John Forsythe (born Jacob Lincoln Freund; January 29, 1918 – April 1, 2010) was an American stage, television and film actor. Forsythe starred in three television series, spanning four decades and three genres: as single playboy father Bentley Gregg in the 1950s sitcom Bachelor Father (1957–1962); as the unseen millionaire Charles Townsend on the 1970s crime drama Charlie's Angels (1976–1981), and as patriarch Blake Carrington on the 1980s soap opera Dynasty (1981–1989). He hosted World of Survival (1971–1977).
The eldest of three children, Forsythe was born as Jacob Lincoln Freund in Penns Grove, New Jersey, to Blanche Materson (née Blohm) and Samuel Jeremiah Freund, a stockbroker. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York, where his father worked as a Wall Street businessman during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
He graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn at the age of 16, and began attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1936 at the age of eighteen, he took a job as the public address announcer for Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field, confirming a childhood love of baseball.
Movie career and army service
Despite showing initial reluctance, Forsythe began an acting career at the suggestion of his father. He met actress Parker McCormick (December 1918 – July 1980) and the couple married in 1939; they had a son, Dall (born in 1943), and divorced in 1943. As a bit player for Warner Brothers, Forsythe successfully appeared in several small parts. As a result he was given a small role in Destination Tokyo (1943). Leaving his movie career for service in World War II, he appeared in the U.S. Army Air Forces play and film Winged Victory, then worked with injured soldiers who had developed speech problems.
Also in 1943, Forsythe met Julie Warren, initially a theatre companion but later a successful actress in her own right, landing a role on Broadway in Around the World. Warren became Forsythe's second wife and in the early 1950s the marriage produced two daughters – Page and Brooke. In 1947, Forsythe joined the initial class of the soon-to-be prestigious Actors Studio, where he met other promising young actors including Marlon Brando and Julie Harris. During this time he appeared on Broadway in Mister Roberts and The Teahouse of the August Moon.
In 1955, Alfred Hitchcock cast Forsythe in the movie The Trouble with Harry, with Shirley MacLaine in her first movie appearance, but the film was not a success at the box office.
Throughout the 1950s, Forsythe successfully appeared in the new medium and regularly on all the networks, especially as a guest star. For example, during this period, Forsythe notably appeared on the popular anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents in an engaging episode entitled "Premonition" opposite Cloris Leachman.
In 1957, he took a leading role in the situation comedy Bachelor Father for CBS as Bentley Gregg, a playboy lawyer who has to become a father to his niece Kelly (played by Noreen Corcoran), upon the death of her biological parents. The show was an immediate ratings hit and moved to NBC the following season and to ABC in the fall of 1961. On various episodes Forsythe worked with such up-and-coming actresses as Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Eden, Donna Douglas, Sally Kellerman, Sue Ane Langdon, and a teenaged Linda Evans. During the 1961 season, Bachelor Father moved to ABC, but was cancelled that season due to declining ratings.
After Bachelor Father
In the early 1960s, Forsythe returned to acting in movies including Kitten with a Whip (1964) and In Cold Blood (1967). He also attempted two new television programs: The John Forsythe Show on NBC with Guy Marks, Elsa Lanchester, Ann B. Davis, Peggy Lipton, and Forsythe's two young daughters, Page and Brooke. (1965–1966) and To Rome with Love on CBS (1969–1971) with co-star Walter Brennan. Between 1971 and 1977, Forsythe served as narrator on the syndicated nature series, The World of Survival. He was also the announcer for Michelob beer commercials from the 70s through about 1985, notably during the "Weekends were made for Michelob" era.
Forsythe began a 13-year association with Aaron Spelling in 1976, cast in the role of mysterious unseen millionaire private investigator Charles Townsend in the crime drama Charlie's Angels (1976–1981). The show starred Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and Farrah Fawcett, making stars of all three but catapulting Fawcett to iconic status. Forsythe introduces the series' concept during its opening credits:
|“||Once upon a time, three little girls went to the police academy, where they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.||”|
On every episode, Forsythe, as Townsend, is heard over a speaker phone, instructing the eponymous Angels on their mission for the episode. Character actor David Doyle played Charlie's on-screen liaison to the Angels, who in later seasons included Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts. Charlie's Angels was a huge success, and was shown in more than 90 countries.
