Actor. He was born Marlin Otho Davis to Lucien Davis, an undertaker, and Ethyl Offutt. Before seeking an acting career, he attended Baptist-affiliated William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he played end on the football team. He came to Hollywood as a salesman for a Kansas oil drilling firm. After a meeting with a casting director from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he got his first acting job. With his steel-blue eyes and a gravelly Southwestern drawl, he was a handsome, nearly 6’3” man who could easily mount and ride a horse making him a natural for a cowboy role. Starting in 1942, he had gained experience in over a dozen movies with mostly uncredited roles. In 1948 he played the lead role of a Navy officer, Slick Novak, opposite Bette Davis’ role in the Warner Brothers melodrama “Winter Meeting”. He was billed as “James Davis” in the credits. With harsh reviews from the press that marked him as “too inexperienced for a lead role”, his career opportunities took a decline. Still being an ambitious actor, he continued to take roles in low-budgeted B-movies, mainly westerns for Republic Studios, and making four or five movies a year. In 1952 he appeared in five episodes of the TV series “Dangerous Assignment”. The same year, he had a movie role as a devious, murderous fur trapper working against Kirk Douglas’ character in “The Big Sky”. Having the prefect voice, he was narrator and actor from 1954 to 1955 for thirty-nine episodes of the TV series “Stories of the Century”, which was the first western series to win an Emmy Award. In 1958, he took the two-year role of Wes Cameron, a Los Angles fireman, in the TV series “Rescue Eight”. Continuing with TV series, he accepted guest roles on “Rawhide”, “Yancy Derringer”, “Have Gun-Will Travel”, “U. S. Marshall” and “Daniel Boone”. He appeared in four episodes of “Wagon Train”, ten episodes of “Fireside Theater”, three episodes of “Bonanza”, three episodes of “Laramie”, thirteen episodes of “Death Valley Days”, eleven episodes of “Gunsmoke”, two episodes of “Perry Mason”, and numerous other TV series. With John Wayne, he had a movie role in “Rio Lobo” in 1970 and “Big Jake” in 1971. In 1974, he gained recognition as a senator in “The Parallax View” with Warren Beatty in the lead role. From 1971 to 1981, he appeared in ten made-for-TV movies along with a dozen appearances on the big screen usually in the supporting role such as a sheriff or a minor character with just a first name. In 1978 after decades of low-profile roles, he accepted his most notable role of the oil tycoon Jock Ewing in “Dallas”, a CBS prime-time TV soap opera that would eventually receive four Emmy Awards. In the storyline, the Ewing family lived on Southfork, a cattle ranch, with life-styles that included extramarital relationships, children out-of-wedlock, stealing, killings, sibling revelry, and other dynamics of the Ewing-Barnes-Southworth family tree. During the production of season four, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, declined rapidly even with chemotherapy, became gradually unable to perform and died after season four aired. His character was dropped from the storyline with an episode about Jock and his wife taking a long second honeymoon trip to Paris. After much thought, it was decided that no other actor could replace Jim Davis in this role. He completed 77 episodes. To permanently eliminate the character from the storyline, Jock Ewing dies in a helicopter crash while drilling oil in South America thirteen episodes after the actor’s death. In 1981, Davis was nominated for an Emmy as the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” for his role as Jock Ewing on “Dallas”. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was married and divorced twice before his 3rd and final marriage, to the former Blanche Hammerer. They married in 1945 and had one daughter, Tara Diane, who was killed in an automobile accident as a teenager in 1970.
Bio by: Linda Davis