Fess Elisha Parker Jr. (born F.E. Parker; August 16, 1924 – March
18, 2010) was an American film and television actor best known for
his portrayals of
Davy Crockett in the
Walt Disney 1955–1956 TV
miniseries and as
Daniel Boone in a television series from 1964 to
1970. He was also known for being a winemaker and resort
1 Early years
2.1 Davy Crockett
3 After Walt Disney
3.1 Daniel Boone
Fess Parker Winery
6 Personal life
9 See also
11 External links
Parker was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised on a farm in Tom
Green County near San Angelo. His father, a tax assessor, had the
same first name which had been given to him in honor of the educator
and politician Simeon D. Fess. The middle name "Elisha" was chosen
by the future actor himself, when he was a teenager (around 1937),
because it sounded rhythmic and matched his middle initial.
He enlisted in the
U.S. Navy in the latter part of World War II,
hoping to become a pilot. He was turned down because he was too tall
at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m). He then tried to become
a radioman gunner, but he was found too big to fit comfortably into
the rear cockpit. He was finally transferred to the Marine Corps as a
radio operator and shipped out for the South Pacific shortly before
the atom bomb ended the war.
Discharged in 1946, he enrolled at
Hardin–Simmons University on the
GI Bill. After an automobile collision, he was stabbed in the neck by
the other driver during an argument. He was an active member of the
H-SU Players Club and transferred to the
University of Texas
University of Texas in 1947
as a history major and continued to be active in drama. Parker
graduated from UT in 1950 with a degree in history. He had been
initiated into the
Pi Kappa Alpha
Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Having one year
remaining on his GI Bill, he studied drama at the University of
Southern California, where he studied for a master's degree in theater
Parker began his show-business career in summer 1951 when he had a
$32-a-week job as an extra in the play Mister Roberts, although he
is credited with the voice of Leslie, the chauffeur, in the 1950 film
Harvey. Within months, he was on location with a minor part in Untamed
Joseph Cotten and Shelley Winters.
Parker became a contract player with Warner Bros., appearing in small
roles in several films such as Springfield Rifle (1952), Island in the
Sky, The Bounty Hunter and Battle Cry. In 1954, he appeared as Grat
Dalton in the Jim Davis syndicated Western anthology series Stories of
the Century in the episode The Dalton Brothers.
Davy Crockett (TV miniseries)
Fess Parker as
Davy Crockett addresses the city of
Philadelphia in the
Walt Disney television miniseries
Sandra Warner in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
According to Parker himself, when the
Walt Disney Company was seeking
an actor to play Davy Crockett, James Arness, later cast as Marshal
Matt Dillon on CBS's Gunsmoke, was first considered for the title
role. Parker had recently graduated to being a contract weekly actor,
but listened to his agent and appeared in a
Warner Bros. science
fiction film about giant ants called Them!, which required only one
day's work. He had a small scene as a pilot put into an insane asylum
after claiming his plane had been downed by giant flying insects.
Arness appeared in a larger role in the same film.
During the screening of this film,
Walt Disney looked past Arness and
discovered Parker. Disney was impressed by Parker's portrayal of a man
who was unswerving in his belief in what he saw despite the forces of
authority against him. Parker was asked to drop by the Disney Studio.
When he did, he brought his guitar, met Disney, sang a song, and then
said goodbye. Several weeks later, Parker was informed that he had
been selected over Arness and several others for the role, including
Buddy Ebsen, who eventually played Crockett's sidekick, George
Disney's three-episode version of Crockett depicted his exploits as a
frontiersman, congressman, and tragic hero of the Alamo. The episodes
have been called the first television miniseries, though the term had
not yet been coined.
Davy Crockett (1954–55) was a tremendous hit
and led to a merchandising frenzy for coonskin caps and all things
Parker became a contract star for Disney and appeared in The Great
Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller, and The Light
in the Forest. He complained that they were all basically the same
role. Disney refused to loan Parker for roles outside that persona,
such as Jeffrey Hunter's role opposite
John Wayne in The Searchers and
Marilyn Monroe's leading man in Bus Stop.
