A talented actor, caring father, husband and a drummer. These are some of the ways Denver Pyle has been described. He is a legend in the acting world whose familiar face is almost synonymous with some very interesting television series during his time. He was also a drummer who worked with a band to support himself while he was schooling and also fought with the U.S Navy during World War II. Pyle got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is one of the greatest achievements of his career.
Who Was Denver Pyle?
He was born in Bethune, Colorado, the U.S, on the eleventh of May 1920. His parents were Ben H and Maude Pyle and he has a brother (Willis) who was an animator with UPA and Walt Disney Animations Studio before his demise in 2016.
After high school, Denver briefly attended the Colorado State University to study Law but he dropped out to pursue his dream in the entertainment industry. He soon found a dance band which he joined as a drummer and also had a short stint with NBC radio studios as a page in 1940 although It didn’t lead to the breakthrough he wanted in his career.
He worked on several small roles before he joined the United States Merchant Marine, where he served during the war. He was severely injured during the war and spent several years recuperating before he re-entered the acting scene.
After the war, he began to appear in a series of television shows in the 1950s and 1960s. Although he wasn’t a southerner, in most of his roles, he had a southern drawl. He was also regularly featured as a gruff, demanding authority or father figure, although he played varying roles as he grew over the years. He was a regular on TV series Tammy and the Millionaire (1967) and Code 3 (1956). Ironically, his breakthrough role was in a non-speaking role in 1967 Bonnie and Clyde where he featured as the taciturn Sheriff who was humiliated and kidnapped by the robbers but witnesses and supervises their machine-gun death in the end. After the role, he began to get better parts and pay in acting.
Denver featured in several films and television shows with some credited and uncredited roles.
Some of his popular roles include his portrayal of Jesse Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985 which was his longest running and best-known role on television. He appeared in 146 episodes. His role as Briscoe Darling Jr. (the Darling patriarch) in various episodes of The Andy Griffith Show was also one of his most endearing roles, in addition to his feature as Mad Jack in the TV Series by NBC – The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. Denver also featured as the titular character’s father, Buck Webb, in CBS’s TV Series – The Doris Day Show.
His other roles include a feature as Masher in The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947) which was an uncredited role. He went ahead to feature in Train to Alcatraz (1948), Streets of San Francisco (1949), Hellfire (1949), The Flying Saucer (1950), Singing Guns (1950), Federal Agent at Large (1950), Rough Riders of Durango (1951), Million Dollar Pursuit, Man from the Black Hills (1952), Desert Passage (1952), The Maverick (1952), Rebel City (1953), Bonanza (1961-1972), Geronimo (1962), Mail Order Bride (1964), Shenandoah (1965), Gunpoint (1966), 5 Card Stud (1968), Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Return from Witch Mountain (1978), Legend of the Wild (1981), and Maverick (1994), just to mention a few.
Denver was married twice in his life. He married Marilee Carpenter who is a production assistant in 1955. They had two sons (David in 1956 and Tony in 1957). Their marriage ended in divorce in 1970. Marillee, died in 2010.
Denver then married his second wife – Tippie Johnston with whom he remained until his death in 1983.
When And How Did Denver Pyle Die?
At the age of 77, Denver died of cancer of the lungs on the 25th of December (Christmas day) 1997. He died in Burbank’s Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, California, United States.
In his honor, a memorial service took place at the First Baptist Church, Waxahachie, Texas, the United States on the 6th of January 1998. His final resting place is an unmarked grave in a Cemetery at Forreston, Ellis County, in the south of Waxahachie. His body was interred beside Tippie Johnston’s (his second wife’s) parents.