Sunday, October 8, 2023

Darren #1: Dick York


"You know, three whales get in trouble and people from all over volunteer to help.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if one old has-been actor with a hose up his nose could help millions?"
  -- Dick York

Richard Allen "Dick" York was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on September 4, 1928.  He grew up in Chicago, where his father worked as a salesman while his mother was a seamstress.  It was here that he began his career in 1943 as star of the radio series That Brewster Boy.

York went on to appear in hundreds of radio shows and instructional films in the Windy City before moving to New York and the Broadway stage.  There, he starred in the acclaimed dramas Tea and Sympathy and Bus Stop.  Hollywood was the logical next step.

During production of the Gary Cooper film They Came to Cordura in 1959, York suffered a debilitating back injury that would mark the beginning of the end of his career.  Despite an addiction to painkillers, he'd continue working in Hollywood however, in such films as Inherit the Wind (1960) and in television, in such series as The Twilight Zone and Route 66.  Then in 1964, he was cast in the role he is most famously known for, Darren Stephens on the Elizabeth Montgomery series, Bewitched

The series ran for eight seasons, but York would only participate in the first five.  His back condition was only getting worse, and producers went out of their way to make him as comfortable as possible on set.  By 1969 however, if was clear to York himself that he was no longer physically able to perform in the role, and he asked to be released from his contract. The producers readily agreed.  Here's his final scene from the series. 

York and his wife then returned to Michigan, opting to care for her dying mother.  Shortly after they moved there however, York was dealt another blow when he was diagnosed with emphysema.  His years of cigarette addiction had finally caught up him.

York's final years saw him confined to a wheelchair and hooked up to an oxygen tank.  He maintained a positive outlook however, and even founded a charity called Acting for Life in 1973.  It raises money for the homeless, both here and abroad.  He later stated "I've been blessed.  I have no complaints.  I've been surrounded by people in radio, on stage, and in motion pictures and television who love me.  The things that have gone wrong have been simply physical things."

York ultimately lost his battle with emphysema on February 20, 1992.  He was 63 years old.

Dick York was laid to rest at Plainfield Cemetery in Rockford, Michigan.

Rest in peace.

  • York authored an autobiography entitled The Seesaw Girl and Me: A Memoir.  You can pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • At the end of the fourth season, York received an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.  He lost to Get Smart star, Don Adams.

  • York claimed he had no qualms with Dick Sargent taking on his iconic role.  Five years earlier, Sargent had turned down the role, opting to star in the short-lived sit-com Broadside instead.

  • After he left the series, York lost all contact with Montgomery, claiming in interviews that she was always too busy to see him.  According to series writer William Froug, York was smitten with Montgomery, who did not reciprocate his feelings, and in fact, could not stand him.

No comments:

Post a Comment