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David Janssen Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (33) | Personal Quotes (7)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 27 March 1931Naponee, Nebraska, USA
Date of Death 13 February 1980Malibu, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameDavid Harold Meyer
Nicknames Davey
Dave
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

David Janssen was born David Harold Meyer in 1931 in Naponee, Nebraska, to Berniece Mae (Graf) and Harold Edward Meyer, a banker. He was of German, and some Swiss-German and Scottish-Irish, descent. David took the surname of his stepfather, Eugene Janssen. The Janssen family settled in Hollywood when he was a teenager and he attended Fairfax High School, where he developed an interest in acting. His film debut was a bit part in It's a Pleasure (1945), and at the age of 18 signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox. However, the studio dropped him after allegedly becoming disenchanted with his odd hairline and big prominent ears. Janssen had better luck at Universal, where he signed on in the early 1950s and became a supporting player in 32 films before appearing on TV as the star of Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957). He resumed his movie career in 1961, a year after the series ended. His biggest success came from his lead in the series The Fugitive (1963), playing the haunted, hunted Dr. Richard Kimble, on the run for a murder he didn't commit. After the series ended, Janssen launched himself into a grueling schedule by appearing in lead and supporting roles in movies, but he had better luck with made-for-TV-movie roles and a short-lived series, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury (1971). He had another hit series with the cult favorite Harry O (1973). Janssen continued appearing in lead roles in nearly 20 made-for-TV-movies during the 1970s as well as other TV projects. He died in 1980 from a sudden heart attack at his Malibu home at the age of 48. Unfounded speculation holds that Janssen succumbed to alcoholism, a problem that plagued him most of his adult life. There were even unfounded rumors about drug use. However, a much more reasonable explanation for David Janssen's sudden demise is that this intense, dedicated, determined actor simply worked himself to death.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Matt Patay

Spouse (2)

Dani Janssen (4 October 1975 - 13 February 1980) (his death)
Ellie Graham (23 August 1958 - 25 August 1970) (divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

Quiet, low-key acting style
Deep, whiskey-tinged voice

Trivia (33)

Born at 10:00am-CST.
His mother and both of his sisters appeared as extras in The Fugitive (1963).
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only about a block away from the Chinese Theater. When it was placed there, it was in front of David's favorite ice cream shops as a child. The star dedication was on his mother's birthday in 1989.
Twisted his right knee in 1948 while pole vaulting for reporters from the Hollywood Citizen News.
Brother of Teri Janssen and Jill Janssen.
His last role was in the film Inchon (1981). Even though he died before the movie was completed, his part was not deleted (this was a widespread rumor).
Mother, Berniece Janssen.
As a contract player at Universal-International in the 1950s, he attended Universal's acting classes with a fellow Universal contractee, Clint Eastwood. The two became friends, and Eastwood is still friends with Janssen's widow, Dani.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive (1963).
Was close friends with Stuart Whitman.
A close friend of Richard Harris, who was so upset by Janssen's death that he sat outside a cathedral in New York for hours in the snow upon hearing the news.
Made 21 TV movies, which includes two mini-series.
Worked frequently for Dick Powell on TV.
Called his highly successful TV series "The Fuge.".
He was a top track star at school.
Deborah Raffin on David Janssen: I was frightened by his rough, tough image. He's totally different, sensitive, considerate, a true gentleman. (The Indianapolis Star, July 26, 1975, p. 14).
Angie Dickinson on David Janssen: He was a great gentleman, a great date, and a great love. [Vanity Fair, December 31, 2007].
He did a lot of his own flying in Birds of Prey (1973) (Flying Magazine, June 1988, p.30).
Pallbearers at his funeral on February 17, 1980 included Rod Stewart, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, Richard Harris, Milton Berle, Linda Evans's husband Stan Herman, and Suzanne Pleshette's husband Tom Gallagher.
Excelled at basketball in high school.
Frank Liberman, a veteran Hollywood publicist who had many famous clients, represented David Janssen for 16 years and has cited Janssen as one of his favorite clients: "He was wonderful. He was one of the brightest men I've ever known. Very articulate.".
Contributed a turkey pot pie recipe to Diana Millay's cookbook "I'd Rather Eat Than Act." Diana Millay was his co-star in Target: The Corruptors: The Middle Man (1962).
David was the son of Berniece Mae (Graf) and Harold Edward Meyer. He took on the surname of his stepfather, Eugene Janssen. His paternal grandparents were William Meyer and Myra Angela Wert. His maternal grandparents were Werner Daniel Graf and Verna Eliza Waggoner. His ancestry was German, and some Swiss-German and Scottish-Irish.
He was against the Vietnam War, although his involvement in The Green Berets (1968) caused many to think he supported US involvement in the conflict.
Was a voracious reader. He'd buy two copies of whatever book he wanted to read, one for his home in L.A. and one for his home in Palm Springs.
18-year old David held a 3-year-old Cher when her mother Georgia Holt couldn't get a babysitter while filming a watch commercial.
Advised Farrah Fawcett to turn down Charlie's Angels (1976).
Linda Evans, his costar in Harry O: Guardian at the Gates (1974), and Jean Seberg, his costar in Macho Callahan (1970), both have said that David Janssen was their moms' favorite actor.
Linda Evans on David Janssen: I never met anyone who didn't adore David. To this day I still miss that guy; he was one of a kind. (from Evans' 2011 memoir "Recipes for Life").
Was also a songwriter.
On ice skates, David Janssen hosted "Highlights of the Ice Capades" (NBC-TV, Nov. 4, 1970).
Patrick Macnee on David Janssen: The best television actor by far of anybody was David Janssen.
Quinn Martin's eulogy for David Janssen on February 17, 1980: He was a true professional, a superstar.

Personal Quotes (7)

TV is my sleeping pill.
[on his divorce from his first wife Ellie]: After 11 years of marriage I dived into what I considered a newfound freedom. I was working hard and playing hard. Flying my own plane to parties all over the country and down to Mexico, having what I thought was a great time. I participated in life on what might be considered the grand scale, before I decided I had one hangover too many, one party too many, one charted plane and 14 servants too many. Too many cars that I never got around to drive.
[on why he takes so many acting roles]: I have always considered myself basically unemployed. I'm from Nebraska and I feel guilty when I'm not working.
[on Jack Webb, the producer of O'Hara, U.S. Treasury (1971)] Jack Webb marches to a drummer that is not my drummer.
Good living I've learned, not inherited.
[on high school athletics] I broke a cartilage in my left knee cap while pole vaulting. Calcium formed in my knee, and it is still very painful at times. As for being against athletics in high school - on the contrary, I'm all for it! We don't want to produce a generation of eggheads, do we?
[on Fred Silverman, ABC's programming chief, who canceled Harry O (1973) after two seasons] Silverman wanted more sex and violence in the show. I wanted more humor - more relationship between myself and Anthony Zerbe.

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