Birth Name: Marlin Otho Davis
Stage Name: Jim Davis
Hobbies and Interest
Collecting "western stuff"
Collecting clown figures
Chinese and Mexican food. He didn't like raw fish
Jim liked to collect western memorabilia from the movies and series he was in.
A special item in his collection were three mugs that were given to him by John Wayne.
Wayne had a tradition to give everyone who worked in his movies a special personalized mug.
Wayne created most of the
pictures on the mugs himself and every mug was
Jim was born on August, 26 1909 as a second child of Lucian and Ethyl Davis in Edgerton, MO.
He had two siblings, his older sister
Jeanette (1907-1987) and one younger named Gladys (1914-2010).
In addition, the family ran a small shop, too.
Lucian Davis was a valued and popular member of the township.
In the mid-1940s, he even held the office of mayor for a while.
High School William Jewell College
Jim attended the High School in Dearborn, MO.
Later he went to the Baptist-affiliated William Jewell College in Liberty,MO.
He was a very successful player in the college football team.
His coaches thought he had great talent for a sports career.
Years later, after his first steps in show business and after his military service Jim was appointed to introduce President Harry S. Truman on the William Jewell College´s graduation program in 1946.
This was a big honor for Jim to be the officell host.
Davis' odyssey to acting began when he declined to enter the family business.
Jim Davis: " No way I wanted to be in a mortuary. " he laughs
Before he started working as an actor in 1942 Jim had been working in
many different occupations.
Later he worked as
a salesman for the Texas Oil Company "Quaker State Oil".
It was around that time that he married his first wife Betty Norman in Kansas City.
The marriage did not end well and was divorced after only
we will probably never be able to find out exactely.
He sent for his girlfriend Jane Campbell and they got married in California. But this marriage was divorced too,
after only eight months and two days. The huge age
difference might have been the problem.
agency had already made Gene Autry rich and famous.
Pandro S. Berman ordered some test shots with Davis.
He let him recite a scene from "Test Pilot". The role had originally been played by Clark Gable.
When studio boss Louis
Mayer saw Davis' test, he decided that this man had everything he needed
to be an actor.
But Davis was once again able to convince everyone, he argued, why work for 75 Dollars if he could get 200 Dollars
and a car at Quaker State Oil. He eventually got $ 250 a week.
World War II
Shortly before Jim started his military service at the
Coast Guard, Louis B. Mayer called him to his office.
This made Jim laugh and shortly after he left MGM.
Louis B. Mayer
World War II Registration Card of Jim Davis
He served as seaman first class in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.
This information is based on reports
from a family member of a former soldier who is said to have served with
Jim Davis did serve on the LST 766
along with my father in February 1945. My dad was serving on Collins
Island in Newport Beach California and travelled to San Pedro to depart
to the Hawaiian Islands. I believe on his trip up to San Pedro the
driver and my dad picked up Jim along the way.
no-one will probably ever be able to find out more
The history and role of the U.S.C.G. L.S.T. 766 played in WWII can be
read on Wikipedia.
All over now?
In 1948 he got the chance to do test shots for the role
of Slick Novak in the new Bette Davis film by Warner Bros.
accept him in the role of Slick Novak.
Jim was the last of 13 actors who auditioned for the role.
Supposedly Bette Davis jumped in and said Jim had to be
her film partner. Neither the studio nor the director Bretaigne Windust
were enthusiastic about this idea.
At that time, she kept close contact
with Jim Davis and assured him that he would get the role.
She was thrilled that she and Davis would be in one movie together and said Jim Davis would one day become
a big star. In this
case this would have meant she had discovered and encouraged him.
In his dreams he already started buying cadillacs.
Since no one wanted to employ a "loser" and the contract with Warner Bros had expired,
Davis had to look for something else.
The next morning he was able to start straight away.
However, he never complained about this.
If he wasn't able to act in films he sold real estate, freezers, hearing aids and much more.
It's getting better
It was not a good year for his carreer, he only had a couple of small roles in movies but it was a good year for love.
his later wife
in the late 40s, at the club "Mocambo", on the Sunset Strip.
He made a bunch of western movies with well known actors, for example with:
Their first film in which they were both starring was "Yes
Sir, That's My Baby (1949)".
The enthusiastic horseback rider Davis put his daughter on a horse as early as when she was 4 and dreamed of how his daughter would be winning big tournaments one day.
Television as a new medium provided new opportunities for
He was starring alongside Charlton Heston (who later won an Oscar in 1960).
Not much later things were going to become even better for Jim as the Republic Pictures Studios started planning
on a new western series with Jim in the leading role.
Stories of the Century
In 1954 Republic Pictures established the television
production arm "Studio City Television Productions".
January 1954 to
connection to the
Southwestern Railroad. Each episode took place in a different time
period and place.
