75 (passed away Jun. 30th, 2009)
Sep. 14th, 1933
Modesto, California, USA
Harve Presnell's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
By the time handsome, brawny baritone Harve Presnell arrived on the film scene, the "Golden Age" of musicals had long dissipated. Born in Modesto, California in 1933, he graduated from Modesto High School and received a USC sports scholarship, but moved quickly to singing. Initially training for an operatic career, he spent three seasons singing throughout Europe. He was performing nationally, however, when the opportunity for Broadway first came his way. Legendary composer Meredith Willson happened to catch an earful of the gifted singer in concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and, in the virile mold of Alfred Drake and Howard Keel, wrote the role of Johnny "Leadville" Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" specifically for him. The Broadway musical, with Tammy Grimes as the spunky title heroine, was a resounding hit as Harve wrapped his glorious tonsils around such sturdy, wide-stanced songs as "Colorado, My Home" and "I'll Never Say No." Unlike Grimes, Presnell was granted the opportunity to recreate his rags-to-riches part when the celluloid version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) came out with a bankable film star, the indomitable Debbie Reynolds (I), inhabiting the backwoods role. The film version was also hugely popular with audiences and Harve, with his terrific presence. seemed well on his way to stardom.
There were precious few movie musicals, however, for Presnell to sink his teeth into and he quickly faded from view. He tried adjusting to straight dramatics with the rugged western The Glory Guys (1965) and sang again in the highly unworthy teen frolic When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965) with Connie Francis, but little else came in his direction. The disastrous film version of Paint Your Wagon (1969), hurt by the miscasting of leads Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg, was redeemed only by the presence of Presnell and his superb, moving rendition of "They Call the Wind Mariah".
By the 70s Harve was finished in films but gamely kept his momentum with Keel-like stock and touring leads in such productions as "Camelot," "The Sound of Music," "Annie Get Your Gun" and "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," among others. He even played Rhett Butler in a 1972 musical version of "Gone With the Wind" at London's Drury Lane Theatre, but the production did not generate much of a stir. In 1979, Presnell served as a replacement in the Broadway musical "Annie" as Daddy Warbucks and wound up staying employed as the blustery but big-hearted moneybags for nearly 4 years on tour, also reprising the role in the failed 90s sequel "Annie II: Miss Hannigan's Revenge" (1989), which was later reworked and retitled "Annie Warbucks" (1992). All tolled, it is estimated that Harve played the tycoon role over 2,000 times.
More than 25 years had passed by the time Presnell returned to the movies as a brash and balding character actor. He struck pure gold as the implacable, ill-fated father-in-law of William H. Macy in the Coen Brothers' cult film hit Fargo (1996). This success, in turn, led to meaty roles in Larger Than Life (1996), The Whole Wide World (1996), The Chamber (1996), Face/Off (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), to name a few. Over the course of his career, he displayed a strong presence on TV as well with recurring roles on prime-time ("Lois & Clark") and daytime ("Ryan's Hope"). Presnell may have been born 10-20 years too late to have become a singing film star, but he suddenly had come back in spades to launch a whole new career as a noted character performer. At age 70+ he was unsinkable, vigorously steamrolling on TV ("The Pretender," "The Monk" and "ER") and in the films Mr. Deeds (2002), Old School (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Evan Almighty (2007). His last series role was in the short-lived "Andy Barker, P.I." (2007).
Pancreatic cancer got the best of the actor in his final years. The twice-married actor with six children (Stephanie, Taylor, Etoile, Tulley, Shannon and Raine) succumbed to his illness at the St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California on June 30, 2009, at age 76.
- An avid pilot since childhood, he had already learned how to fly a plane by age 10.
- He was nominated for a 1992 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role in a Musical for "Annie Warbucks" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
- He is the outstanding baritone soloist in the spirited 1960 Columbia recording of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Rutgers University Choirs and the Philadephia Orchestra. The recording, still available, was reissued on CD in 1990 by Sony.
- Born at 2:10am-PDT
- Presnell was once a soloist with the Roger Wagner Chorale. He soloed on the Christmas classic "O Holy Night" in their 1956 "Joy To The World" LP. This was one of Capitol Records earliest stereo efforts. In addition, he sang with 'Marilyn Horne' (qv) in "He's Gone Away" and also soloed on "O, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," both of which can be found on the RWC album "Folk Songs Of The New World."
- Presnell has had very two distinct portions to his career: that of a smooth, silky-voiced and handsome actor cast as the romantic lead in musicals; and that of a balding, gravelly-voiced older man who frequently plays cruel men of power due to his towering, imposing presence.
- Singer-actor, originally from the legitimate stage, best known for playing the male lead in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" on both Broadway and film and playing the role of "Daddy Warbucks" in "Annie" almost a thousand times on Broadway and on tour.
- In later years he maintained a ranch in Livingston, Montana, and flew to Hollywood when he had TV or film work.