Richard Basehart
Basehart in 1969
John Richard Basehart

(1914-08-31)August 31, 1914
DiedSeptember 17, 1984(1984-09-17) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Burial placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1942–1984
Stephanie Klein
(m. 1940; died 1950)
(m. 1951; div. 1960)
Diana Lotery
(m. 1962)
Children3, including Jackie

John Richard Basehart[citation needed] (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 portrayed Wilton Knight in the pilot episode of the TV series Knight Rider (1982), and provided the narration that was heard during the opening credits throughout the entire series.

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 only film directed by Karl Malden. He appeared in a number of British and Italian films in the mid-1950s, including Fellini's La Strada and Il Bidone.


Basehart made his film debut with Repeat Performance (1947). So confident was Eagle-Lion Films in his performance that the film was first screened in his hometown.[1] He soon appeared as the killer in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948) for Eagle-Lion, then he appeared as a psychotic member of the Hatfield clan in Roseanna McCoy (1949), as a timid husband in Tension (1950), as Ishmael in Moby Dick (1956), in the drama Decision Before Dawn (1951), George S. Healey in Titanic (1953) and as Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov (1958).

One of his most notable film roles was the acrobat and clown known as "the Fool" in the acclaimed Italian film La Strada (1954), directed by Federico Fellini.[2] He portrayed a high priest in Kings of the Sun (1963). 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.[3]

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.[4] In 1980, Basehart narrated the miniseries 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.[5]

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.[6] He accepted the lead role in the 1962 film Hitler. He appeared in "Probe 7, Over and Out", an episode of The Twilight Zone,[7] 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 Honor Blackman and he played a husband-and-wife theatrical team who accidentally kill Sir Roger Haversham, the producer of their rendition of Macbeth.[8]

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. Also in the 1970s, he co-starred in Chato's Land (1972) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977). In 1979, he appeared as a Russian diplomat with Peter Sellers in Being There.[3]

One month before his death, Basehart narrated a poem during the extinguishing of the flame at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics.[9][10]

Personal life

Richard Basehart's grave

Basehart was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of Mae (née Wetherald) and Harry T. Basehart.[citation needed] 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.[11][12] In 1962, he married his third wife, Diana Lotery, with whom he had two children. He and Diana remained married until his death in 1984.[13]


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]



Year Title Role Notes
1947 Repeat Performance William Williams
Cry Wolf James Demarest
1948 He Walked by Night Roy Martin / Roy Morgan
1949 Roseanna McCoy Mounts Hatfield
Reign of Terror Maximilian Robespierre
1950 Tension Warren Quimby / Paul Sothern
Outside the Wall Larry Nelson
Side Street Bank Teller Uncredited
1951 Fourteen Hours Robert Cosick
The House on Telegraph Hill Alan Spender
Fixed Bayonets! Cpl. Denno
Decision Before Dawn Lt. Dick Rennick
1953 Titanic George Healey
1954 The Stranger's Hand Joe Hamstringer
Angels of Darkness Bit Part Uncredited
The Good Die Young Joe Halsey
La Strada The Fool
Avanzi di galera Dottor Stefano Luprandi
1955 Canyon Crossroads Larry Kendall
Le avventure di Cartouche Il conte Jacques de Maudy
Golden Vein Ing. Stefano Manfredi
Il bidone Raul detto Picasso
1956 The Extra Day Joe Blake
Moby Dick Ishmael
The Intimate Stranger aka Finger of Guilt Reginald 'Reggie' Wilson
1957 Miracles of Thursday Martino
Time Limit Maj. Harry Cargill
1958 The Brothers Karamazov Ivan Karamazov
Love and Troubles Paolo Martelli
1959 The Restless and the Damned George Rancourt
Jons und Erdme Wittkuhn, der Schmied
1960 Five Branded Women Capt. Eric Reinhardt
Portrait in Black Howard Mason
For the Love of Mike Father Francis Phelan
Passport to China Don Benton
1962 Hitler Adolf Hitler
Savage Guns Steve Fallon
1963 Kings of the Sun Ah Min
1965 The Satan Bug Dr. Gregor Hoffman
1969 Love Is a Funny Thing Acteur - cameo appearance
Giotto Narrator (voice)
1972 Chato's Land Nye Buell
Rage Dr. Roy Caldwell
1976 Mansion of the Doomed Dr. Leonard Chaney
1977 The Island of Dr. Moreau Sayer of the Law
1978 The Great Bank Hoax Manny Benchly
1979 Being There Vladimir Skrapinov