Forsythe became the highest paid actor on television on a per-hour basis: while the show's on-camera stars often worked 15-hour days five days a week, with a couple hours just for hair and makeup, Forsythe's lines for an entire episode would be recorded in a sound studio in a matter of minutes, after which he would have lunch in the network's commissary and then head for the track. During this period, Forsythe invested a lot of money in thoroughbred racing, a personal hobby. Gaining respect with the celebrity thoroughbred circuit, he served on the Board of Directors at the Hollywood Park Racetrack since 1972, and was on the committee for more than 25 years.
Following heart problems, Forsythe underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery in 1979. This was so successful that he not only returned to work on Charlie's Angels, he also appeared in the two-time Academy Award-nominated motion picture ...And Justice for All later that year as Judge Henry T. Fleming, the film's main antagonist, an evil corrupt judge who despises Al Pacino's character.
In 1981, nearing the end of Charlie's Angels, Forsythe was selected as a last minute replacement for George Peppard in the role of conniving patriarch Blake Carrington in Dynasty. Another Aaron Spelling production, Dynasty was ABC's answer to the highly successful CBS series Dallas. Between 1985 and 1987, Forsythe also appeared as Blake Carrington in the short-lived spin-off series The Colbys.
The series reunited Forsythe with one-time Bachelor Father guest star Linda Evans, who would play Blake's wife, Krystle. During the run of the series, Forsythe, Evans and Collins promoted the Dynasty line of fragrances. Dynasty came to an end in 1989, after a total of nine seasons. Forsythe was the only actor to appear in all 220 episodes.
Forsythe was nominated for Emmy awards three times between 1982 and 1984 for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series" but did not win. He was also nominated six times for Golden Globes, winning twice. He was nominated five times for the Soap Opera Digest Awards, also winning twice.
Forsythe became a World-wide television legend for his portrayal as Blake Carrington as between 1983-1987 Dynasty was the one of the most popular shows Worldwide with a weekly audience of 150 million viewers.
The Powers That Be
In 1992, after a three-year absence, Forsythe returned to series television starring in Norman Lear's situation comedy, The Powers That Be for NBC, co-starring Holland Taylor, Peter MacNicol, Valerie Mahaffey and David Hyde-Pierce. He was reunited with one-time co-star Cloris Leachman, who, although eight years his junior, played his mother in one episode. The show was canceled after only one year.
Post-1990s work and life
Forsythe's wife of 51 years, Julie Warren (October 20, 1919 — August 15, 1994), died at the age of 74, in her hospital room, after Forsythe made the decision to turn off her life-support system. She had been in a coma following severe breathing difficulties. In July 2002, Forsythe married businesswoman Nicole Carter (May 27, 1941 - May 2010) at Ballard Country Church; they remained married until his death. Forsythe is survived by his son, two daughters, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Forsythe reprised his role as Charlie for the film version of Charlie's Angels (2000) and its sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), but then retired from acting. Besides spending time with his family, he enjoyed ownership of an art gallery. In 2005 actor Bartholomew John portrayed Forsythe in Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure, a fictionalized television movie based on the creation and behind the scenes production of Dynasty.
On May 2, 2006, Forsythe appeared with Dynasty co-stars Linda Evans, Joan Collins, Pamela Sue Martin, Al Corley, Gordon Thomson and Catherine Oxenberg in Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar. The one-hour reunion special of the former ABC series aired on CBS. Forsythe appeared each year to read children's fiction during the annual Christmas program near his home at the rural resort community of Solvang, California.
It was announced on October 13, 2006 that Forsythe was being treated for colorectal cancer. He was discharged from the hospital after one month. His surgical treatment was reportedly successful and was considered to be in remission.
