|Birth: ||Mar. 5, 1927|
|Death: ||Dec. 12, 1976|
Actor. Jack Cassidy, by his own design, defied mere definition from the day he was born in Richmond Hills, New York in 1927 until his tragic death in 1976. An actor, singer, writer, designer – the consummate showman and irrefutable creative entity – his life never followed a simple path nor did it ever lead quite where expected. Yet, in the end, his impact on the entertainment community has been unmistakable – and unforgettable. The youngest of five children born to immigrant parents, Jack Cassidy's story is one of success and inspiration. By the time he was sixteen, he'd worked fifteen jobs ranging from busboy to dishwasher to ice truck driver. His uncle, a renowned circus contortionist, showed him the show business ropes and at the tender age of sixteen, Jack stepped into the chorus of "Something for the Boys". After that point, Jack's acting talent and rich baritone voice took him from show to show. He graced the stage in several productions before landing his first lead role in "Wish You Were Here" in 1953. The reviews were outstanding and his career started to flourish including the role of Johnny O'Sullivan in "Sandhog." The role of an Irish immigrant would hit close to home and would be one of his favorites. His life had also been enriched with his marriage to dancer-choreographer Evelyn Ward in 1948 and the birth of their son David in 1950. Evelyn and Jack had met while working on a show together and their wedding was attended by a who's-who of The Great White Way. Jack started to pepper his career with appearances not only on stage but on various television shows, sharing his talent with a broader audience. He made several appearances on "Toast of the Town" and "Lux Video Theatre" and also surfaced on episodes of "The United Steel Hour," "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" and "Gunsmoke." He would even have his own television show in Great Britain. His television presence would only grow over the next 20 years reflecting not only his career but his notoriety and prominence in the industry. In 1955, Jack was cast in a State Department European tour of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" with a young actress named Shirley Jones. Legally separated from Evelyn, Jack pursued Shirley and after their first date in Paris, he declared his intent to marry her – which he did between performances of "The Beggar's Opera" in 1956. Their marriage would be blessed with the births of three sons: Shaun, Patrick and Ryan. All four of his sons would carry on Jack's legacy in their own way – each with critically acclaimed careers in theater, film and television. Jack and Shirley would collaborate in other ways, appearing together on Broadway in "Maggie Flynn" in 1968 (Jack would receive a Tony nomination for his portrayal of "Phineas"), recording a number of albums including "Love From Hollywood" and "Brigadoon" and touring with the nightclub act "The Marriage Band" which was created by Jack and inspired by their relationship. As the country transformed through the 1960s, Jack Cassidy's career blossomed in all respects. In the theater, he took home the Tony for Best Featured Actor in 1963 for "She Loves Me" and followed that with Tony nominations for his work in "Fade Out, Fade In," "It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman" and "Maggie Flynn" and is one of the most nominated actors in Tony history. The West Coast beaconed to him and Jack started to truly establish himself in television. Whether it was a brilliant dramatic performance on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents,", "77 Sunset Strip," "Coronet Blue," "Lock Up," "Maverick" or "Wagon Train," a dazzling musical performance on "The Bell Telephone Hour" or "The Gerry Moore Show" or a delightful comedic performance on "Bewitched" or "That Girl" – Jack was finally allowed to showcase his versatility and range to audiences unable to see him set foot on a stage. He even started his movie career in films such as "Look in Any Window", "The Chapman Report", "FBI Code 98" and the animated "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" in 1962. Often considered "larger than life" himself – even by co-stars Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin – Jack brought life to the character of Oscar North in the 1968 series "He & She" to the delight of both audiences and critics. His delivery of the classic "trapped in an elevator" routine has never been matched and his superior flair and uproarious comic timing would garner an Emmy nomination in 1969. His television presence would swell in the 1970s as he became a staple of both dramatic programs and game shows. Indeed it was nearly impossible to turn on the television and not see Jack's brilliant smile or hear his infectious laughter. He frequented "Columbo" and remains one of the more popular guest stars in the show's history. Other memorable performances include appearances in "Barnaby Jones," "Matt Helm," "McCloud," "Hawaii Five-O," "Alias Smith and Jones" and "Bonanza" as well as comedic interludes in "Love, American Style", "The Carol Burnett Show", "Laugh-In" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." His career expanded into the television movie genre with "Your Money or Your Wife," "George M!," "June Moon," and "The Phantom of Hollywood." Yet it was his depiction of attorney Otis Baker in "The Andersonville Trial" that again brought him an Emmy nomination and critical acclaim. Cecil Smith of the L.A. Times said Jack was "the handsome comedian and musical comedy start superbly playing heavy drama." Said Edward L. Blank of The Pittsburgh Press, "In the role of Otis Baker, the civilian defense attorney, Cassidy exhibits a range heretofore repressed." The Hollywood Reporter raved, "In an outstanding cast, perhaps no performance was as impressive, so well met with abilities too seldom matched by his assignments, as that of Cassidy for the defense." Jack Cassidy's film career in the 1970s was filled with wonderful, quirky roles in films such as "Bunny O'Hare" with Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine, the Clint Eastwood action-thriller "The Eiger Sanction", "The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County" with Mickey Rooney and his brilliant portrayal of the legendary John Barrymore in "W.C. Fields and Me". However, he craved the solid, dramatic roles where he could truly prove his abilities on a larger scale. Tragically, he had just started receiving these offers right before his death in 1976. Like the character he'd created on "He & She," Jack Cassidy was undeniably larger than life. His notorious sense of humor made him the life of the party from private gatherings to public charity galas. It is no surprise that his friends and fans read like a roster of Hollywood's top talent. Among them, Dick Van Dyke, Jack Lemmon and Dick Van Patton have counted themselves as admirers of his talent. Rose Marie remembers him as "a delightful human being with a great deal of talent," and Connie Stevens calls Jack "a talented, funny, magnificent man. We all miss him." Said Robert Goulet, "What comes to mind when I think of Jack was his sense of humor and ebullient nature. He never had a harsh word for anyone and entered and left a room leaving everyone with smiles on their faces!" Blythe Danner recalls working with Jack on the teleplay "George M!": "Nobody had a smile like Jack Cassidy's. It lit up a room…He had that thoroughly likable Irish way about him; was a great and hilarious storyteller, was debonair, rakish, full of fun. He was irresistible. I couldn't wait for lunchtime when he would regale us yet again with a great story from his colorful past." Former wife Shirley Jones remembers, "He made fun of himself, the business he was in and just about everything else." Jack was the superlative example of the classic leading man with his charisma, dashing grin and sparkling eyes who conducted his life with nothing less than panache and style. His golden baritone voice will forever set him apart. His talent will never be matched. His wit and humor warm the memories of the friends and family he left behind. He was a creative powerhouse who was denied the time necessary to fully express the full spectrum of his talents – some of which are only now revealed through the talent and success of his sons in many facets of the industry. Despite the brilliance of his career, he had only started to tap into the expanse of his potential. It was a life cut short and a life that deserves to be celebrated. (Bio by Michelle Montour @ ryancassidy.com)
Evelyn Ward (1923 - 2012)*
Cause of death: He died in a fire at his home
Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea.
Specifically: Ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Sep 21, 1998
Find A Grave Memorial# 3588
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