Fess Elisha Parker, Jr.
(born August 16, 1924) is
an American film and television actor
known for his 1950s portrayals of Davy
for Walt Disney
in the late 1960s. He is
also known as a wine maker
born in Fort Worth,
Texas, and grew up on a small farm outside San Angelo, TX.
He served in the U.S. Marine
at the end of World War II
He joined to become a pilot
, but was turned
down for being too tall (six feet, six inches) for a pilot.
After being discharged, he was stabbed in the neck by a drunken
driver during a post-collision argument. Parker required many
months of rehabilitation, but was unable to participate in sports
to the extent he desired.
Texas he was initiated into the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity in 1948.
graduated from the University in 1950 with a history degree, and
then moved to California, where he studied drama at the University of
Parker began his show-business career in the play Mister Roberts
in 1951, although
he is credited with the voice of Leslie, the chauffeur, in the 1950
Parker became a contract player with Warner Brothers
appearing in small roles in
several films such as Springfield Rifle
Island in the
, The Bounty Hunter
and Battle Cry
. In 1954, he appeared as
in the Jim Davis
western anthology Stories of the Century
episode The Dalton
There is an interesting story from Parker himself. When Walt Disney
Company was looking for their "Davy Crockett," they originally
considered James Arness
for the title
role. Parker had recently graduated to a contract weekly actor, but
listened to his agent, so he appeared instead in a B movie
that required only one day's work. He had a small scene in the
movie, that of a pilot put into an insane asylum after claiming his
plane had been downed by giant flying insects. Arness appeared in a
larger role in the same film.
It was during a screening of this film that Walt Disney discovered
Fess Parker. Disney was impressed when Parker, a pilot who had seen
flying giant ants was imprisoned in an insane asylum by the
authorities so as not to panic the population. Unswerving in his
belief in what he saw despite the forces of authority against him
impressed Disney over many other major stars considered for the
role such as Arness, George
, and Buddy Ebsen
eventually played Georgie Russel. Parker was asked to drop by the
Disney Studio. When he did, he brought his guitar, met Walt, sang a
song, and then said his goodbye. A couple of weeks later he was
told that he had been selected to play Davy Crockett.
He was subsequently hired by the Walt Disney
in 1954 to play the legendary Davy Crockett
in three episodes depicting his
exploits as frontiersman, congressman, and heroic figure of the
Alamo (in the first television miniseries
though the term had not yet been coined). Davy Crockett
tremendous hit with children, and led to a merchandising frenzy for
all things Crockett.
Parker became a contract star for Disney appearing in many films
such as The Great
, Old Yeller
, and Westward Ho, The Wagons!
complained they were all the same role. Disney refused to loan out
Parker for roles not of his persona, such as The Searchers
and Bus Stop
Parker made guest appearances on many television programs; and
composed and sang music. In 1962 Parker starred in the title role
of the TV series Mr Smith Goes to
and from 1964 to 1970 he starred in the
series Daniel Boone
another historic figure
frontier days. Turning down the title role of McCloud
, Parker retired from the
film industry in the 1970s, after a short-lived 1974 sitcom
, The Fess
In 2003, Parker received the Texas
's Texas Medal of Arts, established only the year
Fess Parker Winery
currently devotes most of his time operating his Fess Parker Family
Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos, California.
The winery is owned and operated by Parker
and his family, and has produced several different types of
Parker's operation includes over of vineyards, and a tasting room
and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. In addition
to wine, Parker is known for selling coon
and bottle toppers at his winery (inspired by his
Crockett and Boone characters).
Parker married Marcella Belle Rinehart on January 18, 1960. They
have two children: Fess Elisha III and Ashley Allen Rinehart.
- Disney Legends: Fess Parker
- Fess Parker Interview Playset Magazine #34