- Nov 20, 1932
- Long Beach, California, USA
Bio: The "fastest gun in all the West" and the poster boy for "tall, dark and handsome," Don Durant was best known for his title role in the CBS western series "Johnny Ringo" (1959). Born Donald Allison Durae on November 20, 1932, in Long Beach, California, he spent some of his youth in Riverside as well as on a large cattle ranch in Elko, Nevada. His first foray into… More
Bio: The "fastest gun in all the West" and the poster boy for "tall, dark and handsome," Don Durant was best known for his title role in the CBS western series "Johnny Ringo" (1959). Born Donald Allison Durae on November 20, 1932, in Long Beach, California, he spent some of his youth in Riverside as well as on a large cattle ranch in Elko, Nevada. His first foray into show business was hosting his own radio program over KPRO in Riverside while still in high school. He served first in the US Naval Reserve and then in the army -- for a few weeks he was actually in both branches of the military at the same time.
By 1953 Don was touring in plays and singing at the Sands and the Sahara in Las Vegas. In 1954 he signed on with CBS as a bit player and singer, appearing on shows like "The Jack Benny Program" (1950), "The Red Skelton Show" (1951), "Shower of Stars" (1954), "General Electric Theater" (1953), "You Are There" (1953) and "You Bet Your Life" (1950). Many of these shows were done live.
The 1957 drive-in flick She Gods of Shark Reef (1958), produced and directed by the fabled Roger Corman, was his first starring role. After appearances on shows like "Wagon Train" (1957), "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon" (1955), "Climax!" (1954), "Studio 57" (1954), "Suspicion" (1957), "Perry Mason" (1957), "Trackdown" (1957), "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" (1957), "Maverick" (1957) and "Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1958), Don filmed a pilot with Jane Russell called "MacCreedy's Woman." Dick Powell saw him in that and cast him as gunslinger-turned-sheriff Johnny Ringo in a pilot aired on "Zane Grey Theater" (1956). The series sold and began production in early 1959 with Aaron Spelling at Four Star studios. Mark Goddard, Karen Sharpe (later the wife of producer Stanley Kramer) and Terence de Marney filled out the cast. Don and Trudy Wroe wed on February 28 of that year.
"Johnny Ringo" was canceled after one season due to sponsorship problems. Along with other Four Star westerns, it has run more or less continuously in syndication since 1964. It was the only prime-time network western to feature a theme song (released by RCA) solely composed and performed by the star. More toys were licensed for this show than any other adult TV Western. Don later signed with Revue Studios and had guest appearances in "The Twilight Zone" (1959), "The Virginian" (1962), "Wagon Train" (1957), "The Wide Country" (1962), "Arrest and Trial" (1963) and "Laramie" (1959), among others.
Disappointed in the roles he was offered, and after a summer stint as host of Youth Panorama, Don left the business late in 1964 to pursue a more stable career in real estate and financial management. Don was an avid sportsman, deep-sea fisherman and golfer and deeply involved in Republican politics. He and Trudy traveled extensively in recent years. Now and then he attended autograph shows and conventions, where he would strap on his famous LeMat pistol from the series, much to the delight of fans. Don was a true cowboy, an expert shooter, and one of the best natural horsemen in Hollywood. Perhaps the fact that the actor was genuinely good to the bone came through in his portrayal of Johnny Ringo. It is that authenticity that sets him apart. He was a notably kind, warm and gracious man, unfailingly honest, and will be missed by family, friends and fans alike.
He is survived by wife Trudy; daughter Heidi and her husband Chris Albus of Raton, New Mexico; son Jeffrey and wife Shelly and their children Daniella and Toren of San Diego.
Date of Death:
March 15, 2005, Monarch Beach, California, USA (cardio-pulmonary failure due to complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma).
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