Coherent and talkative to the last moment, actor and “Davy Crockett” legend Fess Parker passed away today at the age of 85 at his home in the picturesque wine country of California. Fess was working on his career at the same time with John Wayne, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn when Walt Disney saw him in the hit horror thriller, “Them.” It was a small but foretelling part for Fess, sort of a good natured country boy caught up in things. Walt saw it and tapped him to play Davy Crockett, the first live-action TV series for the Disneyland TV show. The rest – coonskin caps, flintlock muskets, war drums – became history, and very quickly. Part of the glittering power of one of the great American Fads, Louis Marx immortalized Fess forever in the TV show-related Davy Crockett at the Alamo playset.

Fess told PM in his appearance on the At the Alamo DVD that there were to be additional episodes filmed after Fess – as Davy – met his fate at the Alamo, as prequel stories. There was King of the River, but others were never made. There was a theatrical feature produced from the material included in the TV shows.

Fess loved the role of a rollicking frontiersman and said he had found something just as good in a new NBC TV series, Daniel Boone. That show lasted from 1964 – 1970 -- a very popular series that lured many big names into the variety of roles it offered. It was only recently that Barzso Playsets made a fabulous Daniel Boone playset based on that show, brimming with reproductions of the movie set and figures, and fully officially licensed by Fess.

Born in 1924 in the heart of Texas, Fess did not just fake his friendliness and wisdom for the cameras. Following his Disney episodes, Fess made The Great Locomotive Chase and Old Yeller, and was to appear in Tonka, but joked when the title is about a horse it is no place for a serious actor. He turned to a vast new career as land mogul, creating a vast winery with hundreds of acres of the finest grapes producing wines of every kind, winning many awards and helping to build California’s wine business into the very real empire that exists today. To house his many guests he built a magnificent hotel in Santa Barbara, a more private, homey affair next door to the winery, and restaurants. He was a truly friendly fellow who accepted collectors into his home at the Fess Parker winery and extended them every personal courtesy. If you saw him in the TV shows, you know just about exactly what he was like in person. Warm, affable, friendly, made you at home right away. Today he died, March 18, 2010, and as I write this, e-mails and phone calls are coming in to the PM offices from all over the country. People are at first wanting to know if we had heard the news, then each quietly mourning the loss in their own way. One thing I was always meaning to get back to Fess on, two or three years now since I interviewed him, was about something he said that day. Almost as soon as we sat down, he asked if I knew “for sure” how many toys were made that had been based on his Davy Crockett and the TV show. He’d been researching it, he said, and he wanted to know, and not the unlicensed stuff either. He said he was sure it was over 1,000 toys. I have often wanted to call him up to see if he ever found out

Tonight I can only guess that his TV shows were brought out in great quantity and watched for hours by an appreciative audience of families all over the country quietly watching in their living rooms, remembering the good times and confidence that Fess Parker's Davy and Walt Disney heralded for them, waxing once more in the pleasant confidence and humorous wisdoms that Fess was able to drench the viewer in. I do hope you'll join us in opening a bottle of Fess’ wine, then sit back and enjoy one of the adventures of a friend as he does his thing so very well. Good bye Fess, God Bless, and thank you. Thank you from all of us. -

Rusty Kern