Dick York

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Dick York

Dick York
BornRichard Allen York
(1928-09-04)September 4, 1928
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1992(1992-02-20) (aged 63)
East Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
Years active1947–84
Spouse(s)Joan Alt (1951–92) (his death)
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Dick York

Dick York
BornRichard Allen York
(1928-09-04)September 4, 1928
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1992(1992-02-20) (aged 63)
East Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
Years active1947–84
Spouse(s)Joan Alt (1951–92) (his death)

Richard Allen "Dick" York (September 4, 1928 – February 20, 1992) was an American actor. He is best remembered for his role as the first Darrin Stephens on the ABC television fantasy sitcom Bewitched. His best known motion picture role was as teacher Bertram Cates in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind.


Early life

Born Richard Allen York in Fort Wayne, Indiana, York grew up in Chicago, where a Catholic nun first recognized his vocal promise. He began his career at age 15 as the star of the CBS radio program That Brewster Boy. He also appeared in hundreds of other radio shows and instructional films before heading to New York City, where he acted on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy and Bus Stop. He performed with stars including Paul Muni and Joanne Woodward in live television broadcasts and with Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon and Glenn Ford in movies, including My Sister Eileen, and Cowboy.

It was while filming the 1959 movie They Came to Cordura with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth that York would receive a permanently disabling back injury. In York's own words: "Gary Cooper and I were propelling a handcar carrying several 'wounded' men down [the] railroad track. I was on the bottom stroke of this sort of teeter-totter mechanism that made the handcar run. I was just lifting the handle up as the director yelled 'cut!' and one of the 'wounded' cast members reached up and grabbed the handle. I was suddenly, jarringly, lifting his entire weight off the flatbed—one hundred and eighty pounds or so. The muscles along the right side of my back tore. They just snapped and let loose. And that was the start of it all: the pain, the painkillers, the addiction, the lost career."

In 1960, he played the role of Bertram Cates (modelled on John Thomas Scopes, of "Monkey Trial" fame) in the film version of Inherit the Wind.[1]

York went on to star with Gene Kelly as Tom Colwell in the ABC television comedy/drama Going My Way, and to appear in dozens of episodes of now-classic television series, including Justice, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, and CBS's The Twilight Zone and Route 66.


York is best known as the first actor to play Darrin Stephens in the 1960s situation comedy Bewitched. The show was a huge success and York was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1968. Because of his back injury, which sometimes caused him to seize up in debilitating pain in later years, the scripts for some of his final episodes on Bewitched were written around his being in bed or on the couch for the entire episode. One day, during the fifth season of the sitcom: "I was too sick to go on. I had a temperature of one hundred and five, full of strong antibiotics, for almost ten days. I went to work that day but I was sick. I lay in my dressing room after being in make-up, waiting to be called on the set. They knew I was feeling pretty rotten, and they tried to give me time to rest. I kept having chills. This was the middle of the summer and I was wearing a sheepskin jacket and I was chilling. I was shaking all over. Then, while sitting on a scaffolding with Maurice Evans, being lit for a special effects scene: They were setting an inky - that's a little tiny spot[light] that was supposed to be just flickering over my eyes. That flickering, flickering flickering made me feel weird. And I'm sitting on this platform up in the air...and I turned to Gibby, who was just down below, and I said, "Gibby, I think I have to get down." He started to help me down and that's the last thing I remember until I woke up on the floor. That's about all I remember of the incident...and I'd managed to bite a very large hole in the side of my tongue before they could pry my teeth apart."[2]

From York's hospital bed, he and director Bill Asher discussed York's future. "Do you want to quit?", Asher asked. "If it's all right with you, Billy," was York's reply. With that, York left the show to devote himself to recovery. From season 6 onwards (until the series ended in 1972), the role of Darrin Stephens was played by actor Dick Sargent. Sargent was originally offered the role of Darrin in 1964, but turned it down to do a short-lived sitcom called Broadside.[3]

Later years

Dick York in 1983 on an episode of Simon & Simon.

Largely bedridden, York battled not only his back pain but an addiction to prescription pain killers.

In his memoir, The Seesaw Girl and Me, published posthumously, he describes the struggle to break his addiction and to come to grips with the loss of his career. The book is in large part a love letter to his wife, Joan (née Alt), the seesaw girl of the title, who stuck with him through the hard times. York eventually beat his addiction and tried to revive his career. He appeared on several prime-time television series including Simon & Simon and Fantasy Island.

York, a three pack a day smoker,[4] spent his final years battling emphysema. He lived on welfare from 1976 until his death. While bedridden in his Rockford, Michigan, home, he founded Acting for Life, a private charity to help the homeless and others in need. Using his telephone as his pulpit, York motivated politicians, business people, and the general public to contribute supplies and money.[5]

Despite his suffering, York said, "I've been blessed. I have no complaints. I've been surrounded by people in radio, on stage and in motion pictures and television who love me. The things that have gone wrong have been simply physical things."[6]

York died from complications of emphysema at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 20, 1992. He was 63 years old.

