John Dehner

John Dehner (born John Forkum; November 23, 1915 February 4, 1992)[1] was an American actor and animator. He played roles 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 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 active19401989
Roma Leonore Meyers
(m. 1941; div. 1970)

Evelyn Severance
(m. 1973)

Early years

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, Gunsmoke and Philip Marlowe. He also starred as Paladin in the radio version of Have Gun – Will Travel, 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. ...[6]

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.


Over a 45-year movie career in Hollywood, between 1940 and 1986, Dehner appeared in no fewer than 126 feature films and shorts.[7] 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.[8] 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 1957, he was cast in the film The Texas Rangers.He also played the villain in The Man from Bitter Ridge 1955 Western Movie with Lex Barker as the good guy.


In the summer of 1955, he was cast as a United States Army captain with in the live 11-episode NBC summer series The Soldiers, a military comedy produced and directed by Bud Yorkin.[9] One of Dehner's more memorable roles during this period is in the episode "Crack-Up" of the long-running Western 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 classic showdown.[10]

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.[11]

In 1960, Dehner was cast as Major Randolph in the episode "Friend of the Family" on the CBS western The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun.[12]

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.[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.[14] Between 1955 and 1968, he portrayed a diverse cast of characters, such as a psychotic gunman in the episode "Cracked Up", a pathetic town drunk in "The Bottle", a dejected and childless farmer in "Caleb", a brain-damaged freight operator who undergoes a drastic personality change in "Ash", and a timid resident of Dodge City who gains fleeting celebrity after killing an outlaw in the episode "The Pariah".[14] 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"

Personal life and death

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. His interment was at Carpinteria Cemetery in Carpinteria, California.[4]

Selected filmography


  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. "Radio Recall - MWOTRC". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  3. Minnette, Marcia (March 1959). "Paladin Rides the Airwaves". TV Radio Mirror. 51 (4): 46–47, 80–87. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  4. 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. 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.
  7. "John Dehner: Complete Filmography". TCM. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  8. Please Murder Me (film),; retrieved August 22, 2017.
  9. "The Soldiers". Classic Television Archives. 1955. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  10. “Crack-Up”, S03E01, Gunsmoke, originally televised on CBS September 14, 1957. Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Amazon, Seattle, Washington. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  11. "Cimarron City". Retrieved September 7, 2012.
  12. "The Texan". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  13. "'Echo of a Man', "Empire", December 12, 1962". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  14. "John Dehner", filmography, Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a subsidiary of Amazon, Seattle Washington. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
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