David Janssen (born David Harold Meyer) (March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) was an American film and television actor who is best known for his starring role as Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (1963–1967). Janssen also had the title roles in three other series: Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Harry O; and O'Hara, U.S. Treasury.
David Harold Meyer
March 27, 1931
Naponee, Nebraska, U.S.
|Died||February 13, 1980 (aged 48)|
Malibu, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery|
(m. 1958; div. 1968)
David Janssen was born on March 27, 1931, in Naponee, a village in Franklin County in southern Nebraska, to Harold Edward Meyer, a banker and Berniece Graf. Following his parents' divorce in 1935, his mother moved with five-year-old David to Los Angeles, California, and later married Eugene Janssen in 1940 in Los Angeles. Young David used his stepfather's name after he entered show business as a child.
He attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, where he excelled on the basketball court, setting a school scoring record that lasted over 20 years. His first film part was at the age of thirteen, and by the age of twenty-five he had appeared in twenty films and served two years as an enlisted man in the United States Army. During his Army days, Janssen became friends with fellow enlistees Martin Milner and Clint Eastwood while posted at Fort Ord, California.
Janssen appeared in many television series before he landed programs of his own. In 1956, he and Peter Breck appeared in John Bromfield's syndicated series Sheriff of Cochise in the episode "The Turkey Farmers". Later, he guest-starred on NBC's medical drama The Eleventh Hour in the role of Hal Kincaid in the 1962 episode "Make Me a Place", with series co-stars Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. He joined friend Martin Milner in a 1962 episode of Route 66 as the character Kamo in the episode "One Tiger to a Hill."
Janssen starred in four television series of his own:
At the time, the final episode of The Fugitive held the record for the greatest number of American homes with television sets to watch a series finale, at 72 percent in August 1967.
His films include To Hell and Back, the biography of Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier of World War II; Hell to Eternity, a 1960 American World War II biopic starring Jeffrey Hunter, a Hispanic boy who fought in the Battle of Saipan and was raised by Japanese American foster parents; John Wayne's Vietnam war film The Green Berets; opposite Gregory Peck in the space story Marooned, in which Janssen played an astronaut sent to rescue three stranded men in space, and The Shoes of the Fisherman, as a television journalist in Rome reporting on the election of a new Pope (Anthony Quinn). He also played pilot Harry Walker in the 1973 action movie Birds of Prey.
He starred as a Los Angeles police detective trying to clear himself in the killing of an apparently innocent doctor in the 1967 film Warning Shot. The film was shot during a break in the spring and summer of 1966 between the third and fourth seasons of The Fugitive.
Janssen played an alcoholic in the 1977 TV movie A Sensitive, Passionate Man, which co-starred Angie Dickinson, as an engineer who devises an unbeatable system for blackjack in the 1978 made-for-TV movie Nowhere to Run, co-starring Stefanie Powers and Linda Evans. Janssen's impressively husky voice was used to good effect as the narrator for the TV mini-series Centennial (1978–79); he also appeared in the final episode. He starred in the made-for-TV mini series S.O.S. Titanic as John Jacob Astor, playing opposite Beverly Ross as his wife, Madeleine, in 1979.
Though Janssen's scenes were cut from the final release, he also appeared as a journalist in the film Inchon, which he accepted to work with Laurence Olivier who played General Douglas MacArthur. At the time of his death, Janssen had just begun filming a television movie playing the part of Father Damien, the priest who dedicated himself to the leper colony on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The part was eventually reassigned to actor Ken Howard of the CBS series The White Shadow.
Janssen was married twice. His first marriage was to model and interior decorator Ellie Graham, whom he married in Las Vegas on August 25, 1958. They divorced in 1968. In 1975, he married actress and model Dani Crayne Greco. They remained married until Janssen's death.
David Janssen died of a heart attack in the early morning of February 13, 1980, at his home in Malibu, California, at the age of 48. At the time of his death, Janssen was filming the television movie Father Damien. Janssen was buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. A non-denominational funeral was held at the Jewish chapel of the cemetery on February 17. Suzanne Pleshette delivered the eulogy at the request of Janssen's widow. Milton Berle, Johnny Carson, Tommy Gallagher, Richard Harris, Stan Herman, Rod Stewart and Gregory Peck were among Janssen's pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers included Jack Lemmon, George Peppard, James Stewart and Danny Thomas.
According to friend and Fugitive co-star Barry Morse, "David Janssen was well known as one of the hardest working actors in the USA", regularly working 12–14 hours a day, and he kept working until his early death.
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