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
Burial place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actor
Years active 1942–84
Spouse(s) Stephanie Klein
(m. 1940; her death 1950)

Valentina Cortese
(m. 1951; div. 1960)

Diana Lotery
(m. 1962; his death 1984)
Children Jackie Basehart

John Richard Basehart (August 31, 1914 – September 17, 1984) was an American actor. He starred as Admiral Harriman Nelson in the television science fiction-drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964–68). He also prominently portrayed Wilton Knight in the series Knight Rider (1982–86).

Basehart was equally active in cinema, receiving National Board of Review Awards for his performances in Fourteen Hours (1951) and Moby Dick (1956). He was further nominated for a BAFTA Award for his role in Time Limit (1957), the directorial debut of Karl Malden.


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). From 1964-68, 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.

Basehart narrated a wide range of television and movie projects. In 1964, he narrated the David Wolper documentary about the Kennedy assassination, Four Days in November. 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.

Basehart 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. He accepted the lead role in the 1962 film Hitler. In 1971, he 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. He 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, Basehart appeared in the Columbo episode "Dagger of the Mind' in which he and Honor Blackman played a husband-and-wife theatrical team who accidentally kill Sir Roger Haversham, the producer of their rendition of Macbeth.

Basehart played a supporting role as a doctor in the feature film Rage (1972), a theatrical feature starring and directed by George C. Scott. Basehart 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 born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of Mae (née Wetherald) and Harry T. Basehart.[1] He was married three times. After the death of his first wife Stephanie Klein, he married Italian Academy Award-nominated actress Valentina Cortese, with whom he had one son, actor Jackie Basehart; the couple divorced in 1960. In 1962, he married his third wife, Diana Lotery, with whom he had two children and remained married until his death in 1984.[2]


Basehart died in Los Angeles on September 17, 1984, following a series of strokes. He was 70 years old. His body was cremated, and the ashes interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[3] He had died eight days before Walter Pidgeon, his film counterpart in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Selected filmography[edit]


Year Award Category Title Result Ref
1951 National Board of Review Awards Best Actor Fourteen Hours Won [4]
1956 Best Supporting Actor Moby Dick [5]
1958 BAFTA Awards Best Foreign Actor Time Limit Nominated [6]
1960 Hollywood Walk of Fame Motion Pictures - Inducted [7]


  1. ^ "Richard Basehart Biography (1914-)". 1914-08-31. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  2. ^ Richard Basehart on IMDb
  3. ^ Krebs, Albin (September 19, 1984). "Richard Basehart, Stage And Screen Star, Dies". Retrieved June 8, 2017. 
  4. ^ "1951 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  5. ^ "1956 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  6. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  7. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Richard Basehart". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 14, 2017. 

External links[edit]