Harve Presnell Obituary

OBITUARY

California-born Broadway star Harve Presnell dies

 

 Harve Presnell

 

By Jana J. Monji –
LA Theater Reviews Examiner
July 1, 2009

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Harve Presnell might not be as well known as Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett, but in 1960, he created the role of Johnny Leadville Brown in the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” opposite Tammy Grimes (who won a Tony) and went on to star opposite Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie version.  He was 75.

 

The Richard Morris (book) and Meredith Wilson (music and lyrics) musical ran from November 1960 to February 1962 for a total of 532 performances according to the Internet Broadway Database. He would return to Broadway in the 1970s as a replacement in the musical “Annie” as Oliver Warbucks.

 

Born in Modesto, California on September 14, 1933, Presnell had operatic training. Besides Daddy Warbucks and Brown, he played Rhett Butler in the musical “Scarlett” on the West End.

Presnell wasn’t in the original Broadway cast of the 1951 Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical “Paint Your Wagon,” but when it was made into a film with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in 1969, he sang “They Call the Wind Maria.” “On film, he was played William H. Macy’s father-in-law in the 1996 “Fargo,” and General George C. Marshall in Steven Spielberg’s 1998 “Saving Private Ryan.”

 

On TV, he was in the 1996-2000 series “The Pretender” as Mr. Parker, in the 1993-1997 “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” as Sam Lane (five episodes), and the 1998-2003 “Dawson’s Creek” as Arthur “A.I.” Brooks. He was also one of the stars of the short-lived 2007 “Andy Barker, P.I.” series. He made appearances on “Monk” and “ER” and other TV series.

 

Presnell had a beautiful baritone voice and warm and winning presence. It’s a shame we don’t have more footage of him in musicals. In 1965, he won a Golden Globe award together with George Segal and Topol as the most promising newcomers. Presnell arrived when the so-called Golden Age of Musicals was over, but was a popular character actor.

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