Perpetually serious-looking New York-born character actor, who showed up to good effect in many TV shows of the 50’s and 60’s. His quietly authoritarian demeanor lent itself ideally to portraying characters with badges or uniforms: Sheriff Heck Tate in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), General Bogan of Strategic Air Command in Fail-Safe (1964) and Major Harvey Stovall of Bomber Group 918 in 12 O’Clock High (1964). The latter was his only recurring role on television and he made the most of it, being strongly featured in several of the episodes. Prior to his well-remembered role as Elias Sandoval on the Star Trek (1966) episode, Star Trek: This Side of Paradise (1967), he had made notable appearances on two other science fiction series.
He was twice featured on The Twilight Zone (1959). On the episode, The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance (1959), he played the father of advertising executive Martin Sloan (Gig Young), who, unhappy with his life such as it is, has somehow time-traveled back to his home town. Sloan finds, to his delight, that everything has remained unchanged from the time of his childhood. In a superbly-acted and touching scene, the elder Sloan (having come to terms with the identity of the stranger), asks his son to leave, because there can only ever be “one summer per customer”. In contrast, Overton’s chill, austere Sheriff Harry Wheeler on The Twilight Zone: Mute (1963) was the antithesis of his character on “Walking Distance”, devoid of compassion or understanding. Overton also appeared as an unsympathetic physician on The Invaders (1967) episode, The Invaders: Genesis (1967).
Overton’s characterizations on stage largely paralleled those on screen. He made his first stab at Broadway as a lieutenant in Elia Kazan’s comedy ‘Jacobowsky and the Colonel’, written by S.N. Behrman. The play ran for 417 performances from 1944 to 1945. He played another sheriff in ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ (1953) and replaced James Gregory as deputy Jesse Bard in the original stage version of ‘The Desperate Hours’ (1955). His most successful performance was as Morris Lacey in ‘The Dark at the Top of the Stairs’ (1957-59), a role he reprised for the film version of 1960.
An actor who always looked older than his years, Frank Emmons Overton died of a heart attack in April 1967, aged only 49.