DAVID HEDISON [Albert Hedison]
May 20, 1927
Providence, Rhode Island
David Hedison is the only child of Albert, a jeweller, and Rose. At a young age David
knew that a career in acting was in store for him after seeing the swashbuckler Tyrone Power in
Blood and Sand. Before his thespian dream could be realized, David would first enter the
Navy shortly before the end of WWII. He later left the service as a Seaman Second Class. Though
he wanted to study acting in New York, his father wanted his son to attend college, so Hedison
entered Brown where he became a member of the Ivy League School's "Socks and Bushkin Players".
After a few years at the noted institute, he relocated to New York to pursue his dream. While in
New York, he studied under acting teacher Lee Strasberg at the famed Actors Studio, and with
Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham at the Neighborhood Playhouse, sharing the classroom with the
likes of aspiring actors Steve McQueen and Joanne Woodward.
During his days as a struggling actor, he met up with another aspiring star named Roger Moore
who, as fate would have it, would become a life-long friend of Hedison's. Getting his foot in
the door was a hard process, but eventually David landed some roles in commercials on such
programs as Studio One, Playhouse 90, and Kraft Television Theatre. His
big break came when his acting teacher, the famed Uta Hagen, recommended him for a part in
an off-Broadaw run of Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country. He auditioned for director
Sir Michael Redgrave and nabbed a role in the play, along with the Theatre World Award for Most
Promising Newcomer. It was during the show's run at the Phoenix Theatre that Hedison attracted
the attention of a talent scout from Twentieth Century Fox who soon signed the actor to a
contract with the studio.
The one-time Navy Seaman Second Class made his cinematic debut in Dick Powell's WWII thriller
The Enemy Below in 1958, starring opposite Robert Mitchum. His next role came in a film,
which like many 50's films, alluded to the destructive technological advances made in
the previous decade. He played a scientist whose experiments go awry in the creepy thriller
The Fly. Although Hedison loved the story, he thought the use of a fly mask made for a
bad idea and suggested that a progressive make-up technique be used. His idea was rejected,
but interestingly, nearly 30 years later, David Cronenberg went on to use this technique in
his remake. Despite Hedison's not being keen on the finished product of The Fly, the
film was a hit.
David was later cast in a TV series based on the film Five Fingers. It was then that
NBC felt that Al had to go, not the actor but his name, since it lacked star quality. The
name of David Hedison was born, and the Five Fingers TV series soon died as it was up
against the television oater Gunsmoke. David followed up Five Fingers with the
adventure The Lost World in 1960, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book. The film
marked the first time he worked for Irwin Allen; a union that would eventually prove profitable
for the both of them. When David was asked by Allen to play the role of Captain Lee Crane
in the feature film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Hedison declined because he thought
it was nothing more than a special effects and adventure fantasy. Instead, David chose to appear
as the apostle Phillip in George Stevens' biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told.
While the actor was in England, he again was contacted by Irwin Allen, who wanted him to play
Captain Crane in a TV series inspired by his hit film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
At the time Hedison was filming a guest spot on the series based on Leslie Charteris' The
Saint. The series star, old friend Roger Moore, encouraged his American friend to take the
offer because a role on a series would mean a steady income. But it was only when he found out
that Richard Basehart was signed to play the lead, did Hedison come on board. He felt the
opportunity to work with the multi-talented Basehart would be worth anything.
Though happy to have a regular job, Hedison grew tired of resorting to the use of a monster of
the week or a story that relied more on special effects. When the series ended in 1968 after a
four season run, making it the longest-running Irwin Allen series, David was offered the role of
patriarch Mike Brady in the Sherwood Schwartz series The Brady Bunch. He turned down the
series, stating at the time, "After four years of subs and monsters, who needs kids and dogs?"
He left America to work on a film in Italy. He later met Bridget Mori, a striking, raven- maned
woman who would become his wife [They have two daughters: Serena and Alexandra]. David and his
new bride relocated to England where he appeared on British television and on the stage. His
proudest effort as an actor came when he appeared with Lee Remick in a production of Tennessee
Williams' Summer and Smoke. It aired one night and one night only on British TV as there
was a contract that following its airing, the tape would be erased.
David was suggested by old friend Tom Mankiewicz, a writer, to portray the American ally of
Ian Fleming's superspy James Bond. The actor was cast as CIA agent Felix Leiter in Live and
Let Die. At the time, the producers were hoping Sean Connery would return to the role that
made him a star, but Connery said "no" and Hedison's old friend Roger Moore stepped into the
shoes of the charming 007. David would later go on to reprise his role in License To Kill.
An interesting piece of trivia is that Hedison being fed by a shark in License is
originally what happened to his character in the Live and Let Die novel.
Though many of his films and television series were successful, theatre is where David continues
to find his greatest joy.
Photo © Miranda Shen/Celebrity Photo
Written by Robert Baum © 2001 - [Please let us know of any errors]
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