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- Who is your favorite Bonanza character?: Adam
- Location: Louisiana
Denver wandered from place to place and job to job until he made acting his career. He attended Colorado State University but dropped out to become a drummer. That didn't work out so he tried a variety of jobs, from working in Oklahoma oil fields to fishing on Texas shrimp boats.
In 1940, he reached Los Angeles and worked briefly as an NBC page before his working career was interrupted by WWII. He joined the Navy in 1940. Wounded in the Battle of Guadalcanal, he was medically discharged in 1942 and returned stateside, going to work as a riveter at an aircraft factory in Los Angeles. While acting in an amateur theater production, he was spotted by a talent scout; he honed his craft under top-notch teachers such as Maria Ouspenskaya and Michael Chekhov. He made his film debut in 1947 and went on to perform in hundreds of movie and television roles, often bringing an authenticity to the Westerns in which he played. Many of his early roles, as a villain or sidekick, were uncredited.
His hair grayed prematurely then turned white (a Pyle family trait). He became a familiar face to viewers of Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Denver was set to play Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke when James Arness first turned down the role.
Springtime - Theodore 'Ted' Hackett
A Hot Day for a Hanging - Sheriff Tom Stedman
The Boss - Sheriff Ed
Little Man... Ten Feet Tall - Sheriff Ed
Bullet for a Bride - Marcus Caldwell
The Passing of a King - Claude Roman
The Wagon - Price Buchanan
Riot - Warden He developed a close association with actor John Wayne and appeared in many of Wayne's films, including The Horse Soldiers (1959), The Alamo (1960), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973). While working with John Wayne on The Alamo (1960), Wayne became impressed with Pyle's photography and made special arrangements with his public relations office to designate Pyle as the official set photographer for the picture. Denver met James Best in the movie The Left Handed Gun (1958). Some 21 years later, Best co-starred opposite him on "The Dukes of Hazzard" (1979), as his sheriff. The two were best friends until Pyle's death.
Pyle's more important movie roles came late in his career. One of his most memorable was in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) as Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, the handcuffed hostage of the duo, who spits in Bonnie's (Faye Dunaway) face after she coyly poses with him for a camera shot.
He settled easily into hillbilly/mountain men types in his later years and became a household face for his crotchety role in "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" (1977) and the wise and loving Uncle Jesse on "The Dukes of Hazzard" (1979).
Denver was married twice. He married Marilee Carpenter in 1955, with whom he had two children, and they divorced in 1967. He married Tippie Johnston in 1983 and they were married until his death in 1997.
Denver lived to age 77. His brother is Walt Disney animator Willis Pyle; both are cousins of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle. His mother lived to 104 and his brother celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014.
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