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Chapter 17  -  THE FINAL YEARS  (Feb 1976-Feb 1980)
    "a career and life sadly pre-empted"

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takes a part in the ensemble suspense film "Two Minute Warning" for Universal. Though the role is not strong on paper, he accepts on the basis of the already-cast Gena Rowlands who he would be playing scenes with.

He also reprises the role of Harry Orwell one last time, for the taping of a Bob Hope special called "Joys' which will air on March 5 (taping date unknown). In it, Janssen appears with these other TV detectives: Angie Dickinson (Police Woman), Mike Connors (Mannix), Jim Hutton (Ellery Queen), Telly Savalas (Kojak), and Abe Vigoda (Fish).

mar-apr production period for a TV movie "Mayday At 40,000 Feet" . There is some location shooting in Salt Lake City.
may has his own celebrity tennis tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. (check)
may 23 has lunch with his mother at the Daisy club along with Suzanne Pleshette and her husband Tommy Gallagher.
jun 12

On the cover of TV GUIDE for the last time, this time with Anthony Zerbe, during re-run season.

jul 8

attends an ANTA tribute to Helen Hayes with wife Dani.


a production deal is announced with CBS.

Plans call for a 5th TV series to be developed for David for the 77-78 season. He has in mind that it be 'a combination of comedy and drama in equal proportions'. Also that his company, David Janssen Enterprises, and CBS will partner in television films. He is quoted as saying, "“I don’t want to be just an actor now. I want a part in production”.

However nothing materializes from this and the office he is given at the CBS Studio Center in Studio City (where he filmed a season of "Richard Diamond" years earlier) is seldomly used real estate. (Victor: who was his secretary here?)

aug 12

last network airing of "Harry O" concluding its 2-season run.

aug 13

beginning of filming on TV film "Stalk the Wild Child" for NBC (shooting title "Farrell"). Explaining why he was doing an NBC film with his CBS deal just announced, he explains, “Oh, you know me, I’ll open supermarkets if they ask.” Some of the shooting occurs in the Monterrey Peninsula in Northern California.


has (another?) celebrity tennis tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. (check)

sep 29

tapes an episode of "Dinah!" and appears with with Bob Hope, Fred Mc Murray, Harriet Nelson, and Sally Struthers. In Janssen’s segment, a clip from “Two Minute Warning” is shown.


is in Philadephia for a week to co-host on "The Mike Douglas Show"


travelled to Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) to film a commercial.

nov 12

on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Janssen follows Frank Sinatra and appears with Don Rickles. He talks about his recent trip to Japan and shows a clip from “Two Minute Warning”

nov 21

attends the wedding of Marisa Berenson and Jim Randall with out wife Dani. This fuels separation rumors with members of the tabloid press.

A few days later Dani reportedly attends Thanksgiving dinner at Harold Robbins house without David.


mixed signals in the Janssen marriage: Dani says David's Christmas present is a beach house purchase (underway but not yet closed) in the exclusive Carbon Beach section of Malibu. Newspapers report that David has moved out of the Century City condo and into friend Wes Farrell's house for a time and then into the L'Ermitage hotel. Army Archerd's column reports they are together on Dani's December 19th birthday. But there are also rumors he is spending time with songwriter Carol Connors. Gossip columnist Rona Barrett goes on the air on December 20 and proclaims the marriage has come to an end.

David tapes an episode of "Circus of the Stars" at the Santa Monica Civic Center (exact date unknown).

dec 10

flies to Las Vegas to see Liza Minnelli in concert

dec 25 David's mother Berniece sets a place for David at the family gathering at the home of David's half-sister Teri but he does not show up.



jan 1

may have been in Europe at the first of the year

jan 5 has been trying his hand at lyric writing with Carol Connors who is getting much attention for co-writing "Gonna Fly Now" in the just-released hit "Rocky" as well as for being 'the other woman' in Janssen's recent marital problems. In late 1976 they collaborated on a song "A Begal's (sic) Plea For Xmas" with words by Janssen and music by Connors. On this day, they record a demo of another called "All Our Friends Knew (All the Time I Was Loving You)"
jan 10

confusion about the state of the marriage continues. Army Archerd reports David and Dani are back together. David prepares for the start of a new TV movie and reports to the press, “I’m home and happy about it. It’s too bad our temporary trouble got so much attention”.

