John Forsythe

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John Forsythe
John Forsythe - 1957.jpg
Forsythe in 1958
Born Jacob Lincoln Freund
(1918-01-29)January 29, 1918
Penns Grove, New Jersey, U.S.
Died April 1, 2010(2010-04-01) (aged 92)
Santa Ynez, California, U.S.
Resting place Oak Hill Cemetery, Ballard, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation Actor
Years active 1943 – 2006
Spouse(s) Parker Worthington McCormick (m.1939-43; divorced)
Julie (Wagner) Warren (m.1943-94; her death)
Nicole Carter (m.2002–10; his death)
Children 3
Awards Golden Globe Award (1983, 1984); Golden Apple Award (1984); Soap Opera Digest Award (1984); TV Land Award (2007); Walk of Fame (Television—1960)

John Forsythe (born Jacob Lincoln Freund; January 29, 1918 – April 1, 2010) was an American stage, film/television actor, producer, narrator, drama teacher and philanthropist whose career spanned six decades.[1] He also appeared as a guest on several talk and variety shows and as a panelist on numerous game shows.

His 60-year acting career began in films in 1943. He signed up with Warner Bros. at age 25 as a minor contract player, but he later starred in films like The Captive City (1952). He co-starred opposite Loretta Young in It Happens Every Thursday (1953), Edmund Gwenn and Shirley MacLaine in The Trouble With Harry (1955), and Olivia De Havilland in The Ambassador's Daughter (1956).

He also enjoyed a successful television career, starring in three television series, spanning four decades and three genres: as the single playboy father Bentley Gregg in the sitcom Bachelor Father (1957–62), as the unseen millionaire Charles Townsend in the crime drama Charlie's Angels (1976–81), a role he would reprise in the film adaptations, and as patriarch Blake Carrington in Dynasty (1981–89). He hosted World of Survival (1971–77).[1]

Early life

The eldest of three children, Forsythe was born as John,[2][1][3] or Jacob, Lincoln Freund (sources differ) on January 29, 1918, in Penns Grove, New Jersey, to Blanche Forsythe (née Blohm) and Samuel Jeremiah Freund. Blanche was born in Georgia, to David Hyat Blohm, a Russian Jewish immigrant, and Mary S. Materson, who herself was born in Maryland, to Jewish emigrants from Prussia. Forysthe's father was a stockbroker, who was born in New York, to Polish Jewish immigrants.[3]

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.[4] In 1936 at the age of 18, he took a job as the public address announcer for Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field, confirming a childhood love of baseball.[1] He was a lifelong active Democrat.[5]

Movie career and Army service

The handprints of John Forsythe in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

Despite showing initial reluctance, Forsythe began an acting career at the suggestion of his father. He met actress Parker Worthington McCormick (December 29, 1918 – July 22, 1980), and the couple married in 1939; they had a son, Dall (born February 14, 1941), and divorced in 1943. As a bit player for Warner Brothers, Forsythe successfully appeared in several small parts.[6]

As a result, he was given a small role in Destination Tokyo (1943). Leaving his movie career for service in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, he appeared in the U.S. Army Air Corps play and film Winged Victory, then worked with injured soldiers who had developed speech problems.[6]

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.

In 1947, Forsythe joined the initial class of the Actors Studio, where he met Marlon Brando and Julie Harris, among others. 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, for which she won a Golden Globe. In 1969, Forsythe appeared in another Hitchcock film, Topaz.[7]

Television work

With Noreen Corcoran in Bachelor Father (1957–1962)

Throughout the 1950s, Forsythe successfully appeared in the new medium and worked regularly on all the networks, especially as a guest star. For example, during this period, he appeared on the popular anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents in an episode titled "Premonition" opposite Cloris Leachman. He starred in an episode of the CBS Western anthology series Zane Grey Theatre titled Decision at Wilson's Creek, which premiered May 17, 1957.[6]

Outdoor location sequences for the episode were shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, where a number of scenes took place in a group of oak trees on the Upper Iverson that later came to be known as the Midway Oaks. One of those oak trees, a distinctive multi-trunked tree with a characteristic lean, became known as the Forsythe Oak, commemorating John Forsythe's appearance at the fabled movie ranch, considered the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and television history. The Forsythe Oak remains in place today, located on a private estate on the former Upper Iverson.

