960. Unfortunately, The Aquanauts (unlike its syndicated competitor, Sea Hunt) ran headfirst into awful ratings. After several attempts by the network to save it from oblivion (including a new lead actor replacing Larsen, a new location in Malibu Beach, and a new title, Malibu Run) it quickly plummeted out of sight before wrapping in September 1961.
Slate's early film roles were almost all of the vacuous-hunk variety, and thus mirrored his Aquanauts turn. He appeared in a brace of Elvis flicks, G.I. Blues (1960) and Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), and as Scandinavian beefcake Eric Carlson in Bob Hope's musical comedy farce I'll Take Sweden (1965). The Henry Hathaway-directed Westerns The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and True Grit (1969) provided the actor with slightly more substantial roles. Meanwhile, Slate guest starred on an estimated 100 television programs, from Bewitched to Gunsmoke to Police Story to Mission: Impossible.
Slate maintained a higher profile as a writer and star of the motorcycle cult film Hell's Angels '69 (1969), directed by Lee Madden. This fell in the middle of a spate of grade-Z motorcycle flicks with Slate in the cast, from 1968's The Mini-Skirt Mob to 1967's Born Losers (the first of the Billy Jack cycle) to 1969's Hell's Belles. The "tough guy" role in these films was not anomalous for Slate, for as the '60s rolled on (and the actor entered his forties), his onscreen type shifted from that of a lusty Southern Californian sex symbol to a wizened street tough. The films in which he sustained this image varied somewhat in quality, but Slate scraped bottom (and then some) in William Grefe's nasty exploitationer The Hooked Generation (1969) as the head of a gang of drug pushers.
In 1979, Slate hit a second wind of his career as Chuck Wilson on the ABC daytime soap One Life to Live. The role lasted eight years. During the '80s and '90s, he also appeared as a character actor in such low-profile cinematic features as Deadlock (1988), Maddalena Z (1989), and The Lawnmower Man (1992, playing Father McKeen).
Jeremy Slate died at age 80, of complications following surgery for esophageal cancer, on November 19, 2006. His last film, Terry Leonard's Buttermilk Sky (2007), was released posthumously. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi