Actor also provided the voice of Charlie on "Charlie's Angels"
John Forsythe, the handsome, smooth-voiced actor who made his fortune as the scheming oil tycoon in TV’s “Dynasty” and the voice of the leader of “Charlie’s Angels,” has died after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 92.
Forsythe died late Thursday at his home in Santa Ynez from complications of pneumonia, publicist Harlan Boll said Friday.
“He died as he lived his life, with dignity and grace,” daughter Brooke Forsythe said.
Despite his distinguished work in theater and films, Forsythe’s greatest fame came from his role as Blake Carrington in producer Aaron Spelling’s 1981-89 primetime soap opera “Dynasty.”
Forsythe lent dignity to the tale of murder, deceit, adultery and high finance, which often brought Carrington into conflict with his flashy, vengeful former wife, Alexis Colby, played to the hilt by Joan Collins.
“He was one of the last of the true gentlemen of the acting profession,” Collins said in a statement. “I enjoyed our nine years of feuding, fussing and fighting as the Carringtons.”
Heather Locklear, another “Dynasty” co-star, called him “a gentleman in every sense of the word,” and a “gifted actor who knew the true meaning of being gracious and kind.”
Forsythe was an important part of another hit Spelling series without being seen. From 1976 to 1981 he played the voice of Charlie, the boss who delivered assignments to his beautiful detectives, including Farrah Fawcett, via telephone in “Charlie’s Angels.”
“We were so happy when he agreed to be the voice of Charlie, and he always laughed about having to take a back seat to Farrah’s hair,” Spelling’s widow Candy said in a statement.
Forsythe evidenced little of the ego drive that motivates many actors. He viewed himself with a self-effacing humor, considering himself “a vastly usable, not wildly talented actor.”
In a 1981 interview by The Associated Press, he also said: “I figure there are a few actors like Marlon Brando, George C. Scott and Laurence Olivier who have been touched by the hand of God. I’m in the next bunch.”
Mike Greenfield, a former agent for Forsythe, said he was a pleasure to work with and to know.
“They don’t get much better than John. He was a class act on every level,” Greenfield said.
With his full head of silver hair, tanned face and soothing voice, Forsythe as Carrington attracted the ardor of millions of female television viewers. “It’s rather amusing at my advanced age (mid-60s) to become a sex symbol,” he cracked.
While he had small roles in a couple of films in the early 1940s, Forsythe’s first successes were mainly on the stage. While serving during World War II, he was cast in Moss Hart’s Air Force show “Winged Victory,” along with many other future stars.
After the war, Forsythe became a founding member of the Actors Studio, recalling it as “a wildly stimulating place for a guy like me who was a babe in the woods. I never suspected there was that kind of artistry and psychological approach to acting.”
Forsythe began appearing in television plays as early as 1947, and he continued his Broadway career. A role in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” led to the awesome task of replacing Henry Fonda in “Mister Roberts.”
He was next able to create a role of his own, as the naive Army officer in occupied Okinawa in “Teahouse of the August Moon.” The play was a huge success, winning the Pulitzer Prize. “It gave me a sense of worth as an actor,” Forsythe remarked.
The call to Hollywood was irresistible, and Forsythe came west to star in such films as “The Captive City,” “The Glass Web” and “Escape from Fort Bravo.” His best break came in 1955 when he starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s one attempt at whimsy, “The Trouble with Harry,” about a corpse that kept turning up in a New England town.
Forsythe’s film roles were limited because he was already busy in television. The comedy “Bachelor Father,” in which he played a Hollywood lawyer who cared for his teenage niece, lasted from 1957 to 1962, appearing successively on CBS, NBC and ABC.
His later films included “Madame X” (opposite Lana Turner) and “In Cold Blood” and Hitchcock’s spy thriller “Topaz.”
“And Justice for All” (1979) marked a departure for the actor. Director Norman Jewison cast him as a judge with a kinky sex life.
“He wanted to create suspense on whether the judge was guilty of such dark deeds,” Forsythe said.
He credited the role for causing him to be considered as the unscrupulous Carrington in “Dynasty.”
“The producers didn’t know what the hell they wanted,” Forsythe recalled. “They talked to me in terms of J.R. in ‘Dallas.’ I said, ‘Look, fellas, I don’t want to play J.R. Part of my strength as an actor comes from what I’ve learned all these years: when you play a villain, you try to get the light touches; when you play a hero, you try to get in some of the warts.”
He was born John Lincoln Freund on Jan. 29, 1918, in Penn’s Grove, N.J.
He won an athletic scholarship to the University of North Carolina, had a stint as public address announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, then launched his struggle to become an actor against the wishes of his father. Having had his name mispronounced all his life, he adopted the name of Forsythe, which came from his mother’s family.
He toured the country in a children’s theater troupe with his first wife, actress Parker McCormick, and began appearing in radio soap operas and Broadway plays.
His first marriage ended after the birth of a son, Dall. During the run of “Winged Victory,” Forsythe married another actress, Julie Warren. They had two daughters, Page in 1950, Brooke in 1954.
When not acting, Forsythe maintained a strong interest in politics and sports, often playing in charity tennis tournaments. A devoted environmentalist, he also narrated a long-running outdoor series, “The World of Survival.”
In lieu of flowers, Forsythe’s family asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.
The family said there will be no public service.
AP Writers Michael Kuchwara in New York and Lynn Elber and Derrik J. Lang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11