York is buried in Plainfield Cemetery in Rockford, Michigan.[7]


YearFilmRoleOther notes
(Combat Fatigue: Insomnia)
LuckyShort film for U.S. Navy
1947Shy GuyPhilip NortonShort film
1950Last DateNickShort film
1951How Friendly Are You?PhilShort film
1955My Sister EileenTed 'Wreck' Loomis
1955Three Stripes in the SunCpl. Neeby Muhlendorf
1957Operation Mad BallCpl. Bohun
1958CowboyCharlie, Trailhand
1959The Last BlitzkriegSgt. Ludwig
1959They Came to CorduraPvt. Renziehausen
1960Inherit the WindBertram T. Cates
1955Goodyear Television PlayhouseJohn RandolphEpisode: "Visit to a Small Planet"
1955The Philco Television PlayhouseAndyEpisode: "Incident in July"
1955JusticeEpisode: "Fatal Payment"
1955–1957Kraft Television TheatreEpisode: "Million Dollar Rookie
Episode: "Mock Trial"
Episode: "Ride into Danger"
1956Playwrights '56GraysonEpisode: "Honor"
1956Eye on New YorkLt. Mac HartmanEpisode: "Night of the Auk"
1956–1958Studio OneGeorge Fox
George Weston
Captain Jay Hellman
Episode: "A Man's World"
Episode: "The Weston Strain"
Episode: "The Enemy Within"
1957The Kaiser Aluminum HourEdward GillisEpisode: "A Real Fine Cutting Edge"
1957–1962Alfred Hitchcock PresentsManny Coe
Norman Logan
J.J. Bunce
Ralph Jones
Tom Barton
Herbert J. Wiggam
Episode: "Vicious Circle"
Episode: "The Dusty Drawer"
Episode: "The Blessington Method"
Episode: "The Doubtful Doctor"
Episode: "You Can't Be a Little Girl All Your Life"
Episode: "The Twelve Hour Caper"
1958The United States Steel HourGordon BatesEpisode: "Beaver Patrol"
Climax!Gordon BatesEpisode: "Shooting for the Moon"
1958–1959Playhouse 90Scott Arlen
Matthew Sherwood
Episode: "The Last Clear Chance"
Episode: "The Time of Your Life"
Episode: "Made in Japan"
Episode: "Out of Dust"
1958, 1960The MillionaireKen Leighton
Sandy Newell
Episode: "The Ken Leighton Story"
Episode: "Millionaire Sandy Newell"
1960The UntouchablesErnie TorranceEpisode: "The White Slavers"
Alcoa TheatreCorporal James SloanEpisode: "The Glorious Fourth"
Stagecoach WestWebb CrawfordEpisode: "Three Wise Men"
1960-1961The Twilight ZoneCapt. Phil Riker
Hector Poole
Episode: "The Purple Testament"
Episode: "A Penny for Your Thoughts"
1961Naked CityCharles ColanoEpisode: "Bullets Cost Too Much"
The DuPont Show with June AllysonLt. James WhitneyEpisode: "School of the Soldier"
The AmericansBolickEpisode: "The War Between the States"
General Electric TheaterAshael MillerEpisode: "A Musket for Jessica"
Adventures in ParadiseMarkham JonesEpisode: "The Reluctant Hero"
The OutlawsSam NicholsEpisode: "Night Riders"
Dr. KildareHarry BentonEpisode: "The Lonely Ones"
Frontier CircusJeb RandallEpisode: "The Shaggy Kings"
1961, 1963RawhideFrank Price
Elwood P. Gilroy
Episode: "Incident of the Broken Word"
Episode: "Incident at Confidence Creek"
1961–1964Wagon TrainWillie Pettigrew
Charley Shutup
Ben Mitchell
Episode: "The Clementine Jones Story"
Episode: "The Charley Shutup Story"
Episode: "The Michael Malone Story"
1962ThrillerFred BancroftEpisode: "The Incredible Doktor Markesan"
1962–1963Going My WayTom Colwell
1963InsightEpisode: "Breakthrough"
Route 66Lieutenant SchoolEpisode: "What a Shining Young Man Was Our Gallant Lieutenant"
The Alfred Hitchcock HourSheriff Will PearceEpisode: "Terror at Northfield"
The VirginianJeff TolliverEpisode: "Stopover in a Western Town"
1964–1969BewitchedDarrin Stephens
1965The FlintstonesDarrin StephensEpisode: "Samantha"
Inherit the WindBertram T. CatesNBC TV-Movie
1983Simon & SimonMartin DonlevyEpisode: "Too Much of a Good Thing"
1984Fantasy IslandEpisode: "Sweet Life/Games People Play"

Awards and nominations

Emmy Awards

See also


  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ Douglas, John (April 1992). "Dick York of Bewitched - A Farewell Interview". bewitched.net. http://www.bewitched.net/filmfax.htm. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  3. ^ Keehnen, Owen. "Interview with Dick Sargent, 1992". No More "Straight Man", Dick Sargent is Out and Proud. http://www.harpiesbizarre.com/sargent_interview.htm. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  4. ^ http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20119715,00.html
  5. ^ Secter, Bob (February 8, 1989). "Bewitched by a Cause : Dick York Is Dying of Emphysema but He Lives to Help the Homeless". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1989-02-08/news/vw-2079_1_dick-york. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  6. ^ Douglas, John (April 1992). "Dick York of Bewitched - A Farewell Interview". bewitched.net. http://www.bewitched.net/filmfax.htm. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  7. ^ Plainfield Cemetery, Kent County Michigan (Jul 9, 1998). "Dick York's grave". FindaGrave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3135. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
4. The Seesaw Girl and Me, by Dick York, pgs. 15-16, 100-105

External links