Fess Parker: TV's Frontier Hero
William R. Chemerka has written an authorized biography, a respectful tribute to an amazing man, and the book also features thoughtful recollections from Fess’ family, friends, co-stars, and fans, and includes a number of never-before-published photographs. 416 pages. More
Fess Parker was an American film and television actor, who also was known as the owner of the Fess Parker Winery along the famous Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, and he was also a resort owner-operator.
Fess grew up in Texas. After serving in World War II, he began his show-business career in the summer of 1951 as an extra in the play Mister Roberts. His work in films began as the voice of Leslie, the chauffeur, in the 1950 film Harvey. Within months, he was on location with a minor part in Untamed Frontier with Joseph Cotton and Shelley Winters.
Fess became a contract player with Warner Bros., appearing in small roles in several films, such as Springfield Rifle (1952), Island in the Sky, The Bounty Hunter, and Battle Cry. In 1954, he appeared as Great Dalton in the Jim Davis syndicated Western anthology series, Stories of the Century in the episode “The Dalton Brothers.”
Walt Disney picked him over James Arness and other actors to star as Davy Crockett in a three-part mini series entitled Davy Crockett (1954–55), a tremendous hit that led to a merchandising frenzy for coonskin caps and all things Crockett.
Fess became a contract star for Disney and appeared in The Great Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller, and The Light in the Forest. He also appeared on many television programs, and he composed and sang. He performed the occasional role of Tom Conrad, editor of the Diablo Courier in the syndicated Western series, Annie Oakley (1954–1957), starring Gail Davis, Brad Johnson, and Jimmy Hawkins. Fess appeared in a small assortment of movies, including supporting roles in The Jayhawkers! (1959) with Jeff Chandler and Hell Is for Heroes (1962) with Steve McQueen. In 1962, he starred in the title role of the TV series Mr Smith Goes to Washington, portraying the same idealistic character that James Stewart had played in the 1939 film. Fess took to the stage in 1963, in a traveling production of Oklahoma!
In 1964, Fess appeared in Daniel Boone, another television series, portraying another historic figure of America's frontier days. The action-adventure television series aired from September 24, 1964 to September 10, 1970 on NBC for 165 episodes and was one of the highest rated shows of its time. Fess was not only the star of the series but also the co-producer and director of five of its most popular episodes
William R. Chemerka has written an authorized biography, a respectful tribute to an amazing man, and the book also features thoughtful recollections from Fess’ family, friends, co-stars, and fans, and includes a number of never-before-published photographs. 416 pages.
"Put on your coonskin cap and enjoy William Chemerka’s respectful tribute to an amazing man who believed in and lived the American Dream."
- Western Clippings
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