20 Mar 2010

Davy Crockett star Fess Parker dies at 85

3:02 pm on 20 March 2010

Texas-born actor Fess Parker, who became a star of early television playing American frontier folk hero Davy Crockett, has died at the age of 85.

A family spokesperson says he died of natural causes at his California home on Thursday - the 84th birthday of Marcella, his wife of 50 years.

Parker served in the US Navy and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin before trying his hand at acting. Landing a contract with Warner Brothers, he appeared in a series of small roles before being hired by Walt Disney in 1954 to star in a miniseries about Davy Crockett.

The three episodes were enormously popular with viewers, catching Disney by surprise and spawning one of TV's first pop culture frenzies.

Imitation coonskin caps, buckskin clothes, toy rifles, books and other memorabilia flew off the shop shelves. The Crockett craze even spread to countries like New Zealand, which did not have television at the time.

Parker later starred in Daniel Boone, a hit NBC series about another 19th-century American folk hero that ran from 1964 to 1970.

He retired from show business in the 1970s to concentrate on business ventures, ultimately opening a popular resort hotel on the Santa Barbara waterfront and a Central California winery bearing his name.