Billed as Jacques O'Mahoney in the late 1940s, he performed in several features, shorts, and serials for Columbia Pictures. He succeeded stuntman Ted Mapes as the double for Charles Starrett in the Durango Kid western series. The Durango Kid often wore a mask, which enabled Mahoney to replace Starrett in the action scenes. Mahoney's daring stunts made it seem that the older Starrett grew, the more athletic he became.
Stuntman and actor
Like many Columbia contract players, Mahoney worked in the studio's two-reel comedies. Beginning in 1947, writer-director Edward Bernds cast Mahoney in slapstick comedies starring The Three Stooges. Mahoney had large speaking roles in these films, and often played his scenes for laughs. Striking a dauntless, heroic pose, Mahoney would suddenly get clumsy, tripping over something or taking sprawling pratfalls. Columbia management noticed Mahoney's acting skills and gave him starring roles in adventure serials, beginning in 1950.
Cowboy star Gene Autry, then working at Columbia, hired Mahoney to star in a television series. Autry's Flying A Productions filmed seventy-nine half-hour episodes of the syndicatedThe Range Rider from 1951 to 1953 and 1959, a lost episode shown six years after the series ended. He was billed as Jack Mahoney. The character had no name other than Range Rider. His series co-star was Dick Jones, playing the role of Dick West
For the 1958 television season, he starred in the popular cult semi-western Yancy Derringer series for thirty-four episodes, which aired on CBS. Yancy Derringer was a gentlemanadventurer living in New Orleans, Louisiana, after the Civil War. He had a Pawnee Indian companion named Pahoo Katchewa ('pa-who-kaht'-chee-wah') ("Wolf Who Stands in Water") who did not speak, played by X Brands. Derringer had saved the life of Pahoo, who thereafter remained devoted to Derringer.
In 1960, he appeared as Coy Banton, a villain in Tarzan the Magnificent, starring Gordon Scott. His strong presence, work ethic, and lean (6 foot 4 inch, 220 pound) frame impressed producer Sy Weintraub who wanted a "new look" for the fabled apeman.
In 1962, Mahoney became the thirteenth actor to portray Tarzan when he appeared in Tarzan Goes to India, shot on location in India. A year later, he again played the role in Tarzan's Three Challenges, shot in Thailand. When this film was released, Mahoney, at 44, became the oldest actor to play the jungle king, a record that still stands. Dysentery and dengue fever plagued Mahoney during the shoot in the Thai jungles, and he plummeted to 175 pounds. It took him a year and a half to regain his health.
Owing to his health problems and the fact that producer Weintraub had decided to go for a "younger look" for the apeman, his contract was mutually dissolved.
During the final years of his life Mahoney was a popular guest at film conventions and autograph shows. He died of another stroke two days after being involved in an automobile accident in Bremerton, Washington. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
A tribute to Mahoney entitled "Coming Home" is found on the Internet site of the late marksmanJoe Bowman of Houston, a close Mahoney friend. On February 6, 1990, the poem was read at a memorial tribute to Mahoney held at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, California. More than 350 attended, included Bowman. The reading was conducted by Mahoney's widow, Autumn Mahoney.
Mahoney was married three times, first to Lorraine O'Donnell, with whom he had two children. He next married actress Margaret Field on December 11, 1959 in Las Vegas. They had one child, Princess O'Mahoney, born in 1962. Mahoney and Field divorced in June 1968. The following year, he married actress Autumn Russell. They remained together until his death.
As Margaret Field's husband, Mahoney was stepfather to Richard and Sally Field. Mahoney and Sally Field appeared together in the 1978 film Hooper. His daughter Princess O'Mahoney later became a television and film assistant director.