King Donovan

King Donovan

69 (passed away Jun. 30th, 1987)
Jan. 25th, 1918
Born in
New York City, New York, USA
5' 8"

King Donovan's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
The Bob Cummings Show (1955) TV Show
The Bob Cummings Show (1955)
The Life of Riley TV Show
The Life of Riley

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


The name might not be familiar-but the face would be. A thinking man's Don Knotts or his smarter brother - well - that would be over-simplifying King Donovan. He was born to vaudevillian parents who traveled the whole country. He was of medium height, slender build, and narrow-faced (like Knotts), but he could be so much more than a comedian. By the time he was in his teens he had landed a part at the Butler Davenport Theater on 63rd Street in New York City. Benjamin Butler Davenport, the founder, had turned to the theater with socialist ideas. He made his theater a "free" theater-free of charge - always - and attracted the interests of some of the greats from uptown Broadway, such as, George M. Cohan and Katharine Cornell. Donovan cut his teeth there and moved on to other theater, gaining experience and assurance. During the 1940s, he toured in repertory with the Jitney Players, founded by Richard Aldrich as a summer stock group (and they had their day on Broadway in 1929). Donovan also appeared with the U.S.O. in 'The Male Animal' and trod the boards for two years with the Hendrickson Shakespearean Company.

Obviously not a leading man type, nevertheless with an engaging if mild mannered tenor voice, he appeared on Broadway for the first time in May of 1948 in "The Vigil". That year of 1948 brought two entry film roles as well: Open Secret (1948) and a western, Man from Texas (1948). Quite by happenstance Donovan was in the movies. The next year he was busy with five roles, including the classic All the King's Men (1949). And from there Donovan was in demand for a variety of modest featured roles from playing conventional characters to - with enough of a shifty look-heavies. Up to about 1954 he was showing up in one film after another (over 10 appearances per annum), a press agent in Singin' in the Rain (1952) to two featured parts as a scientist in the same year release of two classic sci-fi romps _Magnetic Monster, The (1953)_ and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). Sporadically in 1953 and very firmly in 1954 Donovan was showing up in TV playhouse theater and a variety of early episodic TV fare - good featured roles that demonstrated his acting depth as comedian and dramatic character and always with a methodical intelligence. He was especially noticeable in the wide range of popular westerns from 1955 thru 1960. The film roles had become few and far between with the weight of TV demands, but he was available for the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). He was cool, calm, and pipe smoking writer Jack Belicec, good friend to protagonist and doctor Kevin McCarthy (I), who finds a disquieting surprise on his living room pool table. It is probably his most recognized role due to the popularity of the film.

That is so, if one had not seen him in his closest brush with having a TV series of his own, The Bob Cummings Show. Actor Robert Cummings (I), as other maturing actors seeing TV as a good last stand for public view, turned to nighttime sitcom with this popular take on a middle-aged bachelor model photographer with plenty of dating offers from curvy young ladies-half the fun of the series was seeing who would show up before his camera. Cummings pulled it off with understated aplomb from 1955 to 1959 (the show became Love That Bob in daytime syndication thereafter). Donovan appeared over a period of nearly four years as Cummings' buddy and nosy neighbor and equally bachelored Harvey Helm, always appreciative and ready to take advantage of his friend's good fortune. The two had great rapport with suave Cummings playing off of the rather kinetic nature of Donovan's Helm. There was some great spontaneous lines, as the time they both had to get somewhere fast in Bob's convertible, and Donovan cannonballs into the backseat shouting "Burn rubber, Bobby!" Donovan kept busy in shorter recurring and guest TV roles through the 1960s.

He was back on Broadway in 1958 with the great comic part of the befuddled professor of journalism in the hit "The Girls in 509". Donovan remained a bachelor until he married Broadway and TV comedy entertainer and actress Imogene Coca in 1960, having met in "509" -- she was 10 years his senior. Their roots were similar with vaudevillian parents and together they did some 30 shows, including a national tour of the musical 'Once Upon a Mattress.' His last Broadway performance was in a production of 'Morning's at Seven', a revival of Paul Osborn's play about an unorthodox American family which he reprised for TV in 1982. He and Coca performed in 'On the Twentieth Century', a countrywide tour that lasted nine months shortly before the illness that took him before his time. The name may have remained unfamiliar - but the face after well over 100 media screen appearances - was a household item.


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