He is particularly candid in an interview about his nervousness before starting a film project, "I start getting traumatic about a week before the starting date. I run around getting the decks cleared so I won’t be bothered by external duties after a picture or a TV job begins. And the day before--like this--I’m a minor wreck”


begins production on "A Sensitive Passionate Man" opposite Angie Dickinson. This film about a man's alcoholic downward spiral is viewed as an ironic choice of material by those who are concerned Janssen is having his own struggles with the disease. Janssen will give a disturbing performance which will gain poignancy when he succumbs to his hard-living lifestyle in just over 3 years.

The film is directed by John Newland whose roots with Janssen go back to 1950 Summer Stock. They were both actors in Ogunquit, ME that summer.

jan 27 vows Janssen does renew---David signs up for another 3 years of representation with his agent since 1959, Abby Greshler.
feb Connors and Janssen collaborate in tandem with his work on the current TV film producing a title song for it. The concept of "My Sensitive Passionate Man" is Janssen's and he writes all the words with Carol providing the music. Concerned that Carol is not objective about the work, they ask Berry Gordy of Motown for a second opinion and he is complementary.
feb 20 David's mother gets a report from a friend that David has moved out of the condo again...
feb 24 signs his last will and testament leaving his full estate to wife Dani provided she survives him by 5 months, otherwise Deborah Gutermuth, Dani’s daughter. $1 is bequethed to anyone who challenges the will.
mar 1 attends the AFI Bette Davis tribute -- with Angie Dickinson.
mar-apr an affair with Carol Connors continues to play out in private and in the press.
mar 29

Connors asks Janssen to be her date for the Academy Awards, She is nominated for "Rocky". He declines.

Wife Dani hosts a Oscar party at the Century City condo (a tradition which continues to the present) . It is assumed Janssen remains home this evening. At this party, Andy Warhol attends and writes about it in his diaries. Also attending: Roman Polanski, Burgess Meredith, James Caan, Jacqueline Bisset, Lee Grant, Linda Evans and Michael Douglas with his week-old bride, Diandra with ex-girlfriend Brenda Vaccaro awkwardly attending as well.

Connors loses to the song "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand.

late apr Janssen "gets out of the kitchen" and travels to South Africa to begin a role in another "B" movie called "Golden Rendezvous". It in, he works with (and is billed below) Richard Harris and Ann Turkel. On long phone converations back to Carol Connors in the US, they try to write a title song for this current movie. Carol tries melodies on the piano and Janssen brainstorms lyrics. They run up an $800 phone bill. Janssen says, "It's the most expensive song ever written". It is not used in the film.
may Completes his work on "Golden Rendezvous" and returns to the US.
may 25 Janssen is a 'no show' for a scheduled appearance on "Good Morning America" leaving Angie Dickinson alone to publicize their soon-to-be-aired "A Sensitive Passionate Man" project . Angie tells David's mother who shows up to watch the taping that David "tied one on last night and couldn't make it".
late may

David breaks things off with Carol Connors right before Memorial Day weekend.

Dani Janssen who has survived 6 months of marital uncertainty will, a decade later, espouse on being a celebrity wife, something she prides herself on doing well. It requires, according to her, putting the celebrity first (“The star always gets top billing”).

She offers some other advices:

-Forget visiting him on the set (“If you married a doctor, would you watch him cut people open?”)

-Allow him time to hang out with his male friends.

-Give him the freedom to have flirtations with other women. If a serious extramarital affair developes, take the offensive. Get him back or see a good divorce lawyer.

It's not know if it came to seeing a divorce lawyer, but she got David back.

jun 6 "A Sensitive Passionate Man" airs on NBC. One reviewer states Janssen “managed to transcend a ridiculous script with an affecting performace”

the CBS deal announced last year comes to an end without a series coming to fruition.

jun films a TV movie with Stephanie Powers and Linda Evans called "Nowhere To Run"
end jun after years of being troubled with his left knee from his 1948 high school pole vaulting accident, finally elects to have surgery on it. It's done in a West Covina, CA hospital with Dani present.
mid jul begins work as guest star on the "Police Story" called 'Trigger Point' for producer David Gerber. He took this job a bit too soon after knee surgery and it gives him trouble during the shoot.
aug 26 lunches with his mother and 85-year old grandmother visiting from Nebraska at La Scala Restaurant.
sep travels to New Orleans to film "Superdome", a small screen "killer-on-the-loose-at-the-Superbowl" movie. Odd choice being that he's filmed a big screen version earlier in the year, but his part is bigger.
oct 19 is announced for a forthcoming movie to co-star Catherine Bach called "Covert Action"
nov 10 goes to the Daisy club.
dec 11 mother is given a "Outstanding Woman of L.A." award at the Biltmore Hotel attended by her daughters. David cannot attend telling her there were dinner party plans made by Dani weeks earlier.



jan -feb

filming "Covert Action" in Rome and Greece. Previously announced Catherine Bach has dropped out. Corinne Clery, a French actress, is the female lead and Arthur Kennedy rounds out the cast.

As in other recent overseas work experiences, the cache of working in a foreign locale is somewhat dampened by a frustrating production experience. Janssen is vocal about his displeasure. Italian filmmakers adamantly refuse to use live sound and hence non-English speaking actors speak in their own language while playing scenes with him.

Also, a new Italian ordinance prohibits the firing of guns in Italian movies in production as it is said to be linked to a rise in domestic violence. Therefore, gunfire scenes are shot in Greece.

mar 19 announced as being cast in another film to be shot in Greece called "Above Suspicion" to be directed by Dimis Dadiras. This never happens.

apr 17

starts an 8-hour miniseries called "The Word" for producer Chuck Fries. Is paid $50,000 per hour. Shot this day in Pasadena, CA. Production schedule on the project will take him to Rome, Amsterdam, and London, then back to LA over the next 4 months.
apr 28 acquire (closing date) on the adjoining unit to their 28th floor condo in Century City (Victor: do they rent this out?).
may 2 work continues on "The Word" in Rome, Italy where Janssen plays his 1st scene with Florinda Bolkan at the Ulpia Restaurant.
jun 5

production on "The Word" begins in Amsterdam after 5 weeks in Italy. Filming takes place at the 17th-century Westerkerk church.

Another high-profile television project will also soon require Janssen -- as narrator for the entire NBC "Centennial" miniseries. Cast as Paul Garrett, one of the present day characters in the story which spans many generations in the life of the James Michener-created town, he will narrate the 1st 11 episodes and then film the 12th concluding one. Though the 26-1/2 hour saga will begin airing on October 1st with some of his voiceover work already recorded, he will not begin filming his segment until November.

jun 30

5 days of London filming commences on "The Word" which marks the end the European portion of filming. Production moves back to the States on July 6th. Janssen is routed thru New York City to do some small unit establishing shots including the final shot in the broadcast - that of reunited lovers Janssen and Bolkan walking through the concrete canyons of the city.

july 13 Los Angeles shooting on "The Word" resumes with the INT. Resurrection 2 Headquarters scenes which take place over 6 days.

aug 2

filming on "The Word" is at the docked Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.

aug 17

Janssen completes work on "The Word" shooting his beach house scenes and sporting a fake beard.

Producer Fries will have good things to say about his star, “Sure he had to leave the set promptly at five every day because he had to get back to his motor home where he had his booze set up, but he worked hard to finish on time and he worked every single day, six days a week, sometimes seven, and he didn’t have the entourage....”

sep 15

evening entertainment- -watches the Ali-Spinks fight at the Playboy Mansion in California.

sep 17

is a presenter on the 30th Annual Emmy Awards. In a particularly slow and gravelly delivery, he gives the award for best writing in a drama series. Friend Steve Allen is nominated but Gerald Green wins for “Holocaust”. When it becomes clear the winner is not present to accept, Janssen has an awkward moment and is caught with egg on his face.

oct 29

is in California lunching at his Beverly Hills Tennis Club.

nov is in Greeley, Colorado filming his chapter of the "Centennial" epic called 'A Scream of Eagles'.
nov 12

airdate of part one of "The Word" which is shown on the next 4 consecutive nights.

Work in Colorado precludes his watching the show and so he has wife Dani videotape it for him. When he gets around to seeing it he is disappointed, as he has been for much of his recent work :

“I seemed to spend all my time on that one saying, ‘Whose got the papyrus?’ Eight hours of that can get pretty tedious. And when I finally saw it....I turned it off after the first episode. To be honest with you, I just couldn’t understand it.”

dec 11 back in California as he goes to the Beverly Hills Tennis Club this day.
dec 19 intends to go to the Christmas luncheon with his mother for her Mothers of Stars Club. Cancels as he has a social commitment with Dani in Palm Springs.
dec 31 invited to both a dinner party with his lawyers (the Ziffrens?) and a family celebration his mother has invited him to. Chooses the lawyer's party.



jan 8

starts shooting a TV movie in San Francisco called "The Golden Gate Murders". Director is a frequent "Fugitive" helmer, Walter Grauman. Female co-star is Susannah York. The film locations for a short time in San Francisco, then moves back to Universal Studios. During the shoot, Janssen has a few rough afternoons. Grauman has to have a pep talk with his actor as he is concerned that David's lunchtime drinking will jeopardize their finishing the picture on time. Though at first Janssen kids that he's not concerned if they go over - - he'll get an overage payment -- he does acquiesce and pulls it together.

feb 4 premiere broadcast of the "Centennial" segment that Janssen appears in, the conclusion of the miniseries "A Scream of Eagles".
feb 9 completes "The Golden Gate Murders". He begins to grow a beard for his next film role.
feb 26

in England filming his part for director Billy Hale ("Stalk the Wild Child") as John Jacob Astor in "S.O.S. Titanic" . Film has been in production for a week and this is most likely Janssen's 1st shooting day. He films at London's Waldorf Hotel. Janssen stays at the Anthenium while here. His schedule will allow him some time to explore. He'll visit Roger Moore in Ireland filming "Ffolkes", during some off time.

David when interviewed at the beginning of his romantic relationship with Dani in 1973 playfully commented, "I’ve always loved Gucci, tall looking ladies and here I wind up with a big-titted Lilliputian.” Dani, on a visit from LA, asks the studio driver who picks her up to describe the physical attributes of David's co-star Beverly Ross. When told of her non-busty frame, Dani comments, "I'm in trouble..."

march filming continues on "S.O.S.Titanic" with some 2 weeks of location work on the Isle of Man which is plagued by high winds.
mar 25 Filming in London is cancelled at 10am due to Janssen's inability to work. This is a dark day in the life of David who for years had both a reputation for, and a pride about his professionalism and preparedness. As early as "The Fugitive", he was known for enjoying cocktails at lunch and being able to shoot 4 pages after. Now older and seemingly more far along in the problem, he for the first time causes a serious production cost and delay. (ironic FEAR IN A DESERT CITY clip)
mar 26 the scenes between Janssen and Beverly Ross cancelled yesterday are done successfully.
mar 30 Janssen's last day in London on "S.O.S.Titanic"
apr 27 a contract is drawn up for a forthcoming TV movie called "Panic On Page One" to begin in approximately one month. Janssen will receive $225,000 for 4 weeks of work.
early may Finishes "S.O.S.Titanic" after a hiatus with some remaining shooting in Los Angeles at the docked Queen Mary.
may David's mother Berniece moves to a townhouse in Tarzana, CA which will be her home for over 15 years (it will be heavily damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake).

filming "City in Fear" (retitled from "Panic On Page One"). In it, Janssen plays a burned-out (and alcoholic) newpaper columnist battling his circulation-driven publisher (Robert Vaughn) over how to cover a local serial killer story. Publicized as Janssen's final performance it was the last to be televised though not the last to be filmed.

late jul

begins work on the TV movie "High Ice" made in the Darrington, WA area. In a heroic role, he plays a ranger who rescues people trapped on a mountain but dies from exposure in the process. The beard which he shaved off for "City In Fear" is re-grown for this role.

aug finishes "High Ice".

