David Hess

David Alexander Hess (September 19, 1936 – October 7, 2011) was an American actor, singer, songwriter, and director. He came to prominence for his portrayals of murderous villains and gruff characters in several films in the 1970s and 1980s.

David Hess
Hess in Hitch-Hike (1977)
David Alexander Hess

(1936-09-19)September 19, 1936
DiedOctober 7, 2011(2011-10-07) (aged 75)
Other names
  • David Dante
  • David Hill
  • Actor
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • director
Years active1956–2011
Regina Mardek (m. 1978)

Hess originally worked as a songwriter in the 1950s, co-writing songs recorded by Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, but garnered international attention for his feature film debut portraying Krug Stillo in Wes Craven's exploitation horror film The Last House on the Left (1972). He would go on to play several hard-edged roles as criminals and rapists in the Italian films Hitch-Hike (1977) and The House on the Edge of the Park (1980) before having a supporting role in Craven's Swamp Thing (1982). He made his directorial debut with the slasher film To All a Goodnight (1980).

In his later life, Hess was affiliated with the California Film Institute, where he taught improvisational theater in the institute's youth programs. He died of a heart attack on October 7, 2011 near his home in Tiburon, California after attending a local concert.

Early life

Hess was born David Alexander Hess on September 19, 1936 in New York City.[1] His mother, Marjory, was an opera singer.[2]


1956–1971: Songwriting and music

In 1956, Hess recorded the original version of the Otis Blackwell composition "All Shook Up" under the stage name David Hill.[1] The next year the song became a #1 hit single for Elvis Presley.

He began his professional career as a songwriter for Shalimar Music in 1957. He composed "Start Movin' (In My Direction)" for Sal Mineo and "Rockin' Shoes" for the Ames Brothers. In 1959 he recorded a cover version of Cliff Richard's "Living Doll" for Kapp Records and it became a mild placed charter for him on the US Billboard charts. He wrote songs for Elvis Presley throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which include "I Got Stung", "Come Along", and "Sand Castles". "Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love" became a 1960s hit when it was performed by Andy Williams. In 1962, Hess wrote and recorded "Speedy Gonzales", (as David Dante)[1][3] which became a #6 single for Pat Boone in the US and a #2 in the UK, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. Hess then recorded two solo albums for Kapp Records, again topping the charts, this time with a Top Ten folk hit called "Two Brothers."

In 1969, he became head of A&R at Mercury Records in New York. There he linked up with Western classical composer John Corigliano, and together they wrote the Grammy award-winning rock opera The Naked Carmen, which became a big hit of the Berlin Ballet Week in 1970. His work with Mercury also included And the Children Toll the Passing of the Day, a 1969 album he wrote for Irish actor Malachy McCourt.

1972–2011: Acting and film

In 1972, his career split off into several new directions with his starring role in the Wes Craven horror classic The Last House on the Left, for which he also composed the soundtrack. In that movie, he was noted to have been a reckless, merciless character.[1][4] A Method actor, he famously threatened to attack costar Sandra Peabody to get a more genuine reaction from her.[5]

He went on to score Buck at the Edge of Heaven, a children's film based on a collection of Jack London stories. The film won the top prize for film and direction at the Giffoni Film Festival. He also had roles in Hitchhike and The House on the Edge of the Park.

A subsequent job offer from PolyGram's German affiliate gave Hess the opportunity to move to Munich, Germany, and a multilingual career in film dubbing from 1972 to 1976 which in turn led him to writing the English language shooting scripts for such German directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Reinhard Hauff, and his present collaborator, Peter Schamoni.[3]

In 1980, he directed his first American feature film, To All a Good Night, for Media Home Entertainment in 1980. He also appeared in two horror films directed by Ruggero Deodato, La Casa sperduta nel parco (1980) and Camping del terrore (1987). He appeared as a villain in Wes Craven's Swamp Thing in 1982.

In 1991, he played the part of the American in Peter Schamoni's Max Ernst—My Wanderings, My Unrest (1991). From 1993 to 1995 he produced Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? (1996).

In later years, he released two albums, Caught Up In The Moment and Live & Unplugged in Hollywood, 2002. He worked on several tracks for the horror film Cabin Fever (2002), directed by Eli Roth, and also worked as an improv acting teacher at the California Film Institute's Young Critics' Jury Training program.[6]

In 2013, One Way Static Records released the soundtrack to The Last House on the Left on vinyl, compact disc, cassette and digital download. This was intended as a posthumous tribute and the liner notes on the release include extensive writings by David's family, colleagues and friends. This edition was repressed on a limited, hand numbered picture disc for Record Store Day 2014.

