Richard Basehart

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Richard Basehart
Richard Basehart 1969.JPG
Basehart in 1969.
Born John Richard Basehart
(1914-08-31)August 31, 1914
Zanesville, Ohio, U.S.
Died September 17, 1984(1984-09-17) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
stroke
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942–84
Spouse(s) Stephanie Klein (m. 1940–50)
Valentina Cortese (m. 1951–60)
Diana Lotery (m. 1962–84) his death

John Richard Basehart (August 31, 1914 – September 17, 1984) was an American actor. He starred in the 1960s television science fiction drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, in the role of Admiral Harriman Nelson.

Career[edit]

One of his most notable film roles was the acrobat known as "the Fool" in the acclaimed Italian film La Strada (1954), directed by Federico Fellini. He also appeared as the killer in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948), as a psychotic member of the Hatfield clan in Roseanna McCoy (1949), as Ishmael in Moby Dick (1956), and in the drama Decision Before Dawn (1951). He was married to Italian Academy Award-nominated actress Valentina Cortese, with whom he had one son, the actor Jackie Basehart, before their divorce in 1960. Cortese and Basehart also costarred in Robert Wise's The House on Telegraph Hill (1951).

From 1964 to 1968, Basehart played the lead role, Admiral Harriman Nelson, on Irwin Allen's first foray into science-fiction television, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Although Basehart started his career as a film actor, he became best known for his role on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It would be only eight days after the death of Basehart that Walter Pidgeon, who played the role of Adm. Harriman Nelson in the movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, would pass away.

Basehart was noted for his deep, distinctive voice and narrated a wide range of television and movie projects. In 1980, Basehart narrated the mini-series written by Peter Arnett called Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War that covered Vietnam and its battles from the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945 to the final American embassy evacuation on April 30, 1975. He appeared in the pilot episode of the television series Knight Rider as billionaire Wilton Knight. He is the narrator at the beginning of the show's credits.

Basehart starred as Adolf Hitler in the 1962 film of that name. In 1971, Basehart played "Captain Sligo", a comical Irishman with a pet buffalo who negotiates a flawed but legal cattle purchase and unconventionally courts a widow with two children, played by Salome Jens, in CBS's western series, Gunsmoke, with James Arness. Basehart appeared in "Probe 7, Over and Out", an episode of The Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, and as Hannibal Applewood, an abusive schoolteacher in Little House on the Prairie in 1976.

In 1972, he appeared in the Columbo episode Dagger of the Mind in which he and Honor Blackman played a husband-and-wife theatrical team who were loose parodies of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. In the feature realm, he played a supporting role as a doctor in Rage (1972), a theatrical feature starring and directed by George C. Scott. He made a few TV movies including Sole Survivor (1970) and The Birdmen (1971). Both were based on true stories during World War II. In 1979, he appeared as a Russian diplomat with Peter Sellers in Being There.

Personal life[edit]

Richard Basehart's grave

Basehart was married three times. After the death of his first wife Stephanie Klein, he wed Italian actress Valentina Cortese (whose name was spelled Cortesa in American films), with whom he had a child, Jackie Basehart. After their divorce, Basehart married Diana Lotery, with whom he founded the charity Actors and Others for Animals. The charity was created after Basehart saw a small dog get thrown from a fast-moving vehicle on a Los Angeles freeway. He was reportedly so emotionally moved by the tragedy that he started the non-profit organization.

Basehart died at age 70 following a series of strokes. One month before his death, Basehart was an announcer for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Legacy in popular culture[edit]

He had a notable fan in the character of Gypsy from the cult cable television program Mystery Science Theater 3000. Basehart is mentioned in the song "The Radio Is Broken" on the 1983 Frank Zappa album The Man from Utopia. Basehart was well known for his sole appearance as billionaire and philanthropist Wilton Knight on Knight Rider. Basehart guested in the series premiere episode "Knight of the Phoenix"(1982). Basehart also provided the narration at the end of the episodes and Basehart contributed voiceover to the show's credits.

Partial filmography[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]