House Peters Jr. might not have been a household name, but the product he advertised certainly was ...Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime
And grease in just a minute
Mr. Clean will clean your whole house
And everything that's in it
In the 1950s and '60s, Peters was
Mr. Clean in television commercials for the Procter & Gamble product, helping it find its way into millions of homes.
Peters, who died of pneumonia five years ago today at age 92, also acted in movies, from Flash Gordon to The Great Sioux Massacre, and TV shows including Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone and Lassie. He also appeared in several episodes of Roy Rogers’ and Gene Autry’s television shows. But it was his role as the bald, muscular man with a ring in one ear – long before that was an acceptable accessory for most men – that got him the most notice.
House Peters Jr. and Sr. in 1951
Peters had not acted for almost 40 years when he died. He had vowed that if he didn’t achieve leading man status by the time he was 50, he would retire from acting. After playing the sheriff in his 12th Lassie episode in the late 1960s, he left show business.
According to IMDb, Peters went into real estate and enjoyed fishing, sightseeing and driving around the United States with his wife Lucy. The couple had three children – two sons and a daughter.
Peters was born in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Jan. 12, 1916. He was one of four children born to actress Mae King and silent film star House Peters, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He grew up in Beverly Hills, where he studied drama in high school.
Peters served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and began acting professionally when he returned to California.
He played the original "live" Mr. Clean when the commercial debuted on television in 1958. The strong, dirt-fighting character later became an animated figure and as recently as 2010 appeared on the cover of Biz X magazine, according to Wikipedia. Other references have appeared over the years on such shows as Lost, The Simpsons, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and in songs by the bands Oasis and Millencolin ("Mr. Clean tell me is that really you/I wonder what you’ve done/to become so big and dumb …").
But it’s hard to beat the original.
Susan Soper is the author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has written for Newsday and CNN, and was Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief."