Thayer David

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Thayer David
Thayer David.png
David in Columbo: Now You See Him (1976)
David Thayer Hersey

(1927-03-04)March 4, 1927
DiedJuly 17, 1978(1978-07-17) (aged 51)
Years active1950–1978
Spouse(s)Valerie French (1970-1975)

Thayer David (born David Thayer Hersey; March 4, 1927 – July 17, 1978) was an American film, stage and television actor. He was best known for his work on the cult ABC serial Dark Shadows (1966–71) and as the fight promoter Miles Jergens in the 1976 film Rocky. He also appeared as Count Arne Saknussemm in the film Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1959. His raspy distinctive voice narrated many voice-overs in commercials and instructional films.

Early life[edit]

Thayer David was born March 4, 1927, in Medford, Massachusetts. His father, Thayer Frye Hersey, was an executive in the paper pulp industry. David attended Harvard University in the 1940s but did not graduate, concentrating instead upon a career on the stage. With financial support from his father, he co-founded the Brattle Theater Company (1948–1952) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and established himself in the professional theatre.[1][2]

Stage career[edit]

He went on to act in The Relapse 1950 (Sir Tunbelly Clumsey);The Taming of the Shrew 1951 (Grumio); The Way of the World 1954 (Petulant); The Carefree Tree 1955 (The Sixth Son); King Lear 1956 (Duke of Cornwall); Mister Johnson 1956 (Gollup); Saint Joan 1956 (The Inquisitor); Protective Custody 1956 (Dr. Steidl); Oscar Wilde 1957 (Oscar Wilde); The Golden Six 1958 (Tiberius); A Man for All Seasons 1961 (Cardinal Wolsey); La Belle 1962; Andorra 1963 (pub keeper); The Seagull 1964 (Sorin); The Crucible 1964 (Danforth); Baker Street 1965 (Moriarty); The Royal Hunt of the Sun 1965 (Miguel Estete); Ring Round the Moon 1966 (Messerchann); Those That Play the Clowns 1966 (Henning); Breakfast at Tiffany's 1966 (Rusty Trawler); The Sorrows of Frederick 1967; The Bench 1968 (Phillipi); Uncle Vanya 1971 (Serebryakov); The Jockey Club Stakes 1973 (Sir Dymock Blackburn); The Dogs of Pavlov 1974.

Film and television[edit]

David played Count Saknussem in the film Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). From 1966 to 1971, David portrayed various characters on ABC's daytime phenomenon Dark Shadows. His many roles on Dark Shadows[3] included Matthew Morgan, Ben Stokes, Professor T. Elliot Stokes, Sandor Rakosi, Count Petofi, Timothy Stokes (PT), Mordecai Grimes, and Ben Stokes (PT).

On the big screen, he played Reverend Silas Pendrake in Little Big Man (1970).[4] He also played the afflicted spymaster Dragon in The Eiger Sanction (1975) with Clint Eastwood, and fight promoter Miles Jergens in Rocky (1976).[5]

He played numerous characters on different TV series including The Wild Wild West, The Rockford Files, Columbo, Ellery Queen, Kojak, Petrocelli, Charlie's Angels, Hawaii Five-O, and The Amazing Spider-Man.[citation needed]

David appeared in TV movies as Nikita Khrushchev in Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976) and The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), as well as miniseries such as Roots, The Rhinemann Exchange, and Washington: Behind Closed Doors.[citation needed]

In 1977, David played the title role in Nero Wolfe, Paramount Television's made-for-TV movie based on the Rex Stout novel The Doorbell Rang. David portrayed the corpulent detective Nero Wolfe, who took on clients grudgingly and solved mysteries dazzlingly. Intended to be the pilot for a series, the film was shelved by ABC. It eventually aired December 18, 1979, 17 months after David's death.[6] He also played an important role as the lead antagonist, Mr. Edward Byron in the made-for-TV film Spider-Man (1977), which served as the pilot for the 1978 TV series The Amazing Spider-Man.


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Baby Face Nelson Connelly
1958 A Time to Love and a Time to Die Oscar Binding
1958 Wolf Larsen Mugridge
1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth Count Saknussemm
1960 The Story of Ruth Hedak
1970 House of Dark Shadows Professor T. Eliot Stokes
1970 Little Big Man Rev. Silas Pendrake
1971 Night of Dark Shadows Rev. Strack
1972 Savages Otto Nurder, a Capitalist
1972 The Stoolie Lattimore
1973 Save the Tiger Charlie Robbins
1973 Happy Mother's Day, Love George Minister Pollard
1973 The Werewolf of Washington Inspector
1973 Fore Play General
1975 The Eiger Sanction Dragon
1975 Hearts of the West Bank Manager
1976 Peeper Frank Prendergast
1976 The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox Josiah Widdicombe (Mormon patriarch)
1976 Rocky Miles Jergens
1977 Fun with Dick and Jane Deacon
1977 Sudden Death Hauser
1977 Spider-Man Edward Byron
1978 House Calls Phil Pogostin

Personal life[edit]

A resident of Manhattan, Thayer David collected walking sticks, 18th-century European landscape paintings and Victorian furniture.[7] "He was the most widely educated and best-read actor I've ever encountered," said Frank D. Gilroy, who wrote and directed the 1977 TV movie Nero Wolfe.[8] His fellow cast members on Dark Shadows remembered him as a "walking encyclopedia" around the studio.[citation needed]

He was married to and divorced from film and television actress Valerie French.[9]

Thayer David died July 17, 1978, from a heart attack in New York City at the age of 51.[10] He and his former wife Valerie French had been planning to remarry.[11]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hamrick, Craig & Jamison, R. J. Barnabas & Company: The Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows Revised (2012) iUniverse, 2012. pp 93–107. ISBN 978-1-4759-1034-6


  1. ^ Pace, Eric, "Thayer David Dead; A Character Actor"; The New York Times, July 20, 1978
  2. ^ Brattle Theatre, The First Hundred Years Archived 2011-10-07 at the Wayback Machine' retrieved October 4, 2011
  3. ^ Lavery, David (2009). The Essential Cult TV Reader. Louisville: University Press of Kentucky. p. 87. ISBN 9780813125688.
  4. ^ Rainey, Buck (1998). Western Gunslingers in Fact and on Film: Hollywood's Famous Lawmen and Outlaws. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 214. ISBN 9780786403967.
  5. ^ Kibbey, Richard D. (2011). Pat Boone: The Hollywood Years. Mustang, Oklahoma: Tate Publishing & Enterprises. p. 156. ISBN 9781613461341.
  6. ^ Terrace, Vincent, Television 1970–1980. San Diego, California: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1981, ISBN 0-498-02539-X page 266
  7. ^ Pace, Eric, "Thayer David Dead: A Character Actor"; The New York Times, July 20, 1978
  8. ^ Gilroy, Frank D., I Wake Up Screening. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8093-1856-3 page 147
  9. ^ Collins, Glenn, "Valerie French, 59, Actress Who Played English Characters"; The New York Times, November 6, 1990
  10. ^ Pace, Eric, "Thayer David Dead; A Character Actor"; The New York Times, July 20, 1978
  11. ^ Collins, Glenn, "Valerie French, 59, Actress Who Played English Characters"; The New York Times, November 6, 1990

External links[edit]