Tall and well built, American actor David Keith is best known for bringing to life rustic, Southern characters on stage and the big screen. Starting out on his acting career playing minor roles, he rose to prominence during the 1980s when he started getting offers to play leading character in films. He always knew he wanted a career in acting and pursued a course in theatre and speech while at the university. He forayed into acting by appearing on stage productions. He joined the Clarence Brown Theatre Company where he appeared in musicals like ‘Brigadoon’ and ‘The Music Man’. Following this he worked with the Goodspeed Opera House where he acted in country and western musicals. Determined to make it to the silver screen, he started looking for television opportunities. He was chosen to star in a television series called the ‘Co-ed Fever’ which was cancelled after the very first episode. This was definitely disappointing but the gutsy actor did not lose hope and soon received acting offers. He got the chance to appear along with Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty in the television drama ‘Friendly Fire’ which went on to win several awards. He branched into films as well and also became a director with the film, ‘The Curse’.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born to Lemuel Grady Keith, a personnel division worker at the Tennessee Valley Authority and his wife Hilda Earle who worked for the Knox County Board of Education.
He was interested in the performing arts from a young age and went to the University of Tennessee from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theatre.
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He began his acting career as a theatre artist. He became a member of the Clarence Brown Theatre Company at the University of Tennessee and appeared in stage productions like ‘The Music Man’.
He moved to New York City after graduation to pursue acting in earnest. He joined the Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House and acted in the country and western musical, ‘The Red Bluegrass Western Flyer Show’ in 1977.
Determined to make it bigger, he moved to Los Angeles where he auditioned for television shows. He was selected to play a minor role in the series ‘Happy Days’ as Fred Collins in 1978.
In 1979, he got the opportunity to star along with Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty in the television drama ‘Friendly Fire’. The show received critical acclaim and Keith got noticed for his performance.
He appeared in the musical drama ‘The Rose’ in 1979 which tells the story of a troubled rock star who is unable to cope with the pressures of stardom. It was a fictionalized account of the life of Janis Joplin.
He played an American athlete who falls in love with a Soviet Gymnast in the NBC miniseries ‘The Golden Moment—An Olympic Love Story’ which premiered in 1980.
He got his big breakthrough in 1982 when he was cast as Aviation Officer Candidate Sid Worley in the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. The plot revolves around the story of an officer candidate who comes in conflict with a sergeant.
He acted in ‘Firestarter’, a 1984 science fiction thriller which was about a young girl who develops pyrokinesis. It also had Drew Barrymore and George Scott in its cast.
He turned director in 1987 with the horror film, ‘The Curse’ which was an adaptation of the novel ‘The Colour Out of Space’ by H.P.Lovecraft.
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He portrayed the singer Elvis Presley in the comedy film, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in 1988. It was a fictional account of the rumored kidnapping of the great singer and his rescue.
In 1994, he played a selfish sports superstar in the film ‘Major League II’ which was the sequel to the 1989 film ‘Major League’.
He played a supporting role in the 1995 drama film ‘Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain’ which tells the story of two adventurous girls who explore the caves beneath Bear Mountain.
In 1999, he played an archaeologist in the family fantasy adventure, ‘Secrets of the Andes’. The character he portrays is the father of a girl who is gifted with unusual abilities.
The new millennium was very productive for this talented actor. He played the character of Cliff Eagleton in the television series ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ which was an action crime drama in 2000.
He appeared in several films and television series over the decade which includes ‘Deep Shock’ (2003), ‘In Her Line of Fire’ (2006), ‘Beneath the Blue’ (2010), and ‘Nikita’ (2011).
His best known role was as the Aviation Officer Candidate Sid Worley in the drama film, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. It was about an officer candidate and his conflicts with the sergeant who trains him. His role in the film was critically appreciated.
Awards & Achievements
He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and New Star of the Year for his role in the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ (1982).
Personal Life & Legacy
He has been married to Nancy Clark, a realtor since 2000.
He was a spokesperson for PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children.