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Denver Pyle Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trivia (12)

Overview (4)

Born in Bethune, Colorado, USA
Died in Burbank, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameDenver Dell Pyle
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

A rather wanderlust fellow before he latched onto acting, Denver Pyle--who made a career of playing drawling, somewhat slow Southern types--was actually born in Colorado in 1920, to a farming family. He attended a university for a time but dropped out to become a drummer. When that didn't pan out he drifted from job to job, doing everything from working the oil fields in Oklahoma to the shrimp boats in Texas. In 1940 he moseyed off to Los Angeles and briefly found employment as a (somewhat unlikely) NBC page. That particular career was interrupted by World War II, and Pyle enlisted in the navy. Wounded in the battle of Guadalcanal, he received a medical discharge in 1943. Working for an aircraft plant in Los Angeles as a riveter, the rangy actor was introduced to the entertainment field after receiving a role in an amateur theater production and getting spotted by a talent scout. Training with such renowned teachers as Maria Ouspenskaya and Michael Chekhov, he made his film debut in The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947). Pyle went on to roles in hundreds of film and TV parts, bringing a touch of Western authenticity to many of his roles. A minor villain or sidekick in the early 1950s, he often received no billing. Prematurely white-haired (a family trait), he became a familiar face on episodes of Gunsmoke (1955) and Bonanza (1959) and also developed a close association with actor John Wayne, appearing in many of Wayne's later films, including The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Alamo (1960), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973). Pyle's more important movie roles came late in his career. One of his most memorable was in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) as Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, the handcuffed hostage of the duo, who spits in Bonnie's (Faye Dunaway) face after she coyly poses with him for a camera shot. He settled easily into hillbilly/mountain men types in his later years and became a household face for his crotchety presence in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1977) and, especially, The Dukes of Hazzard (1979). He died of lung cancer at age 77.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Family (3)

Spouse Tippie Xan Johnston (5 November 1983 - 25 December 1997)  (his death)
Marilee Lenore Carpenter (8 August 1955 - 1970)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Children Pyle, Tony
Pyle, David
Parents Ben H. Pyle
Maude Pyle

Trivia (12)

Was originally cast to play Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke (1955) after James Arness turned down his first request to audition for the role.
Received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7083 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California just two weeks before his death. Despite his weakened condition, caused by the cancer that would eventually kill him, he managed to attend the ceremony.
His middle name was "Dell", the name of his parents' favorite city.
While working with John Wayne on The Alamo (1960), Wayne became impressed with Pyle's photography and made special arrangements with his public relations office to designate Pyle as the official set photographer for the picture.
Best known for his role as Uncle Jesse Duke on the television series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979).
During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy, was wounded in the battle for Guadalcanal and received a medical discharge in 1943.
Brother of Willis Pyle, an animator and painter. Cousin of Ernie Pyle. Pyle's immediate family had longevity in their genes. His brother died at the age of 101 in 2016. Their mother lived to be 104.
Met James Best in the movie The Left Handed Gun (1958). Some 21 years later, he would later co-star opposite him on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), as his sheriff.
Best friends with James Best from 1958 to 1997.
Has the distinction of playing the last murder victim in the original Perry Mason (1957) series (and in the same episode, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out", Mason's second-to-last client).
Although he played O.Z. Whitehead's father in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), he was nine years his junior in real life.
Is one of twelve actors who played the trifecta - the victim, the defendant, and the murderer - in various episodes of Perry Mason (1957).

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