San Antonio native Wendell Burton, a film and TV actor whose most memorable big-screen role was opposite Liza Minnelli in the poignant college love story, “The Sterile Cuckoo,” died of brain cancer Tuesday at his home in Houston.
He was 69.
Burton was born in the Alamo City, where his military dad was stationed. He attended college in California, however, which also was the setting of his first professional acting job.
That was in San Francisco, where he nabbed the title role in a stage production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
While performing in the musical, Burton was seen by director Alan J. Pakula, who was impressed by his talent and chose him over hundreds of more experienced movie actors to co-star with Minnelli in the 1969 movie “The Sterile Cuckoo.”
She played eccentric college misfit “Pookie” Adams, winning an Oscar nod for her performance, and Burton was cast as Jerry Payne, the awkward student with whom she falls in love. The movie also was known for the Oscar-nominated song, “Come Saturday Morning,” which was sung by The Sandpipers.
He went on to play a prison inmate named Smitty in 1971 motion picture, “Fortune and Men’s Eyes.”
After that, most of his work was for television, most notably as Fred Kramer, an innocent man framed for murder, in the critically acclaimed TV movie “Murder Once Removed” starring John Forsythe.
He also starred in TV versions of “The Red Badge of Courage,” “Go Ask Alice,” “East of Eden,” and reprised the role of Charlie Brown in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
His last movie was on the big screen in 1986. Burton played the role of Osgood, a mild-mannered man who fights Burt Reynolds’ character in action crime drama “Heat.”
According to Yahoo.com, Burton eventually became a Christian minister, moving to Houston in 1997 to work with Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church.
Burton also wrote, performed and recorded Christian music, chronicling his spiritual journey in his 2016 book “Godsmacked, A Souljourner’s Guide to the Heart of God.”
Burton’s daughter is Broadway actress Haven Burton (“Rent,” “Shrek the Musical,” “Legally Blonde” and “Kinky Boots”).