Fess Parker – MovieActors.com
Parker in THEM.
About Fess Parker (1924 – 2010)
Fess Parker was born on August 16, 1924 in Fort Worth, Texas. His birth name was Fess Elisha Parker Jr.. His nickname was Fessbo. Fess was raised on a farm near San Angelo.
During WW2, his six foot six inch height caused him some trouble when trying to enlist in the Navy. Though he was deemed too tall to be a Navy pilot, or even to be a radioman gunner, he was transferred to the Marines, who shipped him out to the South Pacific, shortly before the atomb bomb was dropped, ending the war.
After bering discharged, Fess used the GI Bill to enroll at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX in 1946, where he was on the football team. It was here that he became interested in acting, joining the H-SU Players Club.
In 1947, Fess Parker transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in history, but still acting on the side. While there, he met great actor and producer, Adolphe Menjou who became his mentor and introcduced him around Hollywood, after Fess graduated from UTA in 1950.
Though Fess had found a way into acting in Hollywood, he still had one year left on the GI Bill. To make the best of this educational opportunity, Fess enrolled in the University of Southern Caloifornia, studying drama, and earning his degree in theater history.
During the summer of 1951, he got his foot in the door, by being cast as an extra in the stage play, MR. ROBERTS.
Fess made his acting debut as a contract player with Warner Brothers in 1952's SPRINGFIELD RIFLE.
To star in the DAVY CROCKETT Series, Fess Parker was signed to a contract, by Walt Disney, who saw his small performance in the sci fi yarn, THEM, a film about giant ants that scared the socks off many people. Becoming an instant celebrity was the first step to great fame for Fess Parker when DAVY CROCKETT, KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER, debuted in 1955. Fess Parker had a strong appeal with children, who loved the coon-skin hat and the hit song, "Davey Crockett."
When the show ended in 1956, the down-side of this role was that Fess Parker was firmly type-cast, and in a contract with Walt Disney, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. While this contract assured Fess movie roles with Walt Disney, who cast him only in period projects based on frontier days, Walt Disney wouldn't let him out of his contract to play any other type of character.
Fess had to turn down a co-star part in the John Wayne, 1956 film, THE SEARCHERS. He also was denied the opportunity to be in the film, BUS STOP, where he would've co-starred with Marilyn Monroe. Fess also couldn't get the rights from Walt Disney to play Davy Crockett for anyone else. Finally, when Fess refused the small part offered by Disney in the film, TONKA, Fess was put on suspension, and Fess left Disney Studios.
In 1958, Paramount Pictures had no problem signing him up with them. Jess was offered supporting actor roles in a few films: THE HANGMAN (1959), THE JAYHAWKERS!(1959), and HELL IS FOR HEROES (1962)
In 1960, Fess found his true love, and married Marcella Rinehart. They had two children:Fess Elisha Parker II, and Ashley Allen Rinehart. Before he died, Fess and Marcella had eleven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
In 1962, Fess was cast in a starring role that wasn't western related on a TV series, MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, but the show got poor ratings, and was dropped.
In 1963, for a change of pace, Fess joined a traveling production tour of the play, OKLAHOMA, getting to perform as the character, "Curly."
In 1964, Fess Parker tried the familiar " frontiersman role" once again, with the TV series DANIEL BOONE; a role that he played for six years. It was a roaring success, being one of the highest rated shows of its era. Fess stood up for himself and had to sue the producers of his hit TV Series, DANIEL BOONE, when they refused to give him his share of the agreed profits-percentage agreements.
While Fess found success again on a TV series, he decided to retire from film in 1964 because of the kind of roles offered him. Fess began to look around to find other opportunities he might enjoy while making a living. Having money to invest, Fess developed profitable outlets in real estate, being wise in his investments.
Fess retired from Hollywood completely in 1973, after his new pilot, THE FESS PARKER SHOW wasn't picked up by any of the networks. By that time, his investments in property that Fess had developed had turned into money-making California businesses. The Fess Parker Winery was owned and operated by Fess. An ocean-front resort in Santa Barbara, and a the twenty-one room Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa, were also successful businesses for Fess.
Being named as a Disney legend in 1991 was a highlight for Fess Parker. In December 2004, long after Walt Disney was dead, Fess Parker got the last laugh, and was honored by Disneyland, with his own "tribute window on a façade in the Frontierland section of Disneyland."
Fess Parker died at the age of 85, on March 18th, 2010, in Santa Ynex, California.
Fess Parker's notable movie credits include...
DANIEL BOONE:FRONTIER TRAIL RIDER (1966)
HELL IS FOR HEROS (1962)
THE HANGMAN (1959)
THE JAYHAWKERS (1953)
THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST (1958)
OLD YELLER (1957)
WESTWARD HO, THE WAGONS! (1956)
DAVY CROCKETT AND THE RIVER PIRATES (1956)
THE GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE (1956)
DRAGONFLY SQUADRON (1954)
DAVY CROCKETT KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1954)
THE BOUNTY HUNTER (1954)
ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953)
THUNDER OVER THE PLAINS (1953)
THE KID FROM LEFT FIELD (1953)
UNTAMED FRONTIER (1952)
Fess Parker, with co-stars in THEM.