The series always looked very authentic. Everytime when
Matt was horse riding, spending a long time on the road he looked dirty
and done. Nobody comes home clean and fine after a two hours ride so the
show was always very good at telling stories in a realistic way.
one with it.
receive such an award.
Honorary Sheriff of Woodland Hills
Western style - Emulating World War I 'I Need You! slogan, Jim Davis,
urges Mr. and Mrs. Valley Voter to get out and vote June 5, 1956
Jim and some other prominent people were installed as various honorary officials at the San Fernando Valley Country Club in Woodland Hill. The ceremony was held at an annual dinner of the Chamber of Commerce in 1955.
Jim was installed as the honorary Sheriff of Woodland Hills by Douglas Pedlow jr. It was an enjoyable evening with music, comedy skits and more. Highlights of the evening was a speech by assemblyman Pat McGree. Attending the evening were among others Councilman Robert Wilkinson with his wife and Harry Warner, of Warner Brother Studios and his wife.
May 2, 1957
Annette Funicello, member of Walt Disney Mouseketeers, accepts plaque naming her
'Sweetheart of San Fernando Valley Honorary Mayors.'
From left are, seated, 'Mayors' Paul Pierce, Tarzana; Gene Baker, Granada Hills; standing Jim Davis, honorary sheriff, Woodland Hills; 'Mayor' Walter Brennan, Panorama City, and 'Mayor' Monty [sic] Montana, Northridge.
Presentation was at Tambour Restaurant in Tarzana.
Finally on the TOP
"Stories of the Century" was very popular but the studios cancelled it.
Yet, these 39 episodes increased Jim's popularity enormously.
During the production of the series, he was playing a few minor roles in various films. But after the series Jim's roles grew bigger.
He was now a lead actor. Some of his first lead acts were non-Western films like "Blonde Bait" (1956) and the sci-fi/horror movie "Monster from Green Hell" (1957). No masterpieces but the films found their viewers.
Much better were the Western films in which he now appeared as a star of
the movie. You can notice that these films and the image of what they represent, fit better.
Last Stagecoach West (1957 reunited with his serial mate Mary Castle)
Another little movie highlight was the comedy western
"Alias Jesse James (1959)", starring Bob Hope in the leading role. Both
actors combined a passion for golf. In 1983 Hope was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame
because of his big contributions to golf sports. He held regular tournaments in which Jim also
A new chapter in Jim's TV career was about to begin. The year 1958 brought him a new leading role in a series.
Screen Gems produced the series "Rescue 8" from September
1958 to May 1960, for two seasons.
The show ran in syndication for 74
half-hour long episodes. "Rescue 8" was very popular so nobody was surprised that
syndicated reruns continued for almost a decade. The Rescue 8 team was mostly seen in physically oriented
Jim narrated parts of the episodes again.
Robert Redford and Harry Dean Stanton.
The series raised Jim's popularity again. This time, even non western fans were paying attention to him. His continuing stardom was also proven by the fact that he got one of the first of 1500 stars on the Walk of Fame. At this time, it was not such a big deal. Although this award only gained in importance over the years, it was a first mention of his achievements in film business. Today, millions of people are visiting the Walk of Fame every year.
Jim's rising popularity opened another type of offer, TV
They thought it was under their dignity to do something
The great Era of TV Series
The Tall Man (2 episodes), Wells Fargo (3 episodes), Laramie (4 episodes),
Have Gun-Will Travel, Wagon Train (4 episodes), Bonanza (3 episodes),
(3 episodes), The Guns of Will Sonnett (starring
Walter Brennan and Dack Rambo who would later star in the cast of Dallas),
Hoppla Lucy! , Perry Mason (2 episodes)
Not only his TV series showed a great variety but also
the movies he was shooting at the time. With increasing age and slightly graying hair, the roles
for which he got cast changed.
A few years later Wayne would do something very special for Jim as he helped him process a very tragic loss.
In 1970 he had to cope with the biggest loss of his life.
So he thought his daughter had the right to die in dignity.
Jim also spent a lot of time in the garden of his house.
Despite all of this Jim never gave up. Life had to go on.
He also received a lot of support from various colleagues,
including John Wayne who helped him to get smaller roles
in some of his movies.
had aged years in a very short time. Jim's hair became gray
and he also added a few pounds.
The following years
brought a great variety of work for Jim.
But the big era of western series was over. More and more people wanted to see other formats.
This gave Jim the chance to play other parts than sheriffs and cowboys.
The series was based on the John Wayne movie with the same name.
Only 12 episodes were produced before the series was canceled. This should not be the only failure in the next years.
He played the captain of a Mississippi river tugboat who started drinking after the death of his beloved wife.
After a little adventure he found new hope and began a new life.