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Studio One Matt Donovan 2 episodes
1957–1960 Playhouse 90 Martin Lambert / David Connelly / Lionel Amblin / Himself - Host 4 episodes
1958 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre David Manning Episode: "Medal for Valor"
1960 DuPont Show of the Month Dr. George Ferguson Episode: "Men in White"
1960 Shangri-La Hugh Conway Television film
1961 The Play of the Week Stranger Episode: "He Who Gets Slapped"
1961 The Light That Failed Dick Heldar Television film
1961 Rawhide Tod Stone S4:E7, "The Black Sheep"
1962 The Paradine Case Anthony Keane Television film
1962 Theatre '62 Anthony Keane Episode: "The Paradine Case"
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week Narrator Episode: "D-Day"
1962 Naked City Lester Bergson Episode: "Dust Devil on a Quiet Street"
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Phillip Townsend Season 1 Episode 9: "The Black Curtain"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Miles Crawford Season 2 Episode 7: "Starring the Defense"
1963 Route 66 Julian Roebuck Episode: "You Can't Pick Cotton in Tahiti"
1963 The Dick Powell Theatre Judge Zachary Episode: "The Judge"
1963 Combat! Capt. Steiner 2 episodes
1963 Ben Casey Mark Cassidy Episode: "Light Up the Dark Corners"
1963 Arrest and Trial Alexander Stafford Episode: "Inquest Into a Bleeding Heart"
1963 The Twilight Zone Adam Cook Episode: "Probe 7, Over and Out"
1964–1968 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Admiral Harriman "Harry" Nelson 108 episodes
1965 Lost in Space Shakespeare-Reading Tape Recorder Voice Episode: "The Derelict"
1968 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Narrator Documentary
1969 Hans Brinker Dr. Boekman Television film
1970 Sole Survivor Brig. Gen. Russell Hamner Television film
1970 The Andersonville Trial Henry Wirz Television film
1970 Ironside Noel Seymour Episode: "Noel's Gonna Fly"
1970 Dan August Prof. Theodore Rye Episode: "Quadrangle for Death"
1971 Gunsmoke Captain Aron Sligo Episode: "Captain Sligo"
1971 City Beneath the Sea the President Television film
1971 They've Killed President Lincoln! Host / Narrator Television film
1971 The Birdmen Schiller Television film
1971 The Death of Me Yet Robert Barnes Television film
1972 Assignment: Munich Maj. Barney Caldwell Television film
1972 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Dr. Stephen McLayne Episode: "Is This Operation Necessary?"
1972 The Bounty Man Angus Keough Television film
1972 Columbo Nicholas Frame Episode: "Dagger of the Mind"
1973 Hawaii Five-O Murdock Episode: "The Odd Lot Caper"
1973 And Millions Will Die Dr. Douglas Pruitt Television film
1973 Maneater Carl Brenner Television film
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. Reece Sutton / Professor Andrew Kirkcastle 2 episodes
1974 The First Woman President Woodrow Wilson Television film
1975 Judgment: The Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley George Latimer Television film
1975 The American Parade Lambdin Milligan Episode: "The Case Against Milligan"
1975 Medical Story Dr. Charles Galpin Episode: "The God Syndrome"
1975 Joe Forrester Al Morgan Episode: "No Probable Cause"
1975 Valley Forge Gen. George Washington Television film
1976 The Streets of San Francisco Bishop Tim Farrow Episode: "Requiem for Murder"
1976 Little House on the Prairie Hannibal Applewood Episode: "Troublemaker"
1976 Time Travelers Dr. Joshua Henderson Television film
1976 21 Hours at Munich Chancellor Willy Brandt Television film
1976 Flood! John Cutler Television film
1977 Stonestreet: Who Killed the Centerfold Model? Elliott Osborn Television film
1978 How the West Was Won Colonel Flint 3 episodes
1978 Once Upon a Classic King Arthur Episode: "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"
1978 The Critical List Matt Kinsella Television film
1978 W.E.B. Gus Dunlap 5 episodes
1979 The Rebels Duke of Kentland Television miniseries
1979 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Johtan Episode: "Tower of Babel"
1979 The Christmas Songs Television film
1980 Marilyn: The Untold Story Johnny Hyde Television film
1981 Vegas J. Terrance Wainwright Episode: "Set Up"
1981 Masada Narrator, Modern Day Scene Television miniseries
1981 The Love Boat Stan Ellis Episode: "Chef's Special/Beginning Anew/Kleinschmidt"
1981 Mr. Merlin Herbert Montrose Episode: "A Moment in Camelot"
1982–1986 Knight Rider Narrator (voice) / Wilton Knight Episode: "Knight of the Phoenix: Part 1"[a]
83 episodes[b]
1983 Tales of the Unexpected Slade Episode: "The Turn of the Tide"
1983 The Crowded Life Narrator Television film

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result Ref
1951 National Board of Review Awards Best Actor Fourteen Hours Won [14]
1956 Best Supporting Actor Moby Dick [15]
1958 BAFTA Awards Best Foreign Actor Time Limit Nominated [16]
1960 Hollywood Walk of Fame Motion Pictures - Inducted [17]


  1. ^ as Wilton Knight
  2. ^ as Narrator


  1. ^ "Noir Alley: Eddie Muller on Repeat Performance (1947)".
  2. ^ Weiler, A.h. (July 17, 1956). "Screen: A Truthful Italian Journey; 'La Strada' Is Tender, Realistic Parable". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Krebs, Albin (September 19, 1984). "Richard Basehart, Stage And Screen Star, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "'Four Days in November,' Documentary on Assassination". The New York Times. October 8, 1964. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  5. ^ "Television and Vietnam". The New York Times. August 16, 1987. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Nuthall, Paul (August 31, 2014). "Remembering Richard Basehart". Knight Rider Archives. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  7. ^ Rubin, Steve (November 29, 2017). "November 29 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the 1963 premiere of 'Probe 7, Over and Out'". Syfy Wire. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  8. ^ Sabin, Roger; Wilson, Ronald; Speidel, Linda; Faucette, Brian; Bethell, Ben (2015). Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-7864-4819-7.
  9. ^ Litsky, Frank (August 13, 1984). "A STRIKING CLOSING CEREMONY". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  10. ^ "Actor Richard Basehart dead at 70". United Press International. September 19, 1984. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  11. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (July 10, 2019). "Valentina Cortese Dies: Italian Actress, Oscar-Nominated For François Truffaut's 'Day For Night', Was 96". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  12. ^ Bergan, Ronald; Lane, John Francis (July 10, 2019). "Valentina Cortese obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Vils, Ursula (September 22, 1986). "Artist Diana Basehart Back at Work on Her Pet Projects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Archives: 1951 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  15. ^ "Archives: 1956 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  16. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search: Richard Basehart". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  17. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Richard Basehart". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 14, 2017.