Forsythe owned and bred Thoroughbred racehorses for many years and was a member of the Board of Directors of Hollywood Park Racetrack. Among his successes, in partnership with film producer Martin Ritt he won the 1976 Longacres Mile with Yu Wipi. With partner Ken Opstein, he won the 1982 Sixty Sails Handicap with Targa, and the 1993 La Brea Stakes with a daughter of Targa, Mamselle Bebette, which he raced under the name of his Big Train Farm, a stable he named for Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, Walter Johnson, In the 1980s, John Forsythe served as the regular host for the annual Eclipse Awards. He was the recipient of the 1988 Eclipse Award of Merit for his contribution in promoting the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
- Northern Pursuit (1943)
- Destination Tokyo (1943)
- The Captive City (1952)
- It Happens Every Thursday (1953)
- The Glass Web (1953)
- Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
- American Harvest (Revised Edition) (1955) (short subject) (narrator)
- The Trouble with Harry (1955)
- The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)
- Everything But the Truth (1956)
- Dubrowsky (1959)
- Kitten with a Whip (1964)
- Madame X (1966)
- In Cold Blood (1967)
- Silent Treatment (1968)
- Murder Once Removed (1971)
- Topaz (1969)
- The Happy Ending (1969)
- Goodbye and Amen (1977)
- ...And Justice for All (1979)
- Scrooged (1988)
- Stan and George's New Life (1991)
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1999) (voice) (direct-to-video)
- Charlie's Angels (2000)
- Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955)
- Bachelor Father (1957–1962)
- The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962)
- See How They Run (1964)
- The John Forsythe Show (1965–1966)
- A Bell for Adano (1967)
- Shadow on the Land (1968)
- To Rome With Love (1969–1971)
- Murder Once Removed (1971)
- The World of Survival (1971–1977) (narrator)
- The Letters (1973) (unsold pilot)
- Lisa, Bright and Dark (1973)
- Cry Panic (1974)
- The Healers (1974)
- Terror on the 40th Floor (1974)
- The Deadly Tower (1975)
- Charlie's Angels (1976–1981)
- Amelia Earhart (1976)
- Tail Gunner Joe (1977)
- Emily, Emily (1977)
- Never Con a Killer (1977) (pilot for The Feather and Father Gang)
- Cruise Into Terror (1978)
- With This Ring (1978)
- The Users (1978)
- A Time for Miracles (1980)
- Dynasty (1981–1989)
- Sizzle (1981)
- Mysterious Two (1982)
- The Love Boat (1983)
- The Colbys (1985–1986)
- On Fire (1987)
- Miss Universe Pageant (1989)
- Opposites Attract (1990)
- Dynasty: The Reunion (1991)
- The Powers That Be (1992–1993)
- I Witness Video (host from 1993–1994)
- People's Century (1995) (miniseries) (narrator in U.S. version)
- Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar (2006)
- "John Forsythe dead at 92". RBR.comTVBR.com. 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
- Adam Bernstein (April 3, 2010). "John Forsythe dead; starred in 'Dynasty,' 'Bachelor Father'". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
- "John Forsythe Biography" Film Reference
- Staff. "Biography for John Forsythe", Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 23, 2009. "Attending Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School, he came of age, like countless Brooklyn youngsters, a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and devoted his extracurricular activities to sports."
- A Tribute to John Forsythe website
- Page Forsythe at the Internet Movie Database
- Brooke Forsythe at the Internet Movie Database
- Julie Forsythe's lifespan per Social Security Death Index
- legacy.com obituaries
- "Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure: Credits". Der-denver-clan.de. Retrieved February 27, 2009.
- "Dynasty star treated for cancer". BBC News. October 13, 2006.
- Anita Gates (April 2, 2010). "John Forsythe, 'Dynasty' Actor, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
- Claudia Luther (April 3, 2010). "John Forsythe dies at 92; actor known for roles on TV series 'Bachelor Father,' 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Dynasty'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
- Grahame L. Jones (December 31, 2005). "This Horse Was Fair Game for the 'King'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
- "Eclipse memories". ESPN. 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
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