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November 23, 2014

Remembering John Forsythe: "Goodbye, Angels"

by Michael Maloney, posted Apr 2nd 2010 6:00PM
John ForsytheIf you grew up in the '70s, odds are you remember hearing John Forsythe's voice but not seeing him. The 92-year-old actor, who passed away April 1 in Santa Ynez, Calif. due to complications from pneumonia, was the voice of Charlie Townsend, who ran the Charles Townsend (Detective) Agency, on 'Charlie's Angels' from 1976-1980.

Even though 'Angels' featured empowered women, it seems they never made a move until Charlie gave them the go-ahead. Charlie was often shown from the back of the head (another actor subbed for Forsythe) surrounded by bikini-clad women.John ForsytheIf you grew up in the '70s, odds are you remember hearing John Forsythe's voice but not seeing him. The 92-year-old actor, who passed away April 1 in Santa Ynez, Calif. due to complications from pneumonia, was the voice of Charlie Townsend, who ran the Charles Townsend (Detective) Agency, on 'Charlie's Angels' from 1976-1980.

Even though 'Angels' featured empowered women, it seems they never made a move until Charlie gave them the go-ahead. Charlie was often shown from the back of the head (another actor subbed for Forsythe) surrounded by bikini-clad women.

Not being seen changed when Angels producer Aaron Spelling hired the Penns Grove, New Jersey-born Forsythe to replace George Peppard as Blake Carrington in his prime time soap 'Dynasty,' which, like 'Angels,' went on to become a pop cultural phenomenon.

Forsythe brought a commanding presence to Blake, who, despite arrogantly ruling the lives of his children, wife and ex-wife, was beloved by the audience. The actor brought a bravado to Blake's actions for which the character never apologized -- even after killing (albeit accidentally) his son Steven's lover Ted in a fit of anger. It could have been laughable when Blake offered to adopt his soon-to-be-ex-son-in-law Jeff, a grown man (!), but Forsythe played Blake as paternal and loving.

Viewers may have chuckled at the camp elements of 'Dynasty,' but never at Blake's love for his children or the devotion he had for Krystle thanks to Forsythe's talent and commitment.

The actor was in his 60s during 'Dynasty's' reign -- hardly the prime of any romantic leading man -- but viewers tuned in every Wednesday to see the romance of Blake and Krystle. Fans were left frustrated when 'Dynasty' ended with an unresolved cliffhanger when the series was canceled in 1989. Blake/Krystle devotees were treated to a scripted reunion movie in 1991 as the couple ran towards each other on the beach. Forsythe was in his 70s, but the audience loved it.

The cast reassembled one last time for a retrospect on the sudser produced by Henry Winkler. 'Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar' aired in 2006 on CBS.

Older TV viewers recall Forsythe from the lead role in the sitcom 'Bachelor Father,' which ran from 1957-62. In it, Forsythe shared screen time with guest star Linda Evans, who would later become his wife Krystle on 'Dynasty.'

Forsythe's career began in an uncredited part in the Errol Flynn 1943 film 'Northern Pursuit.' It took a detour to serve in World War II. He later worked with injured soldiers who had developed speech problems.

Forsythe returned to acting in the 'Kraft Television Theatre' in 1948. He appeared regularly in the Golden Age of Television throughout the '50s and starred in the 1956 film 'The Ambassador's Daughter' with Olivia de Havilland.

Director McG brought authenticity to the two 'Charlie's Angels' films that he directed in 2000 and in 2003 by hiring Forsythe to reprise Charlie's well-known voice. He was reportedly paid $5 million to say, 'Good morning, Angels' once more. The movies would not have been the same without him. It was Forsythe's last film role.

Thanks to the DVD release of Forsythe's TV series a new generation of viewers will be able to witness the strength, presence and charm that the actor brought to all of television roles.

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