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Thayer David
Born David Thayer Hersey
March 4, 1927
Medford, Massachusetts
Died July 17, 1978 (aged 51)
New York
Spouse(s) Valerie French (1969-1970s?)

Thayer David (born David Thayer Hersey, March 4, 1927 – July 17, 1978) was a film and television actor. He was best known for his work on the cult ABC serial Dark Shadows (1966–1971) and as the fight promoter George Jergens in the Oscar-winning movie Rocky in 1976. His most memorable film role was as Count Arne Saknussem in the film Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1959. His raspy distinctive voice narrated many voice-overs in commercials and narrations of instructional films and commercials. He usually played villains; especially the big bossman.


Early life

Thayer David was born and raised in a theatrical oriented neighborhood in Medford, Massachusetts. His family did not approve of his career choice of acting. In reply, he forever changed his name from David Thayer Hersey to Thayer David.When in his early 20s he graduated from Harvard (1948) and became a founding member of the Brattle Theater Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Two years later, he appeared in the Brattle production of The Relapse on Broadway (Sir Tunbelly Clumsey). His career on stage began to rapidly advance.

Stage career

He went on to act in The Taming of the Shrew 1951 (Grumio); The Way of the World 1954 (Petulant); King Lear 1956 (Duke of Cornwall); Mister Johnson 1956 (Gollup); Saint Joan 1956; Protective Custody 1956 (Dr. Steidl); Oscar Wilde 1957 (Oscar Wilde); The Golden Six 1958 (Tiberius); A Man for All Seasons 1961; Andorra 1963 (pub keeper); The Seagull 1964 (Sorin); The Crucible 1964 (Danforth); Baker Street 1965; The Royal Hunt of the Sun 1965 (Miguel Estete);Ring Around the Moon 1966 (Messerchann); Those That Play the Clowns 1966 (Henning); Breakfast at Tiffany's 1966; The Sorrows of Frederick 1967; The Bench 1968; Uncle Vanya 1971 (Serebryakov); The Jockey Club Stakes 1973 (Sir Dymock Blackburn); The Dogs of Pavlov 1974.

Film and television

From 1966 to 1971 David portrayed various characters on ABC's daytime phenomenon Dark Shadows. He also played Reverend Silas Pendrake in Little Big Man (1971), the arsonist in Save the Tiger (1973), and the afflicted spymaster Dragon in The Eiger Sanction (1975) with Clint Eastwood. He played numerous characters on different TV series including The Wild Wild West, The Rockford Files, Ellery Queen, Kojak, Petrocelli and Hawaii - Five-O. David did several pilot films which included a villainous role in The Amazing Spider-Man (1977).

In 1977, Thayer David played the leading role in Paramount Television's made-for-TV movie, Nero Wolfe, based on the Rex Stout novel The Doorbell Rang. David portrayed the corpulent detective Nero Wolfe, who took on clients grudgingly and solved mysteries dazzlingly. Intended to be the pilot for a series, the film was shelved after David's death. It eventually aired on ABC TV in a late-night slot December 18–19, 1979. In 1981, Paramount's series with William Conrad began a 14-episode run on NBC.


Thayer David did not possess leading man looks; however, his acting skill provided many opportunities. He collected rare books and walking canes and enjoyed entertaining guests. His fellow cast members on Dark Shadows remembered him as a "walking encyclopedia" around the studio. He was married to and divorced from film and television actress Valerie French. He died from a heart attack in New York City at the age of 51. He and Miss French were planning to remarry before he died.

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