Personal life

Hess married his wife, Regina Mardek, in 1978, and had four children.[6] He was a longtime resident of Corte Madera, California.[6][7]


Hess died from a heart attack on October 7, 2011 in Tiburon, California while leaving a concert he had just attended.[6] He was 75 years old.[2][8]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Cold Sweat Vermont aka Whitey Voice, Uncredited
1972 The Last House on the Left Krug Stillo
1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Sando
1976 Potato Fritz Sleeve
1977 Hitch-Hike Adam Konitz
1977 Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death Voice
1979 Avalanche Express Geiger
1980 The House on the Edge of the Park Alex
1982 Swamp Thing Ferret
1983 White Star Frank
1986 Armed and Dangerous Gunman #4
1986 Body Count Robert Ritchie also known as Camping del Terrore
1986 Let's Get Harry Mercenary
1989 Sindrome veneziana
1991 Omicidio a luci blu Sergeant Flanagan
1991 Buck ai confini del cielo Dan
1994 Jonathan degli orsi Maddock
2001 Nutcracker John Gard / Clyde Fairfax
2004 Zombie Nation Aaron Singer III
2005 Zodiac Killer Mel Navokov
2006 The Absence of Light Whiplash
2006 Fallen Angels Kajal
2007 Used Aldo Modisco
2007 Go Together
2009 Smash Cut Able Whitman
2011 The Steppes Oleg
2012 Debris documentar Himself
2016 The House That Wept Blood Detective Marsh (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1976 21 Hours at Munich Berger Television film
1977 Baretta Bosco Episode: "All That Shatters"
1981 Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls Robaire Television film
1983 Knight Rider Donny Episode: "Short Notice"
1983 Manimal William Episode: "Illusion"
1985 Sadat Israeli Soldier Television film
1985 The Fall Guy Episode: "Reel Trouble"
1986 The A-Team Episode: "Dishpan Man"
1989 Oceano Kruger Television mini-series
1991 Die Kaltenbach-Papiere Television mini-series
1997 Noi siamo angeli Manuel Delgado Episodes: "Due facce da galera", "La fortuna piove dal cielo"
2010 Royal Pains Bob Ambrose Episode: "In Vino Veritas"
Year Title Role Notes
1980 To All a Goodnight Director
1996 Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? Producer Documentary
1999 The Green Monster Producer Television documentary
2004 Zombie Nation Production executive
2010 Steel Drums, No Guns Director, producer Short documentary
2011 Sketchy House Executive Producer
Year Title Notes
1964 The Ed Sullivan Show Soundtrack writer: "Speedy Gonzalez"; episode: season 17, episode 21; uncredited
1966 Frankie and Johnny Soundtrack writer: "Come Along"; uncredited
1966 Paradise, Hawaiian Style Soundtrack writer: "Sand Castles"
1972 The Last House on the Left Soundtrack writer, performer, lyrics, music composer
1989 Cold Justice Composer
1989 Roger & Me Composer
1993 Lo Kolel Sherut Soundtrack writer; episode: season 3, episode 8
2002 Cabin Fever Soundtrack writer, performer: various
2003 Celluloid Crime of the Century video documentary short
2008 Manhunt Soundtrack writer, performer
2009 Melancholie der Engel Composer
2011 Sketchy House Composer, performer


  1. "The Dead Rock Stars Club - 2011 July To December". thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  2. Slotnik, Daniel E. (October 13, 2011). "David Hess, Songwriter and Actor, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  3. Staff (October 13, 2009). "TRINITY OF TERRORS Guest Spotlight: The BADDIES of 1972's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT! - David Hess". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  4. Hess, David (Guest); Morrison, John (Host) (September 25, 2011). Aspect Ratio - September 2011 (Television Production). San Rafael, CA: Community Media Center of Marin. Archived from the original on December 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  5. Szulkin, David A. (2000). Wes Craven's Last House on the Left: The Making of a Cult Classic. FAB Press. ISBN 9781903254011.
  6. Welte, Jim (October 13, 2011). "Actor and Songwriter David Hess Dies at 75". Mill Valley Patch. Mill Valley, California. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  7. Jason, Will (October 14, 2011). "David Hess, Corte Madera songwriter and actor, dies at 75". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  8. Variety Staff (October 13, 2011). "David Hess dies at 75". Variety. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.