Bachelor Father

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 teenage Linda Evans. During the 1961 season, Bachelor Father 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), Madame X (1966) and In Cold Blood (1967). In 1964 he starred in See How They Run which is notable for being the first film made for television.

He 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.[8] 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 1970s through about 1985, notably during the "Weekends were made for Michelob" era.

Charlie's Angels

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.

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 of 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 leave for the track. During this period, Forsythe invested much 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 starting in 1972, and was on the committee for more than 25 years.[8]

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, a corrupt judge who despises Al Pacino's lawyer character.[citation needed]


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.[9] Another Spelling production, Dynasty was ABC's answer to the highly successful CBS series Dallas. Between 1985-87, Forsythe also appeared as Blake Carrington in the short-lived spinoff 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 co-star Joan Collins, who played Blake's ex-wife Alexis, 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.[citation needed]

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 Globe Awards, winning twice. He was nominated five times for the Soap Opera Digest Awards, also winning twice.[7]

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.[6]

Post-1990s work and life

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Forsythe's wife of 51 years, Julie Warren (October 20, 1919 — August 15, 1994), died at age 74 from cancer in the hospital after Forsythe made the decision to disconnect her life-support system. She had been in a coma following severe breathing difficulties.[10][11]

In July 2002, Forsythe married businesswoman Nicole Carter (May 27, 1941 – May 11, 2010) at Ballard Country Church; they remained married until his death. Nicole Carter Forsythe died five weeks after her husband.[12]

In 1989, Forsythe hosted The Miss Universe 1989 Pageant on CBS. He 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.[13]

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 to children during the annual Christmas program near his home at the rural resort community of Solvang, California.[14]

Forsythe was treated for colorectal cancer in the fall of 2006.[15] Surgery was reportedly successful and his cancer was considered to be in remission at the time of his death.[16]


Forsythe died on April 1, 2010, from pneumonia in Santa Ynez, California, aged 92.[1][6][8] He was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery, Ballard, Santa Barbara County, California.

Thoroughbred racing

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.[citation needed]

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,[17]

In the 1980s, 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.[18]


Television credits

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Best Plays The Farmer Takes a Wife[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bernstein, Adam (April 3, 2010). "John Forsythe dead; starred in 'Dynasty,' 'Bachelor Father'". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  2. ^ Clarke, Joseph F. (1977). Pseudonyms. Hamish Hamilton. p. 65. ISBN 978-0525665670.
  3. ^ a b "John Forsythe Biography (1918-)". Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Mathews, Jay (May 28, 1983). "Democrats Hope to Get $6 Million in Telethon". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ a b c d e Gates, Anita (April 2, 2010). "John Forsythe, 'Dynasty' Actor, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "John Forsythe". The Daily Telegraph. London. April 4, 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Luther, Claudia (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 September 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Oliver, Myrna (May 10, 1994). "George Peppard, Versatile Actor, Dies at 65". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  10. ^ Bergan, Ronald (April 4, 2010). "John Forsythe obituary". The Guardian. Manchester. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  11. ^ "RootsWeb: Database Index". Retrieved June 30, 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ "Nicole Carter Forsythe". Los Angeles Times. May 23, 2010. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  13. ^ "Dynasty: Behind the Scenes: Credits" (in German). Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  14. ^ Rice, Lynette (May 1, 2006). "Linda Evans reminisces about her Dynasty days". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  15. ^ "Dynasty star treated for cancer". BBC News. October 13, 2006.
  16. ^ Obituaries,; retrieved June 5, 2014. Archived August 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Jones, Grahame L. (December 31, 2005). "This Horse Was Fair Game for the 'King'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 3, 2010.
  18. ^ Paulick, Ray (January 26, 2009). "Eclipse memories". ESPN. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  19. ^ "Charlie's Angels: Animated Adventures Episode 1". YouTube. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  20. ^ Kirby, Walter (June 28, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved July 1, 2015 – via open access publication – free to read

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Alan Thicke
Miss Universe Host
Succeeded by
Dick Clark
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