Childhood & Early Life
Cassidy was born on July 31, 1932, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, US, and he spent his early years in Philippi, West Virginia. Not much is known about his parents.
As a child, he was academically good. He reached high school at an early age. He was fond of playing basketball and football. However, he was often bullied by his seniors because of his extraordinary height. He was already 6’1” tall in school.
After completing school from ‘Philippi High School,’ he attended the ‘West Virginia Wesleyan College’ in Buckhannon, West Virginia, and was a member of the ‘Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.’ Thereafter, he attended the ‘Stetson University’ in DeLand, Florida, and became an active participant of the student government. From 1952 to 1955, Cassidy played basketball for the ‘Stetson Hatters.’
He worked as a lifeguard in the Ormond Beach area in 1952. He graduated from university with a degree in speech and drama in 1956. Soon, he got married and then shifted to Dallas, Texas.
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Cassidy started working as a “mid-day disc jockey” with ‘WFAA-AM.’ While working at the radio station, he covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was among the first to interview eye-witnesses WE Newman Jr. and Gayle Newman.
Occasionally, he portrayed the outer-space creature ‘Creech’ in Ed Hogan’s afternoon movies on ‘WFAA-TV.’ Cassidy was a musician and played the organ at ‘Luby’s Café,’ located at the ‘Lochwood Shopping Center,’ in Dallas.
His first assignment in films was as a voice actor in 1960. He was the voice of the ‘Martian’ in the film ‘The Angry Red Planet.’ Owing to his extraordinary height (6’9”) and his deep, bass voice, he often played unusual characters in science-fiction or fantasy series such as ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘Star Trek.’ The series ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ featured him in various roles: as ‘Ruk’ in the episode ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?,’ as ‘Balok’ in the episode ‘The Corbomite Maneuver,’ and as ‘Gorn’ in the episode ‘Arena.’
Cassidy is most remembered for his role of the butler ‘Lurch’ in the TV show ‘The Addams Family.’ His character was supposed to be mute. However, during the auditions, Cassidy spontaneously added the words, ‘You rang?’ in his deep voice. The words were later included in his dialogues and became his signature line. The show ran for two years, from 1964 to 1966. It became a cult series, and there were many reruns and films based on the show.
In the same show, Cassidy also played the role of ‘Thing,’ the disembodied hand that helped around the Addams household, whenever he was not playing ‘Lurch.’ When ‘Lurch’ and ‘Thing’ were both required on screen, an associate producer doubled up as ‘Thing.’ Cassidy was an accomplished musician, but while portraying ‘Lurch,’ he merely pretended to play the harpsichord. He reprised this role several times, such as in an episode of ‘Batman’ and as a voice artist for the animated series of ‘The Addams Family’ in the 1970s.
In 1965, he released two songs, ‘The Lurch’ and ‘Wesley,’ on a seven-inch vinyl record, with ‘Capitol Records.’ In September 1965, Cassidy performed the song ‘The Lurch’ on the show ‘Shivaree’ and performed it again on Halloween on the show ‘Shindig!’ As a voice actor, he did extensive work with ‘Hanna–Barbera Studios,’ lending his voice to many cartoon characters. He was ‘Frankenstein Jr.’ in the series ‘Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles.’
Cassidy worked in various TV shows. He portrayed the role of ‘Injun Joe’ on the ‘NBC’ show ‘The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ in 1968. He guest-starred on shows such as ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ (1967), ‘Lost In Space’ (1965), ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ (1967), ‘Tarzan’, ‘Mannix’ (1968), ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Bionic Woman,’ and ‘Daniel Boone’ (1964).
He essayed the role of ‘Big Foot’ in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ (1974). He lent his voice to the opening narrations and the growls of ‘The Hulk’ in the TV series ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (1978). He portrayed ‘Isiah’ in the pilot episodes of ‘Genesis II’ and ‘Planet Earth.’ He played ‘Goliath’ in the 1978 miniseries ‘Greatest Heroes of the Bible.’
He lent his voice to ‘Birdman and the Galaxy Trio’ and the short film ‘Blaze Glory.’ His voice featured in the roars and growls of ‘Godzilla’ in the 1979 ‘Hanna-Barbera’ cartoon series. He lent his voice to ‘Metallus,’ ‘Moltar,’ and ‘Tarko the Terrible’ in the series ‘Space Ghost,’ from 1966 to 1968. He was the voice of ‘Brainiac’ and the ‘Black Manta’ on the show ‘Super Friends.’ He also lent his voice to ‘The Thing’ in ‘The New Fantastic Four.’
Cassidy portrayed a number of character roles too. He is remembered for his role of ‘Harvey Logan’ in the movie ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969). His other noteworthy character roles were for films such as ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ (1969), ‘The Limit’ (1972), ‘Charcoal Black’ (1972), ‘Thunder County’ (1974), ‘Poor Pretty Eddie’ (1975), ‘Harry And Walter Go to New York’ (1976), ‘The Last Remake Of Beau Ceste’ (1977), and ‘Goin’ Coconuts’ (1978) among others.
He was the co-writer of the screenplay of ‘The Harrad Experiment’ (1973). He also made a brief appearance in the film.
He married Margaret Helen Jesse on June 14, 1956, soon after graduating from university. Their son, Sean, was born in 1957, and their daughter, Cameron, was born in 1960. Presently, both his children are attorneys. Cassidy and Margaret Helen divorced in 1975.
Cassidy died on January 16, 1979, at the ‘St. Vincent Medical Center,’ Los Angeles, due to complications from a heart surgery that was conducted to remove a non-malignant tumor. He was 46 years old at the time of his death.
Cassidy was cremated after his death, and his ashes were scattered in the backyard of his home.