If you were a kid in the 1960s, odds are, at some point, you wanted a coon skin cap. The reason was Daniel Boone. Or perhaps Davy Crockett. Either way, both characters were portrayed on-screen by one towering man, Fess Parker.
A Texas native standing 6' 5", Parker was the ideal actor to slip into the fringed suede jacket and play the folk hero frontiersmen. The Walt Disney miniseries Davy Crocket, originally airing in 1954–55, made Parker a star. A decade later, he was holding a rifle once again, taking the lead role in Daniel Boone from 1964–70.
Let's take a look at some fascinating facts about Daniel Boone and its star.
Parker originally wanted to do a Davy Crocket series, but could not get the rights.
As reported in Parker's obituary in Entertainment Weekly in 2010, the actor initially hoped to star in an ongoing series about Crockett. However, Disney would not give up the rights. Parker shifted his focus to another early American mountain man. He kept the coonskin cap, too.
Fess Parker has a different name in France.
Unfortunately, the word for "buttocks" is fesse in French. Thus, the actor was renamed Fier Parker in francophone countries. The 45 single for "Ballad Of Davy Crockett" also carried this alternate name in France.
The group that sang the later version of the theme song is in the Gospel Hall of Fame.
"From the coonskin cap on the top of ol’ Dan / To the heel of his rawhide shoe / The rippin’est, roarin’est, fightin’est man / The frontier ever knew!" What a great sing-along. The memorable theme song went through significant changes. The earlier versions had a natural country feel, while later seasons featured an groovy, upbeat take sung by the Imperials, a Christian quartet from Georgia. The group has four Grammys to its name, too.
The show is responsible for one of Johnny Carson's funniest moments.
Speaking of singing, Parker's costar Ed Ames, who played the Native American sidekick Mingo, had an impressive pop music career. He could also throw a mean axe. In the spring of 1965, Ames went on The Tonight Show to show off his tomahawk tossing skills. The actor sunk the business end of the hatchet just below the groin of a cowboy's silhouette. "I didn't even know you were Jewish!" Carson quipped. The clip became an immediate Carson classic.
Image: Johnny Carson / YouTube
Fess Parker was almost the U.S. Ambassador to Australia.
Longtime friend Ronald Reagan offered Parker the position in 1985. After considering the gig, Parker turned it down.
Image: AP Photo / Ed Kolenovsky
Parker tried to open a Daniel Boone amusement park in Kentucky.
In the late 1960s, Parker optioned a swath of land in northern Kentucky, nearby the junction of I-71 and I-75. He hoped to open an amusement park dubbed Frontier World. However, soon after, the Kings Island Amusement Park was constructed over the border in Ohio, and financing for Frontier World dried up.
Parker turned down the lead role in 'McCloud.'
When Boone was swept off the air in the rural purge in 1970, Parker had the chance to immediately jump to another soon-to-be hit. However, he passed. Dennis Weaver ended up taking the role of the Southwestern marshal on loan to the NYPD. McCloud ran for seven seasons, from 1970–77.
The famous wine chugging scene in 'Sideways' was filmed at the Fess Parker Winery.
Paul Giamatti chugging a spit bucket of red wine waste in Sideways remains one of the great moments in modern film comedy. That scene was shot at Fess Parker Winery in Los Olivos, California. The actor purchased the 714-acre ranch in 1988.
Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Veronica Cartwright was forced off the show because of Patricia Blair.
After the second season, Jemima Boone, Daniel's daughter, vanishes from the series. The character was played by the great Veronica Cartwright, the sister of Lost in Space's Angela Cartwright. Why did she disappear? There was some behind-the-scene bickering. The producers hoped to introduce a love interest for the young Boone, played by teen idol Fabian. Blair, who played matriarch Rebecca Boone, was not a fan of the idea and gave a she-goes-or-I-go ultimatum. "The actress playing my mother didn't care for that, so she wouldn't sign her contract if they brought me back," Cartwright explained. "She felt that it aged her."
Parker directed five episodes himself.
Yes, the man had skills behind the camera, too. He got his first shot at helming an episode with "Then Who Will They Hang from the Yardarm If Willy Gets Away?" in 1968.
Image: AP Photo/David F. Smith