Parker was dissatisfied with Disney's proposal to only use him in a
small role in Tonka. He was put on suspension for refusing the role,
and subsequently left Disney.
After Walt Disney
Parker made guest appearances on many television programs, and
composed and sang. He performed the occasional role of Tom Conrad,
editor of the Diablo Courier in the syndicated western series, Annie
Oakley (1954–1957), starring Gail Davis, Brad Johnson, and Jimmy
Parker was contracted to
Paramount Pictures from 1958 to 1962. He
appeared in a small assortment of Paramount movies, including a cameo
as an unnamed frontiersman in Bob Hope's Western comedy Alias Jesse
James and supporting roles in The Hangman (1959) with Robert Taylor,
The Jayhawkers! (1959) with Jeff Chandler, and Hell Is for Heroes
(1962) with Steve McQueen.
In 1962, he starred in the title role of the TV series Mr Smith Goes
to Washington, portraying the same idealistic character that James
Stewart had played in the 1939 film. Parker took to the stage in 1963,
in a traveling production of
Oklahoma! as Curly. The movie roles he
sought were elusive. In 1966, Parker starred in the movie Smoky,
George Sherman where he played the role of Clint Barkley,
who finds a black stallion named Smoky a wild stallion who eventually
becomes a wonderful cutting horse and the best friend an old cowboy
could ever want.
Daniel Boone (1964 TV series)
Fess Parker as
Daniel Boone with Brock Peters
Daniel Boone television series portraying another historic
figure of America's frontier days began filming in 1964. Over its six
years (1964 to 1970) as one of the highest-rated shows of its time,
Parker was not only the star of the series, but also the co-producer
and director of five of its most popular episodes.
Parker became interested in opening a Davy Crockett-themed amusement
park. In the late 1960s, he optioned land in northern Kentucky at the
confluence of Interstates 71 and 75, with the intention of building
Frontier World. However, when the
Taft Broadcasting Company
Taft Broadcasting Company of
Cincinnati, Ohio, began building
Kings Island Amusement Park in nearby
Mason, Ohio, less than a 2-hour drive from Parker's site, financing
for Parker's venture dried up.
Turning down the title role of McCloud, Parker retired from acting at
the age of 49 after a sitcom pilot called The
Fess Parker Show was
broadcast on March 28, 1974, but was not subsequently picked up by the
Fess Parker was nominated for best new personality Emmy in 1954, but
lost to George Gobel. He was never nominated again, nor was his show
In 1991, he was named a Disney Legend.
In 2003, Parker received the Texas Cultural Trust's "Texas Medal of
Arts Award", established only the year before.
For his work with Disney, Parker was honored in December 2004 with his
own tribute window on a façade in the
Frontierland section of
Fess Parker Winery
Fess Parker Winery in Los Olivos, California
Fess Parker in 1985
After his acting career, Parker devoted much of his time to operating
Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos,
California. The winery is owned and operated by Parker's family,
and has produced several different types of award-winning wines.
Parker's son, Eli, is President and Director of Winemaking and
Vineyard Operations, while daughter, Ashley, is Vice President of
Marketing and Sales.
The Parker operation includes over 1,500 acres (610 ha) of
vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen
Canyon Wine Trail. In addition to wine, the winery is known for
selling coonskin caps and bottle toppers inspired by Parker's Crockett
and Boone characters, and for its appearance under another name in the
In reminiscence of his acting days, Parker's wine labels have a logo
of a golden coonskin cap. The
Fess Parker Winery is one of the
wineries along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
In 1985, Parker briefly flirted with running for the US Senate as a
Republican for the seat of incumbent Democrat Alan Cranston. He
considered himself a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.
Parker married Marcella Belle Rinehart on January 18, 1960. They had
two children, Fess Elisha Parker III and Ashley Allen Rinehart, along
with 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Parker died of natural causes on March 18, 2010, at his home in Santa
Ynez, California, near the
Fess Parker Winery.
