Royal Dano was undoubtedly one of the best, most quirky and striking character actors to ever grace the big and small screen alike in a lengthy and impressive career which spanned 42 years.
Royal Edward Dano was born on November 16, 1922 in New York City, to Mary Josephine (O’Connor) and Caleb Edward Dano, a newspaper printer. He was of mostly Irish descent (his mother was an immigrant). Royal ran away from home at age twelve and lived in such states as Texas, Florida and California. He struck a deal with his father to continue his education, but still be able to travel around the country. Dano eventually attended New York University. His performing career began as part of the 44th Special Service Provisional Company during World War II. Dano soon branched out to the New York stage and made his Broadway debut with a small role in the hit musical “Finian’s Rainbow.” He was nominated by the New York Critic’s Circle as one of the Promising Actors of 1949. Tall and lean, with a gaunt face, dark hair, a rangy build, and a very distinctive deep croaky voice, Dano was usually cast in both movies and TV shows as gloomy and/or sinister characters. He appeared most often in westerns and worked several times with James Stewart and director Anthony Mann. He made his film debut in Undercover Girl (1950). Dano’s more memorable roles include the Tattered Soldier in The Red Badge of Courage (1951), a sickly bookworm bad guy in Johnny Guitar (1954), Elijah in Moby Dick (1956), Peter in King of Kings (1961), a cattle rustler in The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972), a coroner in Electra Glide in Blue (1973), a profanity-spewing preacher in Big Bad Mama (1974), Ten Spot in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), a weary factory line worker in Take This Job and Shove It (1981), a lightening rod salesman in Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), a caterwauling minister who showed up at the doors of newly widowed wives of test pilots, and sang “Eternal Father Strong To Save” in The Right Stuff (1983). He was a stuffy high school teacher in Teachers (1984), rascally zombie old-timer Gramps in House II: The Second Story (1987), a cantankerous farmer in Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), and in his last part, a cemetery caretaker in George A. Romero’s The Dark Half (1993). Among the numerous TV shows Dano did guest spots on are Twin Peaks (1990), Amazing Stories (1985), CHiPs (1977), Quincy M.E. (1976), Fantasy Island (1977), Little House on the Prairie (1974), Kung Fu (1972), Ben Casey (1961), Planet of the Apes (1974), Cannon (1971), Playhouse 90 (1956), Lost in Space (1965), Gunsmoke (1955), Bonanza (1959), Wagon Train (1957), The Virginian (1962), Hawaii Five-O (1968), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958), Night Gallery (1969), Route 66 (1960), The Rifleman (1958), and Rawhide (1959). Moreover, Dano did the voice of the animatronic Abraham Lincoln for Walt Disney’s Hall of Presidents for both Disneyland and Disney World. Dano also portrayed Lincoln on the Omnibus (1952) television series. He’s the father of actor Rick Dano. Royal Dano died at age 71 of a heart attack on May 15th, 1994.
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