David Janssen
Janssen in The Fugitive (1963)
David Harold Meyer

(1931-03-27)March 27, 1931
DiedFebruary 13, 1980(1980-02-13) (aged 48)
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1945–1980
Ellie Graham
(m. 1958; div. 1968)
Dani Crayne
(m. 1975)

David Janssen (born David Harold Meyer; March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) was an American film and television actor who is best known for his starring role as Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (1963–1967). Janssen also had the title roles in three other series: Richard Diamond, Private Detective; O'Hara, U.S. Treasury and Harry O.

In 1996 TV Guide ranked him number 36 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list.[1]

Early life

David Janssen in 1957

David Janssen was born on March 27, 1931, in Naponee, a village in Franklin County in southern Nebraska, to Harold Edward Meyer, a banker, and Berniece Graf, a former Miss Nebraska and Ziegfeld girl. [2] Following his parents' divorce in 1935, his mother moved with five-year-old David to Los Angeles, and married Eugene Janssen in 1940. Young David used his stepfather's name after he entered show business as a child.[citation needed]

He attended Fairfax High School, where he excelled on the basketball court, setting a school scoring record that lasted over 20 years. His first film part was at the age of thirteen, and by the age of twenty-five he had appeared in twenty films and served two years as an enlisted man in the United States Army. During his Army days, Janssen became a friend of fellow enlistees Martin Milner and Clint Eastwood while posted at Fort Ord, California.[citation needed]

Acting career

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Janssen as Richard Diamond (1959)
David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble in the TV series The Fugitive, 1967 (final episode)
Janssen in Harry O (1975)

Janssen starred in four television series of his own:

At the time of its airing in August 1967, the final episode of The Fugitive held the record for the greatest number of American homes with television sets to watch a series finale — 72 percent.[3] In 1996 TV Guide ranked The Fugitive number 36 on its 50 Greatest Shows of All Time list.[4]

His films include: To Hell and Back, the biography of Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier of World War II; Hell to Eternity, a 1960 American World War II biopic starring Jeffrey Hunter as a Hispanic boy who fought in the Battle of Saipan and who was raised by Japanese-American foster parents; John Wayne's Vietnam war film The Green Berets; opposite Gregory Peck, in the space story Marooned, in which Janssen played an astronaut sent to rescue three stranded men in space; and The Shoes of the Fisherman, as a television journalist in Rome reporting on the election of a new Pope (Anthony Quinn).

He also played pilot Harry Walker in the 1973 action movie Birds of Prey. He starred as a Los Angeles police detective trying to clear himself in the killing of an apparently innocent doctor in the 1967 film Warning Shot, which was shot during a break in the spring and summer of 1966 between the third and fourth seasons of The Fugitive.

Janssen played an alcoholic in the 1977 TV movie A Sensitive, Passionate Man, which co-starred Angie Dickinson, and played an engineer who devises an unbeatable system for blackjack in the 1978 made-for-TV movie Nowhere to Run, co-starring Stefanie Powers and Linda Evans. Janssen's impressively husky voice was used to good effect as the narrator for the TV mini-series Centennial (1978–79); he also appeared in the final episode. And in 1979 he starred in the made-for-TV mini series S.O.S. Titanic as John Jacob Astor, playing opposite Beverly Ross as his wife, Madeleine.

Though Janssen's scenes were cut from the final release, he also appeared as a journalist in the film Inchon, which he accepted in order to work with Laurence Olivier, who played General Douglas MacArthur. At the time of his death, Janssen had just begun filming a television movie playing the part of Father Damien, the priest who dedicated himself to the leper colony on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The part was eventually reassigned to actor Ken Howard of the CBS series The White Shadow.

Personal life

In 1974

Janssen was married twice. His first marriage was to model and interior decorator Ellie Graham, whom he married in Las Vegas on August 25, 1958.[5] They divorced in 1968.[6] In 1975, he married actress and model Dani Crayne Greco. They remained married until Janssen's death.[7]


Janssen was a heavy smoker who smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day.[8] He died from a sudden heart attack in the early morning of February 13, 1980, at his beachfront home in Malibu, California, at the age of 48.[6][9] At the time of his death, Janssen was filming the television movie Father Damien. Janssen was buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.[10] A non-denominational funeral was held at the Jewish chapel of the cemetery on February 17. Suzanne Pleshette delivered the eulogy at the request of Janssen's widow. Milton Berle, Johnny Carson, Tommy Gallagher, Richard Harris, Stan Herman, Rod Stewart and Gregory Peck were among Janssen's pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers included Jack Lemmon, George Peppard, James Stewart and Danny Thomas.[11][12]

According to friend and Fugitive co-star Barry Morse, "David Janssen was well known as one of the hardest working actors in the USA," regularly working 12–14 hours a day, and he kept working until his early death.[citation needed]

For his contribution to the television industry, David Janssen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located on the 7700 block of Hollywood Boulevard.[13]

Selected filmography

Television films

Television series



  1. ^ "TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time [1996]". Am I annoying.
  2. ^ Eder, Shirley (February 20, 1980). "'Angels' Will Be Back – Without Shelly Hack". St. Petersburg Independent. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. p. 12-B.
  3. ^ Battaglio, Stephen (August 26, 2017). "50 years before peak TV, 'The Fugitive' set a precedent for big series finales". LA Times. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  4. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. New York: Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 693. ISBN 978-0760756348. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  5. ^ "Private Eye Caught". The Miami News. August 25, 1958. p. 3A.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b Arar, Yardena (February 14, 1980). "Actor David Janssen Dies of Heart Attack at Age 48". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. p. 3-A.
  7. ^ Gliatto, Tom (September 13, 1993). "The First Fugitive". People. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Heather Keets (August 27, 1993). "The end of The Fugitive". EW. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  9. ^ Seiler, Michael (February 14, 1980). "From the Archives: Massive Heart Attack Kills Actor David Janssen, 48". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  10. ^ White, Robert; White, Phyllis (2000). Hollywood and the Best of Los Angeles. Hunter Publishing. p. 569. ISBN 978-1588433343.
  11. ^ "Friends turn out to bid farewell to David Janssen". Montreal Gazette. United Press International. February 19, 1980. p. 69.
  12. ^ Smith, Liz (April 28, 1986). "Janssen 'Scandal Saga' in Works". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  13. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: David Janssen". Los Angeles Times.