Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Late 'Dynasty' star: Hollywood's last gentleman

Published:Monday | April 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM
John Forsythe


John Forsythe, the handsome, smooth-voiced actor who made his fortune as the scheming oil tycoon in TV's Dynasty and the voice of the leader of Charlie's Angels has died after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 92.

Forsythe died late Thursday at his home in Santa Ynez from complications of pneumonia, publicist Harlan Boll said Friday.

"He died as he lived his life, with dignity and grace," daughter Brooke Forsythe said.

Despite his distinguished work in theatre and films, Forsythe's greatest fame came from his role as Blake Carrington in producer Aaron Spelling's 1981-89 soap opera Dynasty, a one-time staple of Jamaican prime-time viewing.

Forsythe lent dignity to the tale of murder, deceit, adultery and high finance, which often brought Carrington into conflict with his flashy, vengeful former wife, Alexis Colby, played to the hilt by Joan Collins.

"He was one of the last of the true gentlemen of the acting profession," Collins said in a statement. "I enjoyed our nine years of feuding, fussing and fighting as the Carringtons."

Heather Locklear, another Dynasty co-star, called him "a gifted actor who knew the true meaning of being gracious and kind."

Another hit

Forsythe was an important part of another hit Spelling series without being seen. From 1976 to 1981 he played the voice of Charlie, the boss who delivered assignments to his beautiful detectives, including Farrah Fawcett, via telephone in Charlie's Angels.

"We were so happy when he agreed to be the voice of Charlie, and he always laughed about having to take a back seat to Farrah's hair," Spelling's widow Candy said in a statement.

Forsythe evidenced little of the ego drive that motivates many actors. He viewed himself with a self-effacing humour, considering himself "a vastly usable, not wildly talented actor".

With his full head of silver hair, tanned face and soothing voice, Forsythe as Carrington attracted the ardour of millions of female television viewers.

Forsythe began appearing in television plays as early as 1947, and he continued his Broadway career. A role in Arthur Miller's All My Sons led to the awesome task of replacing Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts.

He was next able to create a role of his own, as the naive Army officer in occupied Okinawa in Teahouse of the August Moon. The play was a huge success, winning the Pulitzer Prize. "It gave me a sense of worth as an actor," Forsythe remarked.

The call to Hollywood was irresistible, and Forsythe came west to star in such films as The Captive City, The Glass Web and Escape from Fort Bravo. His best break came in 1955 when he starred in Alfred Hitchcock's one attempt at whimsy, The Trouble with Harry, about a corpse that kept turning up in a New England town.

Busy television career

Forsythe's film roles were limited because he was already busy in television. The comedy Bachelor Father, in which he played a Hollywood lawyer who cared for his orphaned teenage niece, lasted from 1957 to 1962, appearing successively on CBS, NBC and ABC.

His later films included Madame X (opposite Lana Turner), In Cold Blood and Hitchcock's spy thriller Topaz.

And Justice for All (1979) marked a departure for the actor. Director Norman Jewison cast him as a judge with a kinky sex life.

"He wanted to create suspense on whether the judge was guilty of such dark deeds," Forsythe said.

He credited the role for causing him to be considered as the unscrupulous Carrington in Dynasty.

"The producers didn't know what the hell they wanted," Forsythe recalled. "They talked to me in terms of J.R. in 'Dallas.' I said, 'Look, fellas, I don't want to play J.R. Part of my strength as an actor comes from what I've learned all these years: when you play a villain, you try to get the light touches; when you play a hero, you try to get in some of the warts."

He was born John Lincoln Freund on Jan. 29, 1918, in Penn's Grove, New Jersey.

The family said there will be no public service.