The handprints of
Fess Parker in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater
Walt Disney World's
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park
Parker as Daniel Boone
George Sanders with Parker as Boone (1966)
No Room for the Groom
Man on a Tightrope
Take Me to Town
The Kid from Left Field
Island in the Sky
Thunder Over the Plains
The Bounty Hunter
Wild Cowboy at Finale
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
The Great Locomotive Chase
James J. Andrews
Davy Crockett and the River Pirates
Westward Ho, The Wagons!
John 'Doc' Grayson
The Light in the Forest
Sheriff Buck Weston
Alias Jesse James
Hell Is for Heroes
Daniel Boone: Frontier Trail Rider
Climb an Angry Mountain
Sheriff Elisha Cooper
Dragnet: The Big Winchester
"Annie Oakley: (May 8th, 1954), Annie and the Texas Sandman"
Death Valley Days: (1954) Season 2,Ep 15, Kickapoo Run
Davy Crockett (miniseries 1954–1955)
City Detective (1 episode, 1955)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1962–1963)
Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Alfred Hitchcock Hour "Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale," as Sheriff
Ben Wister (1963)
Daniel Boone (lead cast member from 1964–1970, with Ed Ames,
Patricia Blair, Darby Hinton, and Veronica Cartwright)
Climb an Angry Mountain (1972)
Fess Parker Show (1974) (unsold pilot)
Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure
Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure (2007) (as himself, discussing wine
List of celebrities who own wineries and vineyards
^ a b c Weaver, Tom. Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62
Filmmakers, p. 148 (McFarland 2012).
^ a b c (March 18, 2010)
Fess Parker Dies at 85"
CBS News Accessed March 18, 2010
^ Obituary London Guardian, March 19, 2010.
^ Obituary London Independent, March 25, 2010.
^ "Disney Legends Award: Fess Parker-1991" Disney.com
Davy Crockett actor
Fess Parker dies, aged 85". BBC. 19 March
^ Duke, Alan (March 18, 2010). "'Daniel Boone' star
Fess Parker dies".
^ a b c Seale, Avrel (July–August 2003). "Playing the Hero". The
Alcalde. University of Texas. 91 (6): 34–37. Retrieved 19 March
^ a b McLellan, Dennis (March 18, 2010). "Fess Parker, who played Davy
Daniel Boone on TV, dies at 85". The Los Angeles Times.
Retrieved March 18, 2010.
^ a b c d Richard Severo (March 19, 2010) "Fess Parker, Who as Davy
Crockett Set Off Coonskin Cap Craze, Dies at 85", New York Times
Accessed March 19, 2010
Fess Parker Interview Playset Magazine #34
^ "Annie Oakley". tvacres.com. Archived from the original on February
4, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
^ a b Official Website Biography Page Accessed March 18, 2010
^ Tom O'Neil (March 18, 2010) "
Fess Parker had that cool coonskin cap
– who needs an Emmy?" , Los Angeles Times, Accessed March 19, 2010
^ Associated Press (7 February 2003). "Talented Texans to be Honored".
The Houston Chronicle. p. 2. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
^ (March 18, 2003) "2003 Texas Medal of Arts Award Winners to Be
Celebrated Tuesday, March 25" PRNewswire, Accessed March 19, 2010
^ Heather Hust Rivera (December 18th, 2009) "Did You Miss It? Davy
Crockett’s Window in Frontierland" Disney Accessed May 25, 2010
^ a b Official
Fess Parker Website fessparker.com
^ Eric Lindberg (March 18, 2010)"Fess Parker, famed actor and
hotelier, dies at 85" , The Daily Sound, Accessed March 19, 2010
^ Los Angeles Times,
Fess Parker Has Eye on Senate
^ "People Magazine", He Died as
Davy Crockett at the Alamo, but Actor
Fess Parker Lives Oh as a California Hotel Baron
^ Orange County Register,
Fess Parker dies – played Davy Crockett
^ Climb An Angry Mountain 1972, YouTube
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fess Parker.
Fess Parker interview video at the Archive of American Television
Official bio and winery information
Fess Parker Facebook Fanpage
Fess Parker on IMDb
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