It’s easy to get attached to our favorite TV show characters, so much so that we can feel a true loss when the characters are written off, especially when the actors who portrayed the characters have died in real life. Production comes with its fair share of complications but sudden death of actors is a tricky one to deal with. Oftentimes, this leaves the writers scrambling to rewrite the show and recasting while also trying to preserve the memory and legacy of the actors who have passed. In this video, we’ll specifically delve into some instances in the 70s actors died during the production of some of your favorite 70s television series.
Frank Silvera from The High Chaparral
The High Chaparral was an American Western action adventure drama that ran from 1967 to 1971. Frank Silvera played the role of a Mexican squire named Don Sebastian Montoya. Silvera unexpectedly died in 1970 after accidentally electrocuting himself while repairing a garbage disposal. His character was written off with a “sudden, peaceful passing.”
Arthur Leslie from Coronation Street
Arthur Leslie was a British actor best known for his role as Jack Walker on the British soap opera, Coronation Street. In June 1970, only six days after what would become his final appearance on the series, Leslie died of a heart attack. The writers of the series killed off his character in the same way.
Pete Duel from Alias Smith and Jones
Pete Duel is best known for his starring role as outlaw Hannibal Heyes in the American Western series, Alias Smith and Jones. Sadly, at the height of the series, Duel committed suicide. His girlfriend, Dianna Ray, was at his home on the night of his death. She explained that the two of them had watched an episode of Alias Smith and Jones earlier in the evening. Later she went to bed alone but sometime after midnight she heard Duel come into the bedroom to retrieve his revolver and said “I’ll see you later.”
She then heard the gunshot. Duel’s character was taken over by Roger Davis who had been the narrator of the series. But the show couldn’t sustain the loss of Duel and was cancelled shortly after. In this video, we’ll specifically delve into some instances in the 70s actors died during the production of some of your favorite 70s television series.
Dan Blocker from Bonanza
Dan Blocker was the actor behind the beloved character of Hoss Cartwright from the hit series, Bonanza. In the long-running series, Blocker appeared as Hoss in over 400 episodes. In 1972, during the 13th season, Blocker died of a pulmonary embolism during a surgery to remove his gallbladder. The character of Hoss was killed off though his death was only vaguely alluded to. A previous character, Candy Canaday, played by David Canary, returned to the series to complete the cast in Hoss’s absence. Many believe Blocker’s death led to the series’ ratings dropping in 1972 and its subsequent cancellation.
Roger Delgado from Doctor Who
Roger Delgado was the first actor to play The Master in the long-running British series
Doctor Who. Delgado was killed in a car crash in 1973. His character, however, never died on the show and is periodically reincarnated. The character has been portrayed by eight different actors since Delgado’s death.
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James Beck from Dad’s Army
Dad’s Army was a BBC sitcom about the British militia called The Home Guard during World War II. You might remember James Beck for his portrayal of Private Joe Walker, a cockney spiv. During filming of the sixth season, Beck suddenly became ill with pancreatitis and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later. His character was written out by one of the other characters reading a letter from his character, explaining he had gone to London to conduct one of his deals. The character was never mentioned again. In this video, we’ll specifically delve into some instances in the 70s actors died during the production of some of your favorite 70s television series.
Glenn Strange from Gunsmoke
Glenn Strange was the legendary actor who portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1940s classics. Later in his life, he was known for playing Sam Noonan on the CBS Western series Gunsmoke in the 70s. During his time on Gunsmoke, he lost his battle with lung cancer and died in 1973. His character was killed off.
Patricia Cutts from Coronation Street
Patricia Cutts briefly played Blanche Hunt on Coronation Street in 1974. The role would
have been her most high-profile role, but after only two episodes, Cutts was found dead in her London apartment. Her death was ruled as suicide by barbituate poisoning. The character was taken over by Maggie Jones.
Barbara Colby from Phyllis
Phyllis was a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Barbara Colby played the role of Julie Erskine, the owner of a commercial photography studio. After filming three episodes, Colby was murdered. Colby and her colleague James Kiernan were walking to their car after an acting class in Los Angeles when they were shot in a parking lot. Colby’s character was recast and Liz Torres took over the role.
Graham Haberfield from Coronation Street
Up next, we have another Coronation Street actor. Graham Haberfield played Jerry Booth for 13 years on the series until he suddenly died of heart failure at the age of 33. His character was killed off in the same way.
Freddie Prinze from Chico and the Man
Freddie Prinze, a stand-up comedian, actor, and father of actor Freddie Prinze Jr., was the star of the 70s show Chico and the Man. The series was about the owner of a run-down garage in an East Los Angeles barrio and his young, optimistic employee, Chico Rodriguez, played by Prinze. After struggling with depression and drug abuse, Freddie Prinze shot himself in 1977 during the series’ third season. Episodes filmed prior to Prinze’s death aired on schedule with an on-screen acknowledgement from the series’ creator and executive producer, James Komack. He began the episode by thanking everyone for their sympathy and kindness.
After the final episode Prinze had filmed aired, his absence for the rest of the season was explained by being away either on business or visiting his father. In the next season, Chico was replaced with a twelve year old boy named Raul played by Gabriel Melgar. Eventually characters explain that Chico died. The ratings declined and the series was cancelled in 1978.
Diana Hyland from Eight is Enough
Diana Hyland played the character Joan Bradford in the series Eight is Enough, a series about parents raising eight children. Hyland played the mom, but only four episodes into the first season, she fell ill. She had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1977, she died. The writers of Eight is Enough wrote her character’s death into the second season. And eventually the father character falls in love and marries a different woman, played by Betty Buckley, and she replaces Hyland as the matriarch of the show.
Zara Cully from The Jeffersons
Zara Cully was best known for her role as Olivia Jefferson or “Mother Jefferson,” in the classic sitcom The Jeffersons. Cully died of lung cancer during the fourth season of the series in 1978. Though no special episode was created to explain her death, it was briefly addressed in the second episode of the fifth season.
Will Geer from The Waltons
The Waltons was an American historical drama series that took place in rural Virginia during the Great Depression that first aired in 1972. Will Geer portrayed “Grandpa” Zeb Walton. In 1978, Geer died of respiratory failure during season 6 production. The character was killed off and addressed in the season 7 premiere.
Arthur Brough from Are You Being Served
Arthur Brough was a British actor best known for his role as the senior menswear salesman, Ernest Grangier in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?, a sitcom about the misadventures of the staff of a fictional department store. Brough died in 1978. The character was written out without explanation and replaced by Mr. Tebbs, played by James Hayter.
Karl Swenson from Little House On the Prairie
Karl Swenson portrayed the character Lars Hanson on the American classic, Little House on the Prairie adapted from the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Swenson died of a heart attack shortly after filming the death of his character, the episode airing only eight days after the actor’s death.
Jack Soo from Barney Miller
Barney Miller was a hit sitcom in the 70s set in a New York City Police Department. Jack
Soo played Detective Nick Yemana. Soo was diagnosed with esophageal cancer during
the fourth season of the series. He returned for season 5 but the cancer spread quickly
and Soo died in 1979. His character was written off without a clear explanation, but later in the season, a special tribute episode in honor of Soo aired.
Bob Clayton from $20,000 Pyramid
Bob Clayton was the host of the popular game show The $20,000 Pyramid. In 1979,
Clayton died of cardiac arrest. Steve O’Brien, a New York disc jockey, took his place.
That concludes our list of 70s actors who died during production. Can you remember when these actors died? What are some of your favorite shows from the 70s? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to hit the like button and subscribe for more videos.