The movie was the pilot for a TV series called "Rivermen". But the series was not ordered.
guest starred in other more or less well-known series like "Project
U.F.O.", "The Oregon Trail", "The Quest" and "Banacek" starring George
Things were going
similarly in Jim´s film work.
He also had a small part as a senator in "The Parallax View" in 1974.
Years later after
Rescue 8 Jim played a rescure man again: As fireman Rocky Stratton in
the 1974 movie "Inferno in Paradise". Other good movies he made in this
time were "Satan's Triangle" in 1975 and "Killing Stone" in 1978.
It was a
special-effect movie without a good story.
International Fame as "Big Daddy"
At the end of the 70s David Jacobs had the idea for a
drama series about a rich family in the oil business.
Initially the producers had no plans for a regular series.
Everyone was aware that John Wayne would not do a TV show
becauce he was too ill and also a big movie star.
he could just be like he was at home.
In addition they cast Larry Hagman as his oldest son John
Ross "J.R" Ewing, Patrick Duffy as his younger son Bobby Ewing, Victoria
Principal as Bobby's wife Pamela Barnes Ewing who was the daughter of
Jocks rival Digger Barnes. Carlene Tilton played Lucy Ewing, daughter of
Jock's son Gary Ewing.
Dallas became more and more popular over the years. In the Nielsen ratings they rose from 44th place to 15th place,
later to 6th place, until they even climbed to the top in year 4. The number of countries in which the series was
broadcast also increased. With a broadcast in over 130 countries, Dallas became one of the most successful series in
terms of viewership.
The cliffhangers were one of the reasons why the show was so popular and this continued to increase interest among the audience. There have been many in the history of the series but the most sensational and exciting one was
"Who shot J.R.?". For almost a year the
fans were guessing who had shot J.R. Ewing, in all circles of society. Even the British royal family were glued to their TVs.
He denied this because the actors themselves didn't know the answer to it.
Many different actors had filmed a shooting scene, including Jim as Jock. The scene opens up with him telling his son: "Take this, you son of a bitch". One can assume that the producers never really intended to use this recording. Who would have liked to see Jock call his beloved Miss Ellie a bitch!
The actors of the show got on extremely well. They really became a small family over the years. Everyone had a lot of fun with their work. Maybe also a secret why the series became so good and popular. It wasn't just a job for them, it was something special. Jim used to refer to himself and Barbara Bel Geddes as the "old" generation. When the younger actors were joking around, he and Barbara were often sitting a little apart and he would jokingly said "We have to show our professionalism and our seriousness ". Both connected a friendship that was also continued privately. They would visit each other occasionally and stayed in contact.
Due to the good relationships between all the actors,
they had many interesting conversations during the shooting of Dallas.
Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy in particular listened eagerly when Jim
talked about his numerous western films.
Nobody was surprised that after the series had ended, Hagman took home the painting of Jim as Jock Ewing and hung it in the entrance area at his house.
The international fame of Dallas changed the life for Jim and Blanche a lot. There was hardly a place where they could go without Jim being recognized. It was not new for him to be recognized, but not to this extent. But he enjoyed it very much. There was no autograph request he refused or a person for whom he did not have a smile and a greeting. His joy about this success went so far that he got the license plate "Ewing 1" for his private car. However, he had to have this changed again after a while, as some fans went so far and pursue him..
To top it all, mountains of letters from a wide variety of fans reached him. The range went from autograph requests to
offering of dates. It seems that all this is the reward for his decades
of work in the second row.
For many years, Jim was suffering from an unbearable headache.
But showing "weakness" and going to the doctor was not an
option for him.
Jim had a clear opinion of his wife showing up on the set. He didn't want her to visit him.
Jim's opinion was that if he was
working in a department store, she wouldn't come to see how he got on
The producers became increasingly aware that Jim would not be
able to continue working for long. Therefore, they decided to
reject the planned separation of Jock and Miss Ellie.
The storyline around the Takapa project was also ended at short notice. The remaining time was used to show how Miss Ellie and
Jock reconciled. Both were sent
on a trip to explain Jock's absence.
in a car saying goodbye to his family.
It was actually planned that Jock would return after Jim's recovery.
Jim spent his last days at his home in Glendale with the
help of a nurse and his beloved wife Blanche took care of him after the
gastric ulcer surgery. Most of the time he was asleep and initially it
looked like he was going to recover.
Other expressed their condolences in written form.
e.g. Kirk Douglas, Wanen Beatty, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Robert Mitchum
Jim was laid to rest in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
His grave is located at the Great Mausoleum. Jim shares his grave with his only daughter Tara Diane who was buried 11 years before him.
With the death of Blanche Davis in 2009 parents and daughter were
reunited in the family grave. The Great Mausoleum is closed to the public.