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Overview for John Forsythe
John Forsythe

John Forsythe



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Also Known As: John Lincoln Freund Died: April 1, 2010
Born: January 29, 1918 Cause of Death: cancer/complications from pneumonia
Birth Place: Penns Grove, New Jersey, USA Profession: Cast ... actor producer director baseball announcer


e in Washington, DC, but surviving by way of the counsel of his offbeat combination of advisors and his dysfunctional family. NBC, however, buried the show in a Saturday night time-slot and it did not make a second season. After that, Forsythe effectively retired to an idyllic 30-acre ranch north of Santa Barbara, CA. On Aug. 15, 1994, his wife Julie felt fatigued in the middle of the day and went to lie down. She dozed off reading a book, and when Forsythe tried to rouse her later, he could not. Rushed to a local hospital, she lapsed into a coma and Forsythe was forced to take her off life support.

In 2000, Columbia Pictures offered Forsythe a reported $5 million to bring his voice out of retirement to reprise his role as Charlie in its two slick movie retreatments of "Charlie's Angels" - "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003). Forsythe remarried in 2002 to a businesswoman 20 years his junior, and in spring 2006, he briefly reunited with fellow "Dynasty" stars in a CBS retrospective, "Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar" (2006), but, at 88, he obviously had slowed with age. In October of that year, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and underwent successful treatment at Cedars Sinai Hospital in L.A., before being released a month later.

In 2002, TV Guide named Forsythe No. 43 in its list of the "50 Sexiest Stars of All Time." Even at the height of his fame, he had remained modest about his contribution to his craft. "I am a good journeyman actor and I always do my best," he told TV Guide, "but I'm not jealous of Henry Fonda or George C. Scott or Brando because they have 'touched by the hand of God' talent and I don't." He ech d those sentiments in his more recent oral history for the Archive of American Television. "To this day, I don't think I'm a tremendous actor," he said. "I think I'm a workmanlike actor . . . I think I've been very, very fortunate." After battling cancer for years, Forsythe finally succumbed to his disease and died of complications from pneumonia on April 1, 2010. He was 92 years old. of them, later Disney chairman Michael Eisner, by one report calling it "the worst idea I've ever heard." After spending a year nuancing the concept, ABC greenlit a pilot, but the project hit another roadblock just as Spelling was readying the test episode to send to ABC headquarters in New York. As Forsythe later recounted in an oral history, Spelling called him at home at around 11:30 pm on a Friday night and quickly recounted his w : Veteran actor Gig Young had been hired to voice the role of the disembodied Charlie Townsend - who gave directions to his "Angels" via speaker phone but remained unseen even by them - but turned up drunk when they needed to put his voiceovers on tape. It was the last element to complete the pilot. Spelling asked if he could come down and read the lines. Forsythe pulled an overcoat over his pajamas, drove over to the 20th Century Fox lot and became a default Charlie. Forsythe, like his character, kept himself beyond arm's distance through the run of the popular show - and removed from the Angel squabbling that occurred behind the cameras - never even going to the set. He reportedly could tape a full season's worth of lines in one day.

By the late 1970s, Forsythe began suffering bouts of fatigue. Seeking medical help, he discovered he had a congenital heart defect. A longtime cigarette smoker, he had been having circulation problems, and with the dangerous condition diagnosed, doctors advised a drastic fix: quadruple bypass surgery. He bounced back quickly and within a few weeks was taping his breezy banter with the Angels, and taking on arguably his most memorable movie role. Forsythe was initially wary about the supporting but pivotal part of Judge Henry Fleming in director Norman Jewison's " And Justice for All" (1979), as it flew in the face of his longtime image as an amicable square, but he decided to take the gamble. The black comedy/drama about the New York justice system saw him playing a harsh law-and-order judge who hires his in-court nemesis (Al Pacino) to defend him against a violent rape charge, to which, late in the film, Forsythe's character confesses in a bone-chilling display of sociopathic, cold-blooded arrogance. The role, he said later, raised so many eyebrows that he soon after received three or four more offers to play "heavies," which he declined, considering such roles "not my milieu."

By 1981, "Charlie's Angels" lost its sparkle and much of its audience, with ABC cancelling it after the 1980-81 season. But Spelling, partnering with producer-writers Richard and Esther Shapiro, would next hatch a vehicle that would bring Charlie in front of the cameras. Ever-riding TV's shifting tides, the hitmaker behind the "Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1987) and "Fantasy Island" (1978-1984), in 1982 brought to ABC a wholecloth construct of the Reagan era, entitled "Dynasty." The show followed the affairs and schemes of a wealthy Denver oil family, the Carringtons. ABC, seeing the project as its star-studded answer to the then-reigning nighttime soap opera, "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991), gave the go-ahead to what would become a moving stereotype of neo-Gilded Age of the 1980s. The producers cast George Peppard as the lordly, controlling, sometimes tenderhearted patriarch of the clan, but six days into the shooting of the pilot episode, they found him balking at flushing out the darker, more draconian side of Blake Carrington. Spelling made another eleventh-hour bailout call to Forsythe, this time to take the lead in a show.

Debuting as a mid-season replacement in January 1981, "Dynasty" introduced Blake struggling to balance his corporate empire and new marriage to lovely but fish-out-of-water former secretary Krystle (Linda Evans) with the travails of rebellious daughter Fallon, openly (and, to Blake, scandalously) gay son Steven and conniving oil baron competitors. It became a moderate hit, placing No. 20 in the primetime Nielsen ratings in its first season. But the next year, Joan Collins joined the cast as Blake's sultry, villainous first wife Alexis, and with their icy on-air feud and chess game of machinations, the show vaulted to No. 5 in season two, No. 2 in the 1984-85 season and, by the end of the next season, "Dynasty" unseated "Dallas" for the No. 1 ranking in broadcast television. Forsythe gathered a passel of awards recognition and high-profile ink, winning Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Drama in 1983 and 1984 and Soap Opera Digest's similar award in 1984.

Forsythe, entering his late sixties, became an unlikely sex symbol, even becoming the male face of a Carrington line of fragrances created by designer Yves St. Laurent. Still, "Dynasty" was littered with stock-in-trade camp and preposterous plotlines, highlighted by a Season five-capping wedding of Alexis's daughter to a prince of a fictional "Moldavia," which gathered most of the major characters for the regal ceremony just in time for a revolutionary uprising. Forsythe's character survived the massacre, along with a coma, amnesia, blindness, Alexis's brief takeover of his company and a run for Colorado governor, against Alexis - just a few of his handful of trials - before being shot in the final episode. The latter was meant to be a Season nine cliffhanger, but the show, as Forsythe admitted later, had grown stale. With "Dynasty" falling out of Nielsen's Top 30 in its final two seasons, ABC axed it.

Much of the "Dynasty" cast reunited in a 1991 miniseries, "Dynasty: The Reunion," which found Blake Carrington alive and healed. It was critically lambasted and frowned upon by purists who spotted an almost comic number of glaring continuity errors. Forsythe returned to series TV briefly the next year in a sitcom created by Norman Lear, "The Powers That Be" (NBC, 1992-93). He played a hapless veteran U.S. senator ill-equipped to cope with the dog-eat-dog political climat

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