Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fess Parker (1924-2010)

The man who launched a zillion coonskin caps in the 50's, Fess Parker, passed away earlier today as a result of natural causes at 85.

Parker shot to iconic status in the 50's in Walt Disney's adaptation of Davy Crockett on the Disneyland anthology series, discovered by the Disney studio after appearing in a bit part in the sci-fi film, "Them!". Disney executives were looking at signing James Arness (Gunsmoke) to play Crockett, but Parker's performance convinced them that he was the man they were looking for after all.

After appearing in a number of films for Disney, most prominently "Old Yeller", Parker went back to television, starring in a short-lived series version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1962 before returning to the untamed frontier as pioneer Daniel Boone (1964-1970). Parker, I have learned, turned down the title role in McCloud (which went to Dennis Weaver) and retired from acting after a self-titled sitcom pilot failed to sell in 1974.

Daniel Boone currently airs on the Retro Television Network (check local listings), and I am not sure if any other cable network holds the rights. I'd like to think Retro could break from format and do a tribute marathon for Parker, but I highly doubt it. I'd be surprised if they actually did it.

While most people know that soap actor Bill Hayes (Days of Our Lives) recorded the definitive version of the Davy Crockett theme, Parker recorded his own version, having sung for Walt Disney at an audition.

Rest in peace, Fess. Now you'll get to meet Daniel & Davy in Heaven.


Samuel Wilson said...

Now is when the superstitious will start speculating about the third TV action star to drop, but as Parker was kind of a two-for-one proposition the survivors should breathe easy for a while.

hobbyfan said...

Actually, Sammy, we've had the celebrity trifecta, with Merlin Olsen preceding Peter Graves, or, musician Alex Chilton (ex-Box Tops frontman) passing around the same time as Parker.