Who was Jim Davis?
Jim Davis was a prominent American actor and is best remembered for his ‘cowboy’ acts in several movies and also for his role in the TV series ‘Dallas’. Davis’s career had a modest beginning and he initially worked as a tent-rigger in a circus. Fortunately, his job as a salesman took him to Los Angeles, where he could pursue an acting career. A screen test for ‘MGM’ did open a few doors for him, but he was only cast in minor roles. After six years of virtual anonymity, he finally broke through with a starring role in the film ‘Winter Meeting’. Although his performance in the film received negative reviews, the film led to a series of substantial roles in ‘B’ rated films. With his height, his nonchalant demeanour and his horse-riding skills, Davis perfectly suited the role of a cowboy. He was cast in many prominent TV shows as well, and made countless guest appearances. His most famous role arrived right at the twilight of his career with the series ‘Dallas’ in which he fittingly played a Texan. Even when he was terminally ill, he kept working and was amply rewarded for his roles, which are cherished by his fans.
Childhood & Early Life
Jim Davis was born as Marlin Jim Davis to Lucian Davis and Ethyl Offutt Davis in Edgerton, Missouri. His parents were the owners of a funeral home in Dearborn, Missouri. He studied in ‘William Jewell College’ in Liberty, Missouri.
After finishing schooling, he worked as a tent-rigger in a circus. He then worked as a travelling salesman which brought him to Los Angeles.
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He auditioned for the production company ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’ with actress Esther Williams and subsequently acted in minor roles in many films for six years.
His first film as a lead actor was ‘Winter Meeting’, which was released in 1948 and starred actress Bette Davis. The film wasn’t successful and Davis was criticised for his performance. Following this, he mostly did supporting roles in ‘B’ rated films, including westerns.
He featured in ten episodes of the western series ‘Death Valley Days’, where he played the character of an ambitious politician from Nevada. He also acted in director Howard Hawks’s western film, ‘The Big Sky’, in 1952.
In 1954, he was cast as a regular in the western TV show ‘Stories of the Century’, which also featured lots of other notable actors like Mary Castle, Sam Bass, Doc Holliday, etc. He played a detective in the show and was also the narrator of every episode.
He landed another regular role as a fireman in the adventure series ‘Rescue 8’, which began in 1958 and was broadcast for two years. Over the next two decades, he made many guest appearances in various TV shows, such as ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Stoney Burke’, ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Daniel Boone’, ‘Wagon Train’ and ‘Laramie’.
In 1974, he starred in ‘The Cowboys’, a western series based on the John Wayne film of the same name. The series was broadcast only for three months prior to cancellation.
In the later part of 1970s, Davis also did voice-overs for advertisements, such as the commercials for the ‘American Beef Council’.
1978 saw him land the role of a family head Jock Ewing in the award-winning series ‘Dallas’, which would go on to become his most famous role. After his untimely death, he wasn’t replaced with another actor and his character was kept alive for some time before being killed.
Jim Davis’ most well-known role was in the CBS TV series ‘Dallas’, which was also his last role. He portrayed the character of Jock Ewing, the head of a rich family from Texas. He continued working in the series even after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He earned great fame and critical appreciation for the role.
Awards & Achievements
In 1960, Davis received a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ in recognition to his body of work for TV.
In 1981, he was posthumously nominated for a ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ in the category ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series’ for his work in the series ‘Dallas’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Davis married Blanche Hammerer in 1945 and the couple were together till his death. They had a daughter, Tara Diane Davis, who tragically died in a car accident when she was only seventeen years old.
He passed away due to complications from multiple myeloma and was buried in ‘Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery’ in Glendale, California.
This famous American actor from the show ‘Dallas’ was very close to Victoria Principal, his co-star on the show. She reminded him of his daughter who had passed away in an accident.