Who was John Dehner?
John Dehner can rightly be called the ‘jack of all trades’, as he was an animator, radio artist and actor. He started his career as an animator for the ‘Walt Disney Studios’ before becoming a radio announcer. Known for his deep and resonant voice, Dehner became part of numerous successful radio shows as a lead as well as a guest. He then became a movie actor, usually playing short or villainous roles. He has appeared in a total of 126 movies and short films, including ‘The Left Handed Gun’, ‘Scaramouche’, ‘Aladdin and His Lamp’, ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘War and Remembrance’. However, television was the medium that saw him giving his maximum output. The American actor mostly played character roles in shows, such as ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Columbo’, ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Doris Day Show’. He is known to have made as many as nine appearances in separate television shows airing in 1957. Earlier, he was seen in six different films released in a single year (1956).
Childhood & Early Life
John Forkum, more popular by his screen name John Dehner, was born on November 23, 1915 in Staten Island, New York. He was the middle child of his parents and had two siblings.
His father was a painter who often travelled for work; therefore, his family moved frequently. Dehner lived in places, such as Oslo, London, Paris and Copenhagen.
While living in Oslo, he developed a liking for performing arts and participated in several musicals. He later graduated from the Grand Central School of Art, New York City. He also had a brief stint with the ‘Walt Disney Studios’ in Burbank.
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After his stint with Walt Disney, John Dehner worked as a public relations officer in the army during the Second World War. Following his return to California, he decided to venture into radio and started working as a news editor and radio jockey.
With a signature deep voice, he became a very successful radio jockey. He was once recognized for the ‘best radio voice’ by Radio Life Magazine. His extensive coverage of the U.N. conference in San Francisco won his radio station the ‘Peabody Award’.
In 1958, he was a part of the CBS Radio series ‘Frontier Gentleman’, which was based on the life of newspaper journalist Kendall, who was known for covering several important stories in the US following the Civil War.
Dehner later tried his hand at acting and went on to chart a movie career, spanning over four decades. He made appearances in more than 100 movies. His role as Sheriff Pat Garrett in the 1958 movie ‘The Left Handed Gun’, starring Paul Newman, is considered his most notable performance.
In 1952, he played Doutreval of Dijon in the film ‘Scaramouche’. In the 1956 thriller, ‘Please Murder Me’, he played the role of District Attorney Ray Willis. A year later, he was seen as the robbery victim Mr. Bascombe in the movie adaptation of Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein's ‘Carousel’. In the same year, he appeared in a brief role in the Supercinecolor western movie ‘The Texas Rangers’.
As far as Dehner’s TV appearances are concerned, he starred in an episode of the television series ‘The Adventures of Kit Carson’ alongside Maudie Prickett in 1953. Between 1955-1956, he was seen in the guest role of a US Army captain in the NBC comedy series ‘The Soldiers’.
IN 1956, he featured in an episode titled ‘Crack-Up’ in the popular television series, ‘Western Gunsmoke’. He played the role of Nate Springer, a mentally disturbed man who shoots a dog on the street.
Dehner was cast in four episodes of the dramedy series ‘Maverick’, starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. He played the role of a man who manages to convince people that he is Wyatt Earp.
In the anthology television show ‘The Twilight Zone’, he played three different roles in three episodes. In an episode of the first season of the show, he was seen as Captain Allenby; then he appeared as an engineer in its third season; and finally, as Jared Garrity in the fifth and final season.
He guest starred on the TV series ‘Rawhide’, wherein he portrayed the characters of Arvid Lacey in an episode in 1960, Jubal Wade in 1961 and Captain Francis Cabot in 1963.
Dehner was seen in three episodes of the military-based sitcom ‘Hogan's Heroes’. In 1970, he appeared in an uncredited role in the comedy-western movie ‘The Cheyenne Social Club’, starring James Stewart and Henry Fonda in leading roles.
During the period between 1971 and 1973, he played the character of a demanding boss called Cy Bennett in ‘The Doris Day Show’. One of his last roles was of Hadden Marshall in the TV drama ‘Bare Essence’ (1983). His final appearance was in the TV miniseries ‘War and Remembrance’ in 1989.
Family & Personal Life
John Dehner married Roma Leonore Meyers in 1941. The couple had two children. They separated after staying together for several decades in 1970. Dehner married Evelyn Severance in 1973 and remained with her until his death.
He died on February 4, 1992 from diabetes-related complications in Santa Barbara, California. He was buried at Carpinteria Cemetery in California.