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In Memoriam: Fess Parker

March 20, 2010

Actor Fess Parker, who played American frontier heroes Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, died Thursday. He was 85.

Parker died of natural causes at his Santa Ynez Valley home in California.

In later years he had been a major California winemaker and developer.

The six-foot-six Parker debuted as Davy Crockett in December 1954 as part of the Disneyland TV show.

With Buddy Ebsen as his sidekick, he played the frontiersman, congressman, and hero who died at the Alamo in three episodes, then later in a film version, also backed by Disney.

The shows made him a hero and every child wanted a coon-skin cap like Davy Crockett's.

Parker became a contract star for Disney playing the wise frontiersman in films such as The Great Locomotive Chase, Old Yeller and Westward Ho, The Wagons!

He had TV roles in Annie Oakley and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the 1960s before being cast as Daniel Boone in the series that ran from 1964 to 1970.

Daniel Boone star Fess Parker, left, shown in 1965 with actress Carol Lynton. (Associated Press)Boone was a U.S. pioneer and hunter and a hero of the American Revolutionary War. The long-running series, which often played fast and loose with history, featured stories centred around the Kentucky town of Boonesborough.

Parker was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 16, 1924, and served in the Marines during the Second World War.

Parker began his show-business career in the play Mister Roberts in 1951 and appeared in films such as Springfield Rifle and The Bounty Hunter until he landed the Davy Crockett role.

After Daniel Boone, Parker largely retired from show business, except for guest appearances.

"I left the business after 22 years," Parker said in 2001. "It was time to leave Hollywood. I came along at a time when I'm starting out with Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Sterling Hayden and Gregory Peck.

"Who needed a guy running around in a coonskin cap?" he said.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marcella.

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