Henry Calvin (b. Dallas, TX, May 25, 1918 – d. Dallas, October 6, 1975) was an American comic actor and singer of stage, screen, and television. Most often type-cast in fat-man roles, he is best remembered in his role as Sergeant Garcia on the Walt Disney live-action television series The Adventures of Zorro, which ran for two seasons from 1957 to 1959.
Wimberly Calvin Goodman (as he was known until the 1940s) began his singing career early, as a featured soloist in the children’s choir of his local Baptist church. He graduated from public high school in Dallas and attended Southern Methodist University before pursuing a stage career in New York City. He appeared on Broadway in The Chocolate Soldier (1947), Sally (1948), and Happy as Larry (1950), and hosted a radio show on NBC in 1950. He sang as the character Big Ben on Howdy Doody in 1952. The high point of his Broadway career was his portrayal of the evil Wazir of Police in Kismet from 1953 to 1955.
Henry Calvin then signed with United Artists Studios and moved to the West Coast. He made two movies in 1956, the undistinguished Crime Against Joe and Broken Star with Howard Duff. Within a year, he had moved to Disney television studios and was cast as Sergeant Dimetrio Lopez Garcia, the gourmandizing comic foil to Guy Williams’s swashbuckling swordsman, in the hit television series The Adventures of Zorro. Calvin made good use of his rich baritone in many episodes, singing drinking songs, a serenade, even one duet with Annette Funicello. When the series was suspended due to a contract dispute, he continued to appear as Garcia in the four Zorro stories that were part of Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1960–61).
Many of the actors from Zorro, including Calvin, were cast together in subsequent Disney features Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960), and Babes in Toyland (1961). The latter film’s soundtrack included Calvin’s rendition of “Slowly He Sank to the Bottom of the Sea;” other Disney recordings were “Never Smile at a Crocodile” and “We Won’t Be Happy Till We Get It” with Ray Bolger.
Calvin guest-starred in many television series during the 1960s: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. He returned to the silver screen once again as The Fat Man in Stanley Kramer’s smash hit Ship of Fools (1965).
In the early 1970s Calvin was diagnosed with throat cancer. As a distraction, he traveled with his old Zorro friend Guy Williams to Argentina for a charity event in 1973, but it was obvious from his diminished physique that his health was failing. Shortly after their return to the U.S., Calvin and his wife moved back to Texas, where he died at the age of fifty-seven.
In Forest Hills, NY, is a Mexican restaurant that bears the name of Calvin’s famous television role.
Photo courtesy of Photofest