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John Forsythe dead; starred in 'Dynasty,' 'Bachelor Father'

Distinguished actor John Forsythe, who was most famous for his role as the dashing and devious Blake Carrington in ABC's hit "Dynasty," died of complications from pneumonia. He was 92.

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By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 2010

John Forsythe, 92, a debonair actor who became one of the most recognizable faces and voices on television through such long-running series as "Dynasty" and "Bachelor Father" and the wildlife show "The World of Survival," died April 1 at his home in Santa Ynez, Calif. He had complications from pneumonia.

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Mr. Forsythe was also an unseen star on the detective drama "Charlie's Angels." He provided the wry baritone voice of millionaire Charles Townsend, who gives instructions via intercom to his three gorgeous police academy "Angels."

An unflashy performer, he spent much of his early career portraying decent, often paternal characters on stage and screen.

In 1953, he originated the Broadway role of the amiable Capt. Frisby in postwar Okinawa in "The Teahouse of the August Moon," a John Patrick play that won a Pulitzer and Tony award. As the star of "Bachelor Father" from 1957 to 1962, he played Bentley Gregg, a Hollywood lawyer whose love life is complicated by his guardianship of his orphaned teenage niece.

For much of the 1950s, Mr. Forsythe proved a versatile Hollywood leading man. He showed skill in suspense ("The Glass Web" with Edward G. Robinson) and romantic comedy ("The Ambassador's Daughter" with Olivia de Havilland). He played crusading journalists in several films, including the Robert Wise drama "The Captive City" and the comedy "It Happens Every Thursday" with Loretta Young.

Alfred Hitchcock cast him as an artist in "The Trouble With Harry" (1955), one of many characters in the film about a corpse and the crew of New Englanders who keep reburying it.

The Hitchcock film, his most prominent screen role, was not a popular success, and Mr. Forsythe later worked in memorable secondary parts.

His best work was as Kansas investigator Alvin Dewey in "In Cold Blood" (1967), an adaptation of Truman Capote's book; as a CIA agent in Hitchcock's "Topaz" (1969); and as an autocratic, corrupt judge in ". . . And Justice for All" (1979), in which his character sparred with a lawyer played by Al Pacino.

The last part was a particular favorite of Mr. Forsythe's, who said he found himself typecast as "the nice guy." Critic Gary Arnold, writing in The Washington Post, called Mr. Forsythe "disarmingly effective as a sleek scoundrel" in the Pacino film.

The role also led to one of the more defining characters of his career: Denver oil tycoon Blake Carrington on ABC's "Dynasty," a nighttime soap opera that aired from 1981 to 1989.

As Carrington, Mr. Forsythe was usually distracted by the poisonous rivalry between his wife, played by Linda Evans, and his scheming ex, played by Joan Collins. The program sustained viewers' attention despite plot contortions that Mr. Forsythe acknowledged were "so patently phony."

"My wife being kidnapped, then substituting another lady who looks surprisingly like my wife only I don't know it," he once said. "It defies description."

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