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David Harold Janssen (Meyer)

Also Known As: "David Janssen"
Birthplace: Naponee, Franklin County, Nebraska, United States
Death: February 13, 1980 (48)
Malibu, Los Angeles County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Harold Edward Meyer and Berniece Meyer
Ex-husband of Dani Crayne

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About David Janssen

David Janssen (March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) was an American film and television actor who is best known for his starring role as Dr. Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (1963–1967). Janssen also had the title roles in three other series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Harry O and O'Hara, U.S. Treasury.

In 1996 TV Guide ranked him number 36 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list.

Early life

Janssen was born as David Harold Meyer in Naponee, a village in Franklin County in southern Nebraska, to Harold Edward Meyer, a banker (May 12, 1906 – November 4, 1990) and Berniece Graf (May 11, 1910 – November 26, 1995). Janssen was of Irish and Jewish descent. Following his parents' divorce in 1935, his mother moved with five-year-old David to Los Angeles, California, and later married Eugene Janssen (February 18, 1918 – March 30, 1996) in 1940 in Los Angeles. Young David used his stepfather's name after he entered show business as a child.

He attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. His first film part was at the age of thirteen, and by the age of twenty-five he had appeared in twenty films and served two years as an enlisted man in the United States Army. During his Army days, Janssen became friends with fellow enlistees Martin Milner and Clint Eastwood while posted at Fort Ord, California.

Acting career

Janssen appeared in many television series before he landed programs of his own. In 1956, he and Peter Breck appeared in John Bromfield's syndicated series Sheriff of Cochise in the episode "The Turkey Farmers". Later, he guest starred on NBC's medical drama The Eleventh Hour in the role of Hal Kincaid in the 1962 episode "Make Me a Place", with series co-stars Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. He joined friend Martin Milner in a 1962 episode of Route 66 as the character Kamo in the episode "One Tiger to a Hill."

Janssen starred in four television series of his own:

Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957–1960), a series that also introduced Mary Tyler Moore, showing only her legs, and Barbara Bain as Diamond's girlfriend.

The Fugitive (1963–67), the hit Quinn Martin-produced series, about a Midwest doctor falsely convicted of murdering his wife;

O'Hara, U.S. Treasury (1971–1972), as a government agent investigating counterfeiters and other federal crimes;

Harry O (1974–1976), as a San Diego-based private eye.

At the time, the final episode of The Fugitive held the record for the greatest number of American homes with television sets to watch a series finale, at 72 percent in August 1967.

His films include To Hell and Back, the biography of Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier of World War II; John Wayne's Vietnam war film The Green Berets; opposite Gregory Peck in the space story Marooned, in which Janssen played an astronaut sent to rescue three stranded men in space, and The Shoes of the Fisherman, as a television journalist in Rome reporting on the election of a new Pope (Anthony Quinn).

He starred as a Los Angeles police detective trying to clear himself in the killing of an apparently innocent doctor in the 1968 film Warning Shot.

Janssen played an alcoholic in the 1977 TV movie A Sensitive, Passionate Man, which co-starred Angie Dickinson, and an engineer who devises an unbeatable system for blackjack in the 1978 made-for-TV movie Nowhere to Run, co-starring Stefanie Powers and Linda Evans. Janssen's impressively husky voice was used to good effect as the narrator for the TV mini-series Centennial (1978–79); he also appeared in the final episode.

Though Janssen's scenes were cut from the final release, he also appeared as a journalist in the film Inchon, which he accepted to work with Laurence Olivier who played General Douglas MacArthur. At the time of his death, Janssen had just begun filming a television movie playing the part of Father Damien, the priest who dedicated himself to the leper colony on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The part was eventually reassigned to actor Ken Howard of the CBS series The White Shadow.

Personal life

Janssen was married twice. His first marriage was to model and interior decorator Ellie Graham, whom he married in Las Vegas on August 25, 1958.[3] They divorced in 1968. In 1975, he married actress and model Dani Crayne Greco. They remained married until Janssen's death.


Janssen died of a heart attack on February 13, 1980, at his home in Malibu, California. At the time of his death, Janssen was filming the television movie Father Damien. Janssen's non-denominational funeral was held at the Jewish chapel of the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California on February 17. Suzanne Pleshette delivered the eulogy at the request of Janssen's widow. Johnny Carson, Rod Stewart and Gregory Peck were among Janssen's pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers included Jack Lemmon, George Peppard, James Stewart and Danny Thomas. Los Angeles coroner Thomas Noguchi reportedly found high levels of morphine, cocaine, and alcohol in Janssen's body. According to friend and author of David Janssen-My Fugitive (Co-author with Ellie Janssen) Michael Phelps, drugs were not involved with the actor's death. "I can tell you, David was adamantly against drugs, and he never even experimented with drugs, although he was a heavy drinker, scotch being his preference. The coroner made no mention of illegal drugs on the Death Certificate.

For his contribution to the television industry, David Janssen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located on the 7700 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected filmography

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David Janssen's Timeline

March 27, 1931
Naponee, Franklin County, Nebraska, United States
February 13, 1980
Age 48
Malibu, Los Angeles County, California, United States