48 (passed away Feb. 13th, 1980)
Mar. 27th, 1931
Naponee, Nebraska, USA
David Janssen's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles1976 - Two-Minute Warning
1969 - Marooned
1968 - The Green Berets
1961 - King of the Roaring 20's: The Story of Arnold Rothstein
1960 - Hell to Eternity
1955 - All That Heaven Allows
1955 - Cult of the Cobra
1955 - To Hell and Back
Guest TV Roles
Sgt. Joe Wilson
Dr. Bill Breckenridge
David Janssen was born (in Nebraska in 1931) to be a TV star. 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.
- As a contract player at Universal-International in the 1950s, he attended Universal's acting classes with a fellow Universal contractee, 'Clint Eastwood' (qv). The two became friends, and Eastwood is still friends with Janssen's widow, Dani.
- Was close friends with Stuart Whitman.
- Twisted his right knee in 1948 while pole vaulting for reporters from the Hollywood Citizen News.
- 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.
- His mother and both of his sisters appeared as extras in _"The Fugitive" (1963)_ (qv).
- Mother, 'Berniece Janssen' (qv).
- A close friend of 'Richard Harris (I)' (qv), 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.
- Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive.