John Dehner

John Dehner (born John Forkum; November 23, 1915 – February 4, 1992)[1] was an American actor and animator. He had a long and prolific career in radio, television, and film, often as droll villains. Between 1940 and 1989, he appeared in over 260 films, television series, and made-for-television movies.[2]

John Dehner
John Dehner 1963.jpg
John Forkum

(1915-11-23)November 23, 1915
DiedFebruary 4, 1992(1992-02-04) (aged 76)
Resting placeCarpinteria Cemetery, Carpinteria, California, U.S.
OccupationRadio, film, and television actor
Years active1940–1989
Roma Leonore Meyers
(m. 1941; div. 1970)

Evelyn Severance
(m. 1973; his death 1992)

Early yearsEdit

Dehner was born in Staten Island, New York City.

He initially went into art after studying at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City, New York. He worked as an animator at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.[3]


Dehner's early radio jobs included being a news editor and a disc jockey.[3] While working at KFWB in Los Angeles, California, he was a member of a news team that won a Peabody Award for its reporting on the first United Nations conference.[4]

Possessing a deep, resonant voice, Dehner had an extensive career as a radio actor and was once recognized by Radio Life Magazine as having the entertainment industry's "best radio voice".[5] He performed as a lead or supporting player in such series as The Whistler,[6] Gunsmoke, Laramie, and Philip Marlowe.[7] He also starred as Paladin in the radio version of Have Gun – Will Travel,[8]:146 one of the few times a show began on television and then was later adapted for radio. On CBS Radio in 1958, he starred in the series Frontier Gentleman, a Western that opened with a trumpet theme by Jerry Goldsmith and the following introduction:

Herewith, an Englishman's account of life and death in the West. As a reporter for The London Times, he writes his colorful and unusual accounts. But as a man with a gun, he lives and becomes a part of the violent years in the new territories. Now, starring John Dehner, this is the story of J. B. Kendall, Frontier Gentleman. ...[8]

Written and directed by Antony Ellis, the short-lived series followed the adventures of journalist Kendall as he roamed the West in the post-Civil War United States searching for dramatic stories for his newspaper.

Dehner portrayed Elmer Truitt on The Trouble with the Truitts[8]:339-340 and the title character on The Judge.[8]:181 He also performed regularly on Family Skeleton,[8]:114 Escape,[8]:110 and The Black Book.[8]:43


Over a 45-year movie career in Hollywood, between 1940 and 1986, Dehner appeared in no fewer than 126 feature films and shorts.[9] He played Sheriff Pat Garrett in Gore Vidal's The Left Handed Gun opposite Paul Newman as Billy the Kid.

He appeared too in Scaramouche (1952) as Doutreval of Dijon; and he played a district attorney in Please Murder Me, an American film noir film released in 1956, a production directed by Peter Godfrey and starring Angela Lansbury and Raymond Burr.[10] The following year, he performed a non-singing role of Mr. Bascombe, the mill owner and intended robbery victim, in the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. In 1951, he appeared in the film The Texas Rangers. He also played the villain in The Man from Bitter Ridge (1955), as well as Taylor Swope, one of Vinnie Harrold's (Broderick Crawford) bad guy gang in The Fastest Gun Alive (1957), starring Glenn Ford. In 1978's The Boys From Brazil, he portrayed Henry Wheelock, the last man killed by Dr. Josef Mengele.


Dehner and Nick Adams in The Rebel (1961)

Dehner's roles on TV programs included Marshal Edge Troy on Young Maverick,[11]:1207 Jim Duke Williams on The Roaring 20's,[11]:899 Dr. Charles Claver on Temperatures Rising,[11]:758 T. Jacob Broggi on Enos,[11]:308-309 Cyril Bennett on The Doris Day Show,[11]:278-279 Billy Erskine on The Colbys,[11]:198-199, Soapie Smith on The Alaskans and Colonel Harvey on the Andy Griffith Show.[11][12] He also performed regularly on The Don Knotts Show[11]:275 and The Betty White Show (1958).[11]:94[13]

In the summer of 1955, Dehner was cast as Lieutenant Zetterquest in The Soldiers.[11]:990 He also acted in the episode "Crack-Up" of Gunsmoke. In that 1957 episode he portrays Nate Springer, an unpredictable, psychopathic gunman who coldly kills a small dog on the main street of Dodge City before he faces Marshall Dillon in a formulaic TV showdown.[13]

Dehner played an extremely broad range of starkly different characters in the 1957–1962 series Maverick opposite James Garner and Jack Kelly, including his pivotal role as the banker Bates in the famous episode "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" as well as a deftly comedic performance in "Greenbacks, Unlimited" with Garner and Gage Clarke.

