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  • 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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    FILM/TV CREDITS

    - Meggido: Omega Code 2 (2001)
    - Mach 2 (2000)
    - Fugitive Mind (1999)
    - Another World (91-96/99) [STV]
    - Undeclared War (1990)
    - Murder, She Wrote (1989) [TV]
    - License to Kill (1989)
    - Hollywood Dreaming (1986)
    - The Colbys (1985) [STV]
    - The A-Team (1985) [TV]
    - Crazy Like a Fox (1985) [TV]
    - Knight Rider (1985) [TV]
    - Finder of Lost Loves (1985) [TV]
    - Simon & Simon (1985) [TV]
    - The Fall Guy (1985) [TV]
    - Double Trouble (1985) [TV]
    - Hotel (1985) [TV]
    - Trapper John, M.D. (1985) [TV]
    - The Love Boat (1985) [TV]
    - A.D. (1985) [TV]
    - Fantasy Island (1984) [TV]
    - The Naked Face (1984)
    - The Gambler: Adventure Continues (83)
    - T.J. Hooker (1982) [TV]
    - Hart to Hart (1982) [TV]
    - The Power Within (1980) [TV]
    - ffolkes (1983)
    - Charlie's Angels (1981) [TV]
    - Dynasty (1981) [TV]
    - The Bob Newhart Show (1978) [TV]
    - Wonder Woman (1977) [TV]
    - Barnaby Jones (1977) [TV]
    - Murder in Peyton Place (1977) [TV]
    - Ellery Queen (1976) [TV]
    - Cannon (1975) [TV]
    - The Art of Crime (1975) [TV]
    - The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975) [TV]
    - Adventures of the Queen (1975) [TV]
    - Medical Center (1974) [TV]
    - The Cat Creature (1973) [TV]
    - F.B.I. (1973) [TV]
    - Live and Let Die (1973)
    - Crime Club (1973) [TV]
    - For Love or Murder (1970)
    - Love, American Style (1969) [TV]
    - Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
    - The Saint (1964) [TV]
    - Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (64) [STV]
    - Perry Mason (1962) [TV]
    - Marines, Let's Go (1961)
    - Hong Kong (1961) [TV]
    - The Lost World (1960)
    - Five Fingers (1959) [STV]
    - Son of Robin Hood (1959)
    - The Fly (1958)
    - The Enemy Below (1957)
    - Star Tonight (1956) [TV]

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