Obituary: Glenn Cannon, 1932-2013

Apr. 22, 2013 | 0 Comments
Glenn Cannon, left, his wife, Samsil, and actor-director David Farmer at a celebration of Cannon's career in 2011. (Star-Advertiser File)

Glenn Cannon, left, his wife, Samsil, and actor-director David Farmer at a celebration of Cannon’s career in 2011. (Star-Advertiser File)

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Glenn Cannon — award-winning actor and director, educator and mentor to several generations of young would-be actors — died Saturday, April 20, at Straub Hospital. He was 80.

Cannon’s death was announced by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) Hawaii Local. Cannon served for more than 20 years as president and board member of the former Screen Actors Guild Hawaii Branch and at the time of his death was co-president of the combined Hawaii Local.

Becky Maltby, a long-time friend and colleague who had worked with Cannon on stage and also as a Hawaii Local board member, recalled him as a man with “a vital presence that would fill the room.”

“The passion and integrity he put into his work was unrivaled,” Maltby said. “A brilliant, funny, compassionate, noble man. He will be profoundly missed by so many.”

Maltby captured many facets of Cannon’s character, career, and impact on others when she produced a biographical film on Cannon’s life and times for screening at a party held in his honor at Manoa Valley Theatre in 2011.

Glenn Cannon, right, with Tom Selleck in a 1982 episode of "Magnum P.I." (Courtesy CBS)

Glenn Cannon, right, with Tom Selleck in a 1982 episode of "Magnum P.I." (Courtesy CBS)

Russell Motter, a Po‘okela Award-winning actor in recent years, remembered Cannon as a former teacher who was “a tough critic.”

“But I think many of us loved him for that,” said Motter. “We wanted so much to do our best for him. To deliver a line that elicited that great laugh of his was a treasured prize.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1932, Cannon graduated from Temple University in 1954 and went to New York to pursue a career as an actor. He appeared on Broadway in “A Moon for the Misbegotten” in 1957 and “The Good Woman of Setzuan,” and also in numerous off-Broadway shows and touring productions.

His career soon expanded to include roles in films such as “Cop Hater” and “Mad Dog Coll,” and television shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Combat!,” “Johnny Staccato,” “The Gallant Men,” and “The Outer Limits.”

In 1965 he accepted a teaching fellowship at Stanford University and became an actor, director and teacher with the Stanford Repertory Theatre, an Equity company of nine actors supplemented by students in Stanford’s theater program.

Cannon was hired in 1968 by the University of Hawaii as a professor in the drama department and never left. In his 45 years in Hawaii, Cannon directed more than 50 shows at UH-Manoa and probably close to another 50 for most of Honolulu’s major community theater groups.

Glenn Cannon, left, plays the title role in Manoa Valley Theatre's 2002 production of "Visiting Mr. Green." At right is actor Brian Parker, who played Ross Gardiner in the play. (Star-Advertiser File)

Glenn Cannon, left, plays the title role in Manoa Valley Theatre’s 2002 production of "Visiting Mr. Green." At right is actor Brian Parker, who played Ross Gardiner in the play. (Star-Advertiser File)

Newscaster Joe Moore, a veteran stage and television actor, described Cannon as “not only a dear friend and colleague but was truly my mentor as an actor.”

“In the early days of the original ‘Hawaii Five-O’ I was turned down for three roles before I realized the problem was I didn’t know what I was doing as a television or film actor, so I went to Glenn for lessons. After three sessions with him I was cast in my first ‘Five-O’ role, and never had a problem being cast for a network TV series after that.”

Moore subsequently chose Cannon as his director when he staged two original plays, “The Heydrich Covenant” and “Prophecy and Honor,” and again when he presented “The Boys of Autumn” with Pat Sejak at the Hawaii Theatre.

“As a director he was a taskmaster, bringing out the best an actor could bring to a role,” Moore said. “As a friend, he was always there with a sympathetic ear, but not shy about letting you know what he felt you needed to hear in any given situation. The acting community has suffered a great loss, and I have lost a dear friend.”

The range of Cannon’s own work as a stage actor in Hawaii is represented on one hand by his Po‘okela- Award-winning performance in the title role of Manoa Valley Theater’s 2003 production of “Visiting Mr. Green” on one hand, and his work in the bizarre comic bit-part role of a Yiddish Satan in red longjohns and running shoes in Hawaii Pacific University’s staging of “A Night at Rosie’s” in 1997 and its sequel, “Aloha Rosie’s” in 2005.”

Glenn Cannon, left, performs opposite Jorge Garcia in a 2005 episode of Lost. (Courtesy ABC)

Glenn Cannon, left, with Jorge Garcia in a 2005 episode of "Lost." (Courtesy ABC)

Cannon received 12 Po‘okela Awards for excellence from the Hawai‘i State Theater Council (SATC) – most recently in 2011 for his work as the director of Manoa Valley Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of “August: Osage County.” He received SATC’s Pierre Bowman Award for lifetime achievement in 2009.

“His work (at UH-Manoa) focused on many of the great plays of the western cannon, ranging from intense dramas to period comedies to musicals,” said Marty Myers, manager of Kennedy Theatre. “He was (also) instrumental in getting the Academy for Creative Media started on campus.”

Cannon’s years in Hawaii also saw him extend his career as a television actor. “Hawaii Five-0” fans remember him as District Attorney John Manicote. He subsequently portrayed Dr. Ibold for seven seasons on “Magnum, P.I.”, and also aappeared in “Jake and the Fatman,” “Tour of Duty,” “Island Son” and “Lost.”

Cannon is survived by his wife, Samsil “Sam” Cannon, and son Caleb. Funeral services and plans for a celebration of life are pending.

John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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