David Janssen's portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble was the major reason
for The Fugitive's success and enduring popularity.
"David fit beautifully," said George Eckstein,
Fugitive writer and co-producer. "We are in a world where there
is an increasing sense of alienation, frustration and helplessness
on the part of the individual, and this was such a strong
dramatization of that syndrome. I think people really identified
with that." To television viewers, David Janssen WAS
Dr. Richard Kimble. They experienced Kimble's grief following his
wife's murder, his fear during his flight from police Lieutenant
Philip Gerard, and his anger and frustration as he chased the
one-armed man who murdered his wife.
"Sure I understood Richard Kimble," Janssen told TV Guide's
Dwight Whitney. "He is not too far removed from what I am in
general. It is the sort of part you can't reach too far outside
yourself and successfully play. I relate physically and
emotionally. How else could I have done it?"
Adorable. Vulnerable. Sensitive. Those were all words used
to describe David Janssen. Certainly his magnetism was universal.
"He appealed to both men and women the way Clark Gable did,"
said John Conwell. "He was a woman's man and a man's man.
He had tremendous sex appeal. You just liked him and you wanted
him to win all the time."
Long before he played Richard Kimble, David Janssen was born
David Harold Meyer in tiny Naponee, Nebraska on
March 27, 1931. When he was three, David won a
Sears & Roebuck beautiful-baby contest and at age eight he
moved to Los Angeles with his mother Berniece, who enrolled
David in acting lessons and had him performing in little plays
all over Hollywood. In high school he developed into a fine
athlete, specifically basketball and pole vaulting.
After a serious knee injury while pole vaulting,
he turned to acting full-time appearing in some minor motion
picture roles before landing the part of Richard Diamond,
Private Eye from 1957-60. In 1962 producer Quinn Martin
selected David for the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, which he would
play from 1963-67.
In 1974-76 David returned to television as Harry O .
He continued to appear in motion pictures (over 100
to his credit), television movies
and miniseries until 1980. On February 13, 1980, after suffering
a heart attack at his Malibu beachfront home, David Janssen
died at the age of 48.