Born Alexander Viespi in Long Island, New York in 1933, he was stricken with polio at the age of 12. Confined to a hospital and iron lung for a long time he overcame the illness after being sent to a Wyoming ranch for therapy. He soon regained his dream and determination of becoming a jockey or professional horseman.
A high school dropout at the age of sixteen, he was too tall to be a jockey so he joined the rodeo circuit and earned a living riding bulls and bareback horses. During another extended hospital stay, this time after suffering serious injuries after being thrown by a bull at a rodeo in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, he contemplated again the direction of his life and decided to finish his high school education by way of night school. A voracious reader during his long convalescence, he later studied and received his degree in literature at New York University.
Prodded by an interest in acting, Alex received dramatic training at the Actors Studio and began his professional career in summer stock (The Compass Players in St. Louis, Missouri) and at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut where he played “Laertes” in a production of “Hamlet”. A British producer saw his promise and invited him to London where he co-starred in four plays (“Play With a Tiger”, “The Rose Tattoo”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Umbrella”). He was nominated for the “Best Actor Award” by the London Critics’ Circle for the first-mentioned play.
He sought a Hollywood “in” and found one via his equestrian skills in the early 1960s. Steady work came to him on such established western TV series as Laramie (1959) and Branded (1965) and that extended itself into roles on crime action series (Route 66 (1960) and Naked City (1958)). Gaining a foothold in feature films within a relatively short time, he starred or co-starred in more than 30 feature films, including Synanon (1965), Stagecoach (1966), Stiletto (1969) and The Brotherhood (1968). He wed British-born actress Joanna Pettet. The couple had one child, Damien Zachary Cord, but divorced in 1976.
After his film career declined in the late 1970s he turned to action adventure overseas with the “spaghetti western” Un minuto per pregare, un istante per morire (1968) [A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die] and the British war drama The Last Grenade (1970) with Stanley Baker and Richard Attenborough. Around that time as well, he played the murderer opposite Sam Jaffe’s old man in Edgar Allan Poe’s dramatic short, The Tell-Tale Heart (1971). It was TV, however, that provided more career stability. Cord has more than 300 credits, including roles in Hotel (1983), Fantasy Island (1977), Simon & Simon (1981), Jake and the Fatman (1987), Mission: Impossible (1966), Walker, Texas Ranger (1993) and Murder, She Wrote (1984). He situated himself in a number of series, notably Airwolf (1984), in which he co-starred with Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine as the mysterious white-suited, eye-patched, cane-using “Michael Archangel”.
Later commercial interest was drawn from his title role in Grayeagle (1977), a remake of the John Wayne film, The Searchers (1956), in which he played the Indian kidnapper of Ben Johnson’s daughter. Lana Wood, sister of star Natalie Wood (who appeared in the original), also co-starred in this film. Alex can still be seen from time to time in low-budget films and the occasional television appearance, but other interests took up his time.
His love for horses extended itself into work for numerous charities and benefits. He was a regular competitor in the Ben Johnson Pro-Celebrity Rodeos that raised money for children’s charities, and he is one of the founders of the Chukkers for Charity Celebrity Polo Team which has raised more than $3 million for worthy causes. He chairs “Ahead with Horses”, an organization that provides therapeutic riding programs for the physically and emotionally challenged.
Alex and his second wife, Susannah, are both actively involved on their horse ranch in north Texas where she is a dressage trainer and he ropes and rides cutters. He turned to writing, thus far publishing two novels: “Sandsong” and “A Feather in the Rain”. A third book, “Harbinger”, was never printed. He has also sold three screenplays.
He had two children, a son (Damien Zachary Cord), by his first marriage and a daughter (Toni Aluisa) by his second marriage. His son died tragically in 1995 of a heroin overdose at the age of 26. By his daughter, Alex Cord, is a grandfather of twins, a boy and a girl.
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