A former college athlete at the University of Texas, Fess studied drama in the early fifties and debuted in Springfield Rifle (1952). He made only a handful of movies until he was signed by Walt Disney to star in the “Davy Crockett” series. When Walt was looking for an actor to play the part of Davy, he screened the sci-fi movie Them! (1954) with James Arness. When he saw Fess in a scene, he chose him over Arness and Fess became an instant celebrity when “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” debuted in 1955. His appeal with children was enormous with the coon-skinned hat, the #1 hit song “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett”, The Davy Crockett Bubble Gum Cards and Comic Books. But the craze ended almost as fast as it started in 1956, and Fess was typecast. Fess appeared in other Disney movies dealing with the early years of Davey and also in non-Crockett parts such as Old Yeller (1957). By 1959, unable to achieve the success that he had gained as Crockett, his career had leveled off. He made guest appearances on a number of television shows, but his attempted return to television in the series Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1962) was not successful. Unable to procure the rights to play Crockett from Disney, Fess tried the frontiersman role once again with the TV series Daniel Boone (1964). He played this role for six years and the fact that he had a beautiful red-headed wife in a color series did not hurt him at all. After Daniel Boone (1964), Fess retired from the screen and went into real estate, which was profitable. He was later forced to sue his “Daniel Boone” producers over the profits generated by the series.
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