David Hess

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David Hess
DavidHessPortrait cropped.jpg
Born David Alexander Hess
(1936-09-19)September 19, 1936
New York City, New York, United States
Died October 7, 2011(2011-10-07) (aged 75)
Tiburon, California, United States
Other names David Dante, David Hill
Occupation Actor, Songwriter, Film producer, Film director, Composer
Years active 1956–2011
Spouse(s) Regina Mardek

David Alexander Hess (September 19, 1936 – October 7, 2011) was an American actor, singer, and songwriter.

Early life[edit]

Hess was born David Alexander Hess on September 19, 1936 in New York City.[1] His mother, Marjory, was an opera singer. Hess was Jewish.[2]


Music career[edit]

In 1956, Hess recorded the original version of the Otis Blackwell composition "All Shook Up" under the stage name David Hill.[1] The next year the song became a #1 hit single for Elvis Presley.

He began his professional career as a songwriter for Shalimar Music in 1957. He composed "Start Movin'" for Sal Mineo and "Rockin' Shoes" for the Ames Brothers. In 1959 he recorded a cover version of Cliff Richard's "Living Doll" for Kapp Records and it became a mild placed charter for him on the US Billboard charts. He wrote songs for Elvis Presley throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which include "I Got Stung", "Come Along", and "Sand Castles". "Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love" became a 1960s hit when it was performed by Andy Williams. In 1962, Hess wrote and recorded "Speedy Gonzales", (as David Dante)[1][3] which became a #6 single for Pat Boone in the US and a #2 in the UK, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. Hess then recorded two solo albums for Kapp Records, again topping the charts, this time with a Top Ten folk hit called "Two Brothers."

In 1969, he became head of A&R at Mercury Records in New York. There he linked up with Western classical composer John Corigliano, and together they wrote the Grammy award-winning rock opera The Naked Carmen, which became a big hit of the Berlin Ballet Week in 1970. His work with Mercury also included And the Children Toll the Passing of the Day, a 1969 album he wrote for Irish actor Malachy McCourt.

Acting career[edit]

In 1972, his career split off into several new directions with his starring role in the Wes Craven horror classic Last House on the Left, for which he also composed the soundtrack. In that movie, he was noted to have been a reckless, merciless character.[1][4] He went on to score Buck at the Edge of Heaven (it), a children's film based on a collection of Jack London stories. The film won the top prize for film and direction at the Giffoni Film Festival. He also had roles in Hitchhike and The House on the Edge of the Park.

A subsequent job offer from PolyGram's German affiliate gave Hess the opportunity to move to Munich, Germany, and a multilingual career in film dubbing from 1972 to 1976 which in turn led him to writing the English language shooting scripts for such German directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Reinhard Hauff, and his present collaborator, Peter Schamoni.[3]

In 1980, he directed his first American feature film, To All a Good Night, for Media Home Entertainment in 1980. He also appeared in two horror films directed by Ruggero Deodato, La Casa sperduta nel parco (1980) and Camping del terrore (1987). He appeared as a villain in Wes Craven's Swamp Thing in 1982.

In 1991, he played the part of the American in Peter Schamoni's Max Ernst—My Wanderings, My Unrest (1991). From 1993 to 1995 he produced Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? (1996).

In later years, he released two albums, Caught Up In The Moment and Live & Unplugged in Hollywood, 2002. He lived in Northern California, just outside San Francisco, with his wife Regina Mardek, with whom he had three children.[5] He worked on several tracks for the horror film Cabin Fever (2003), directed by Eli Roth.

In 2013 One Way Static Records released the soundtrack to Last House on the Left on vinyl, compact disc, cassette and digital download. This was intended as a posthumous tribute and the liner notes on the release include extensive writings by David's family, colleagues and friends. This edition was repressed on a limited, hand numbered picture disc for Record Store Day 2014.


Hess died from a heart attack on October 7, 2011 in Tiburon, California. He was 75.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Cold Sweat Vermont aka Whitey Voice
1972 The Last House on the Left Krug Stillo
1976 Potato Fritz (de) Sleeve
1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Sando
1977 Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death Voice
1977 Hitch-Hike Adam Konitz
1979 Avalanche Express Geiger
1980 The House on the Edge of the Park Alex
1982 Swamp Thing Ferret
1983 White Star (de) Frank
1986 Armed and Dangerous Gunman #4
1986 Let's Get Harry Mercenary
1987 Body Count Robert Ritchie also known as Camping del Terrore
1989 Sindrome veneziana
1991 Omicidio a luci blu Sergeant Flanagan
1991 Buck ai confini del cielo (it) Dan
1995 Jonathan degli orsi Maddock
2001 Nutcracker John Gard/Clyde Fairfax
2004 Zombie Nation Aaron Singer III
2005 Zodiac Killer Mel Navokov
2006 The Absence of Light Whiplash
2006 Fallen Angels Kajal
2007 Used Aldo Modisco
2007 Go Together Aldo Modisco
2009 Smash Cut Able Whitman
2011 The Steppes Oleg
Year Title Role Notes
1976 21 Hours at Munich Berger Television film
1977 Baretta Bosco Episode: "All That Shatters"
1981 Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls Robaire Television film
1983 Knight Rider Donny Episode: "Short Notice"
1983 Manimal William Episode: "Illusion"
1985 Sadat Israeli Soldier Television film
1985 The Fall Guy Episode: "Reel Trouble"
1986 The A-Team Episode: "Dishpan Man"
1989 Oceano Kruger Television mini-series
1991 Die Kaltenbach-Papiere Television mini-series
1997 Noi siamo angeli Manuel Delgado Episodes: "Due facce da galera", "La fortuna piove dal cielo"
2010 Royal Pains Bob Ambrose Episode: "In Vino Veritas"
Year Title Role Notes
1980 To All a Goodnight Director
1996 Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? Producer Documentary
1999 The Green Monster Producer Television documentary
2004 Zombie Nation Production executive
2010 Steel Drums, No Guns Director, producer Short documentary
2011 Sketchy House Executive Producer
Year Title Notes
1964 The Ed Sullivan Show Soundtrack writer: "Speedy Gonzalez"; episode: season 17, episode 21; uncredited
1966 Frankie and Johnny Soundtrack writer: "Come Along"; uncredited
1966 Paradise, Hawaiian Style Soundtrack writer: "Sand Castles"
1972 Last House on the Left Soundtrack writer, performer, lyrics, music composer
1989 Cold Justice Composer
1989 Roger & Me Composer
1993 Lo Kolel Sherut Soundtrack writer; episode: season 3, episode 8
2002 Cabin Fever Soundtrack writer, performer: various
2003 Celluloid Crime of the Century video documentary short
2008 Manhunt Soundtrack writer, performer
2009 Melancholie der Engel Composer
2011 Sketchy House Composer, performer


  1. ^ a b c d "The Dead Rock Stars Club - 2011 July To December". thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/arts/music/david-hess-songwriter-and-actor-dies-at-75.html
  3. ^ a b Staff (October 13, 2009). "TRINITY OF TERRORS Guest Spotlight: The BADDIES of 1972's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT! - David Hess". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  4. ^ Hess, David (Guest); Morrison, John (Host) (September 25, 2011). Aspect Ratio - September 2011 (Television Production). San Rafael, CA: Community Media Center of Marin. Archived from the original on December 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  5. ^ a b Slotnik, Daniel E. (October 13, 2011). "David Hess, Songwriter and Actor, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 

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