In the 1958 episode "Twelve Guns" on NBC's Western Cimarron City, Dehner portrays a prosperous area rancher whose outlaw son, played by Nick Adams, joins a gang that demands $50,000 from the citizens of Cimarron City.[citation needed]

In 1959 he played Cleve Colter, a rebellious member of a group trudging thru a winter storm en route to California in "The Annie Griffith Story" on Wagon Train.

In 1960, Dehner was cast as Major Randolph in the episode "Friend of the Family" on the CBS western The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun.[citation needed]

Dehner guest starred twice in the western TV series Bonanza: he played Captain Pender in the 1960 episode "The Mission" and he portrayed Jean Lafitte in the 1964 episode "The Gentleman from New Orleans".[13]

Late in 1962, Dehner guest-starred as Dan Tabor in the episode "Echo of a Man" of the NBC western with a modern setting Empire, starring Richard Egan as rancher Jim Redigo.[14] In 1961 and ‘64, Dehner starred in The Twilight Zone episodes "The Jungle" and "Mr. Garrity and the Graves".[13]

Of all the television series on which Dehner performed over the years, his 12 appearances on the long-running series Gunsmoke perhaps showcased best the full range of his acting talents.[15] Between 1955 and 1968, he portrayed a diverse cast of characters, such as a psychotic gunman in the episode "Crack Up", a pathetic town drunk in "The Bottle", a distraught, lonely widower who marries an Indian and must deal with the anger of his only son from that decision in "The Squaw", a dejected and childless farmer in "Caleb", a brain-damaged freight operator who undergoes a drastic personality change in "Ash", bar owner Kitty Russell’s long, lost father in “Daddy-O” and a timid resident of Dodge City who gains fleeting celebrity after killing an outlaw in the episode "The Pariah".[16]

In 1966, as Morgan Starr, episode "One Spring Like Long Ago" that included Warren Oates, and as Marshall Eliazer Teague, both in the 90 minute TV western series The Virginian in the 1969 episode titled "Halfway Back from Hell".[13]

Personal life and deathEdit

Dehner was married twice, the first time in 1941 to Roma Leonore Meyers, with whom he had two children. Three years after the couple's divorce in 1970, he wed Evelyn Severance. They remained together for 19 years, until his death.

In 1992, at the age of 76, Dehner died from complications of emphysema and diabetes in Santa Barbara, California. He was cremated and his ashes interred at Carpinteria Cemetery in Carpinteria, California.[4][17]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Cox, Jim (2008). This Day in Network Radio: A Daily Calendar of Births, Debuts, Cancellations and Other Events in Broadcasting History. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-3848-8, p. 29.
  2. ^ Wright, Stewart (February 2012). "The Reluctant Westerner". Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club. Archived from the original on March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Minnette, Marcia (March 1959). "Paladin Rides the Airwaves". TV Radio Mirror. 51 (4): 46–47, 80–87. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Folkart, Burt A. (February 7, 1992). "John Dehner; Multifaceted Actor, Artist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  5. ^ "John Dehner", Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a division of Time Warner, Inc., New York, New York. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Tranberg, Charles (2018-06-13). William Conrad: A Life & Career. BearManor Media.
  7. ^ Cox, Jim (2015-06-14). Radio Crime Fighters: More Than 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1227-0.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. pp. 125–26.
  9. ^ "John Dehner: Complete Filmography". TCM. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  10. ^ Please Murder Me (film),; retrieved August 22, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  12. ^ Robinson, Dale; Fernandes, David (1996). The Definitive Andy Griffith Show Reference: Episode-by-Episode, with Cast and Production Biographies and a Guide to Collectibles. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-4766-0187-8. Retrieved August 24, 2020 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ a b c d e "John Dehner". TV Guide. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  14. ^ Freese, Gene (2017-10-05). Classic Movie Fight Scenes: 75 Years of Bare Knuckle Brawls, 1914-1989. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-6943-4.
  15. ^ Greenland, David R. The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television's Greatest Western. BearManor Media.
  16. ^ Greenland, David R. The Gunsmoke Chronicles: A New History of Television's Greatest Western. BearManor Media.
  17. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016-08-19). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7.

External linksEdit