Sharkey--da man!
Original color screen capture courtesy Stephanie Kellerman

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey

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Terry Becker

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     One might mistakenly assume that Terry Becker grew up hungry, so much has he piled on his plate as an adult.  Actor, producer, director, television program developer--Terry Becker has done it all and quite successfully, like a man driven.
      An obsession with rehearsal evinced later in life was possibly the product of a childhood stuttering problem Becker suffered while growing up in the Bronx.  As he commented in Alison Passarelli's (check out her website--NIMR Reports) Oct/Nov 2002 FILMFAX article, "I was tough on myself.  I was embarrassed.  I remember standing in front of a mirror hours on end, trying to speak fluently, trying to recite Shakespearean sonnets--not because I wanted to be an actor--I wanted to be a human being."
     But an actor he became, and much more.  Becker found the stage early-on (he was encouraged toward performance by grade-school councilors who felt theater might keep him off the streets and out of trouble).  It was in high school that the acting bug really kicked in, and he found himself involved in a progression of plays at school and with various neighborhood theater groups.  He later studied under the likes of Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, and coincidentally became a friend of Paddy Chayefsky while the two were in the same writing class. 

Terry Becker as Mr. Francis Ethelbert Sharkey
Photo-Quincy Crossroads Collection
Click for larger version

With the golden age of television at hand, Becker jumped in and made hundreds of appearances on live TV.  What a way to sharpen your acting teeth, and all of it on the East Coast .   
In hgih-powered company.         Then Warner Brothers contract player Marie Wilson, who had the same agency as Becker, needed some help with a project that eventually led him to Hollywood where he appeared in several films, including Teacher's Pet and Compulsion.  He made guest appearances on television series such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Twilight Zone and later became a regular on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as the often-cheeky Chief Sharkey.
     Becker joined the Voyage cast at the beginning of it's second season after the untimely death of the lovable Henry Kulky, who had played Chief Jones through much of the first season's worth of black and white shows.  Hunting for a replacement Chief, Irwin Allen, upon screening The Men , in which Becker appeared in uniform, reportedly voiced, "That's the guy!"
     According to Becker, the Chief, initially a utilitarian character, was upped in prominence after an incident in one of the series' early-on season-two shows.  Unexpectedly, the episode came up short in length and the director implored Becker and series star Richard Basehart to improvise several minutes worth of film.  Up until this point, as Becker explains it, he'd had precious little interaction with Basehart.  But they had their marching orders from the director, and as Becker elucidated in the aforementioned FILMFAX article, "Well, we took off.  After five minutes, they're yelling and screaming, 'Hold it! Cut! Cut! Cut!  We've got enough!  We've got enough!'  And at the end of that thing, Mr. Basehart turned to me, embraced me, and said, 'You're good. I want you to be with me.  I'm going to talk to Irwin."  And talk he did, to the extent that Voyage's Admiral and Chief wound up having fun scenes in many episodes over the remainder of the series' run. 

Lock and load, baby!
At home in the missile room.

       Although Becker had directed by the time of his stint on Voyage, he never thought of asking to direct an episode.  Why?  One of Becker's more salient comments in the FILMFAX article went like this: "It never occurred to me at all. I was an actor on that show. You know, it's very difficult to be an actor and to direct, unless you're cheating on one or the other."
     When Voyage ended, Becker went on to become heavily involved in the directing of the successful series, Room 222, for which he won an Emmy, and stints at directing such popular offerings as Mission Impossible, Mash, and The Courtship of Eddy's Father .  Later still came his production company, Becker Enterprises, which has been involved with the production of series and pilot shows for the networks.
Today, Terry Becker makes occasional guest appearances at science-fiction conventions to meet and greet his many fans, and has renewed old friendships with Del Monroe (Kowalski) and Allan Hunt (Riley).

Looking good, but Terry, where's the Hawaiin shirt?  
bluebul_reversed.gif - 877 Bytes  At left, photo of Terry Becker taken in late mid-2002 at the Chiller Convention. 

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becker_flowers.jpg - 3078 Bytes Order your next cake or cake decorating sugarflowers from Terry Becker's company,

More Bio!  Go to Yahoo Movies

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     Chief Francis Sharkey, just off duty, rested in his quarters. Over the past few days, he had been reading 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA for the umpteenth time. He read the book at least once a year. It made for a relaxing transition from duty to sleep. The decades-old leather-bound volume lay freshly closed atop the built-in cabinetry next to his bunk, and although he had read it many times, this copy of Verne's work was in mint condition. Such was the care he and its previous owner (his father) had taken with it.
    Sharkey rolled over, rudely dragged to consciousness by what sounded like a series of resounding depth charge explosions--or maybe it was just someone knocking on his cabin door. He stumbled out of bed dressed in boxer shorts and an undershirt and called out "Yeah, who is it?" No springtime lilt in his voice.
   Hail to the Chief

A thinking person's chief of the boat.
Courtesy Quincy Crossroads Collection

   A muffled voice from the other side of the door answered, "It's me, Nelson. May I come in?
    As he staggered the few steps from his bunk to the door, Sharkey managed to croak, "Admiral, why didn't you say so? Just a second, sir." He opened the door and Nelson entered the small room as the chief stumbled back to plant his trim but stocky frame on the edge of the bed.
    Nelson pushed the door closed, cocked his head sideways and stood eyeballing Seaview's Chief of the Boat. Time to bite the bullet.
    Before Nelson could say anything, Sharkey ventured tentatively, "Uh, is there anything I can do for you, Admiral?"
    Nelson walked the few steps to the chief's built-in desk and grasped the back of the chair. "Do you mind if I sit down?"
     Sharkey stared, half awake. Why was the Admiral so nervous? "Of course not, sir."
Nelson sat, and then offered, "Sorry to interrupt your rest, Chief."
    Sharkey's thoughts rattled in the cobwebby, shadowy parts of his half-awake mind. He was beginning to have a bad feeling. "Admiral, if you don't mind my saying so, why don't you cut to the chase. Is there a problem? Something I've done?"
    "Uh, well," Nelson began, stopped, stared at the floor, then locked his gaze on Sharkey and said, "Francis, we've got a problem, but it's not you. It's certainly not you."
    Sharkey snapped to attention. SHIT! Nelson only used his first name for hazing purposes or when something really serious was up, and it didn't feel like a hazing was in the works.

                                                    ----Excepted from The Nemesis Syndrome

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