John Dehner

John Dehner - American Stage, Radio, Movie, and Television Actor.
John Dehner

John Dehner born John Forkum on November 23, 1915, in Staten Island, New York, and passing away on February 4, 1992, was a versatile American actor who made a significant impact in radio, television, and film over a career spanning several decades. Known for his distinctive, deep voice and imposing presence, Dehner was a familiar face in Westerns, though his range extended well beyond the genre.

John Dehner’s Early Career

Before embarking on his acting career, Dehner had a diverse early career, including working as an animator at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to classics like “Fantasia” and “Bambi.” His foray into acting began with radio in the 1940s, where he found considerable success. Dehner’s voice became well-known through various programs, including roles on “Gunsmoke” and “Philip Marlowe.”

Dehner’s Transition to Television and Film

John Dehner’s transition from radio to television and film was seamless, thanks to his commanding voice and adaptability. Over his career, he appeared in more than 260 movies and TV shows. Although often cast in supporting roles, his performances were memorable and showcased his wide-ranging talent.

Notable John Dehner Roles

In television, Dehner made numerous appearances in popular Western series such as “The Wild Wild West,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “The Rifleman,” showcasing his versatility by playing both villains and sympathetic characters. His film career included roles in “The Boys from Brazil” (1978), “Warlock” (1959), and “The Left Handed Gun” (1958).

Despite being frequently cast as a character actor, Dehner’s performances were key to the success of many films and television episodes. His ability to bring depth to a variety of roles made him a sought-after actor in Hollywood.

John Dehner’s Legacy

John Dehner’s enduring legacy in the entertainment industry is marked by his contributions across multiple mediums. His work in radio set the stage for a flourishing career in film and television, where he left an indelible mark with his performances. Dehner is remembered as one of the most reliable and talented character actors of his time, whose career reflected the changing landscape of American entertainment from the golden age of radio to the rise of television and cinema

John Dehner’s Acting Career

Dehner’s roles on TV programs included Marshal Edge Troy on Young Maverick, Jim Duke Williams on The Roaring 20’s,Dr. Charles Claver on Temperatures Rising, T. Jacob Broggi on Enos, Cyril Bennett on The Doris Day Show, Billy Erskine on The Colbys,, Soapie Smith on The Alaskans and Colonel Harvey on the Andy Griffith ShowHe also performed regularly on The Don Knotts Show and The Betty White Show (1958).

In the summer of 1955, Dehner was cast as Lieutenant Zetterquest in The Soldiers. He also acted in the episode “Crack-Up” of Gunsmoke. In that 1957 episode he portrays Nate Springer, an unpredictable, psychopathic gunman who coldly kills a small dog on the main street of Dodge City before he faces Marshall Dillon in a formulaic TV showdown. 

Dehner played an extremely broad range of starkly different characters in the 1957-1962 series Maverick opposite James Garner and Jack Kelly, including his pivotal role as the banker Bates in the famous episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” as well as a deftly comedic performance in “Greenbacks, Unlimited” with Garner and Gage Clarke.

In the 1958 episode “Twelve Guns” on NBC‘s Western Cimarron City, Dehner portrays a prosperous area rancher whose outlaw son, played by Nick Adams, joins a gang that demands $50,000 from the citizens of Cimarron City.

In 1959 he played Cleve Colter, a rebellious member of a group trudging thru a winter storm enroute to California in “The Annie Griffith Story” on Wagon Train.

In 1960, Dehner was cast as Major Randolph in the episode “Friend of the Family” on the CBS western The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun.

Dehner guest starred twice in the western TV series Bonanza: he played Captain Pender in the 1960 episode “The Mission” and he portrayed Jean Lafitte in the 1964 episode “The Gentleman from New Orleans”.

Late in 1962, Dehner guest-starred as Dan Tabor in the episode “Echo of a Man” of the NBC western with a modern setting Empire, starring Richard Egan as rancher Jim Redigo. In 1961 and ‘64, Dehner starred in The Twilight Zone episodes “The Jungle” and “Mr. Garrity and the Graves“.

Of all the television series on which Dehner performed over the years, his 12 appearances on the long-running series Gunsmoke perhaps showcased best the full range of his acting talents. Between 1955 and 1968, he portrayed a diverse cast of characters, such as a psychotic gunman in the episode “Crack Up”, a pathetic town drunk in “The Bottle”, a distraught, lonely widower who marries an Indian and must deal with the anger of his only son from that decision in “The Squaw”, a dejected and childless farmer in “Caleb”, a brain-damaged freight operator who undergoes a drastic personality change in “Ash”, and a timid resident of Dodge City who gains fleeting celebrity after killing an outlaw in the episode “The Pariah”

In 1966, as Morgan Starr, episode “One Spring Like Long Ago” that included Warren Oates, and as Marshall Eliazer Teague, both in the 90 minute TV western series The Virginian in the 1969 episode titled “Halfway Back from Hell”.

John Dehner Appeared In 12 Episodes of Gunsmoke

According to Wikipedia John Dehner was in a Total of 12 Episodes of the TV Show Gunsmoke In the 1950s and 1960s Dehner was cast too in numerous roles on both the radio and television versions of the long-running Western Gunsmoke. His performances as different characters in 12 televised episodes of that series demonstrate the range of his acting talents.

John Dehner Turned Down the Role of Matt Dillion

Dehner turned down the role of Matt Dillon in GUNSMOKE because he thought he might get typecast as an actor who specialized in playing Western roles. Yet John Dehner went on to appear in at least 234 of the 480 GUNSMOKE episodes; more than any other guest star.

John Dehner Died in 1992

In 1992, a little over three years after performing in the televised miniseries War and Remembrance, Dehner died at age 76 in Santa Barbara, California due to complications from emphysema and diabetes.

John Dehner as Captain Allenby in The Twilight Zone

John Dehner was featured on the Twilight Zone in an Episode Titled Captain Allenby

 Walt Disney

Actor John Dehner, a popular performer who starred in at least nine television series as well as countless movies, took a break from his acting career in the late 1930s to work as an assistant animator at The Disney Studios. He worked on the owl sequences in Disney’s Bambi (1942), the Beethoven “Pastoral Symphony” sequence in Fantasia (1940), and several Pluto, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons as well as some work on The Reluctant Dragon (1941) – where he can be seen in the story room (at left), preceding the Baby Weemssequence. He got the original job at Disney because his dad worked at The Disney Studio. “I started out actually by studying art,” Dehner confessed in one of his last interviews before his death. “I was going to be an artist, but actually became an actor and I went to New York from 35 to 40, went through the Depression there, as an actor, and did the usual classical starving, and decided the hell with it, if I’m not going to eat for a while, I went to California. And I tried out for Disney in the art department and they hired me, and after a year I became an assistant animator. And that gave me a few dollars. We weren’t paid very much. Although we were skilled, we were paid eighteen dollars a week. But it gave me enough money to eat a bit. I stayed at Disney for a year or little better and went into the Army, and when I came out I didn’t want to be an artist. I wanted to be an actor. So I went into radio.” Later as an actor, he provided the voice of the narrator in such Disney animated shorts as The Truth About Mother Goose, Aquamania, The Litterbug, The Great Cat Family and How to Relax as well as appearing in several Disney live action projects – most notably as “Viceroy Don Esteban” in TV’s Zorro.

Source: Cartoon Research