Janssen reports clean-shaven to work in South Korea for "Inchon!". This will be his last completed work.

He again plays a journalist as he did in "The Green Berets" and "The Shoes of the Fisherman" and is relegated to not being key to the main action, but a commentator on it.

General Douglas MacArthur is played by Sir Lawrence Olivier who Janssen expected to play a lot of scenes with when he signed up, but didn't. Instead he works mostly with non-actor Rex Reed and the director's girlfriend Sabine Sun. All actors are given generous salaries. Others who take the payday bait are Jacqueline Bisset and Ben Gazzara (Ben Gazzara quote). By all reports much money was hemmoraged in the making of this film and the source of that money is the real footnote in the "Inchon!" debacle. The financing seems to be tied to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church.

Janssen may have returned to Korea more than once to complete his role.

sep 23

attended book party at the Mailbu home of Paul and Mickey Ziffren for Mickey's book "A Political Affair".

ABC network airing of David's "S.O.S. Titanic" 3-hour TV movie.

oct 3 CBS network airing of "The Golden Gate Murders"
early oct May have travelled to Rome for additional work at Cinecitta Studios for "Inchon!". He flew to location from the States with actor Ben Gazzara.
late oct

Janssen is announced for a TV film project called "Damien of Hawaii" about the leper priest of Molokai. It will not start for several months, and this will be the longest he is off between filming assignments since awaiting his start date on "O'Hara, US Treasury" 9 years earlier.

He tells "People" magazine, "It’s harder and harder to get up in the morning.” He adds he might prefer the life of a film producer: "Get up at ten, have two-hour lunch breaks, fire everybody in the afternoon, and be ready for cocktails at 4:30.”

Among his producer-like leisure activities, he attends with other Rolls Royce owners a dedication by Princess Margaret of a West Los Angeles garage.

oct 24 takes his mother Berniece to see his Malibu beach house for the 1st time.
nov 8 David's aunt Dorothy (his real life father's sister) and her husband are in California visiting from Texas and are taken by Berniece to visit David at the beach house. When asked where Dani was, David replies "Dani, who?" explaining that this was his house to relax in alone.
nov 22 has Thanksgiving plans with Dani and industry friends. His mother sets a place for them at the family gathering expecting they would be attending.
dec 24 mother Berniece visits son David at the Century City condo to bring Christmas presents--a black silk Caftan for David and a picture frame for Dani. This will be the last time she sees him. He and Dani are packing to leave for Florida that night or the next morning.


jan 7

David's TV movie "High Ice", airs on NBC. It's airdate is moved up as the last minute replacement for the cancelled Democratic debate.

feb 11

First day of shooting on "Father Damien" (new title) which had cast him back in October. Filming takes place at the Hunter Ranch in Agoura, CA where a recreation of the Molakai Church and town is built.

The production company is Tomorrow Entertainment whose head of production Tom Moore was an ABC exec in the early 60's. He'd criticized Roy Huggins' "Fugitive" story pitch almost 20 years earlier. Moore's daughter Jean Edwards produces this current film.

feb 12

Day two on "Father Damien". Janssen has several scenes including one with actor Manu Tupou as the company continues to work at Hunter Ranch.

At right is David on camera in this, his final day of work.

After work Elliott Shapiro, his movie Teamster driver for 5-1/2 years, takes him home to the Malibu beach house at 21958 Pacific Coast Highway. He has a quiet dinner at home with Dani.


feb 13

In the early morning hours, David awakens and starts gasping and choking (had he gotten up for a cookie?). Dani calls the paramedics at 4:19A.

Malibu Fire Captain Keno Devarney is among those responding and discovers David not breathing and without a heartbeat.

Actor Stuart Whitman happens to be driving by and, seeing emergency vehicles parked outside, stops. His recollection to the press afterwards: "Dani was walking around the living room in circles. She pointed inside the bedroom and said, ‘David’s in there’. They had taken him out of bed and they were working on him and working on him. It must have been a half hour altogether.”

This is reportedly a revival of the heartbeart.

David is transported by ambulance the 11 miles to the nearest hospital in Santa Monica. Whitman drives Dani. Family physician Dr. Rex Kennamer is notified.

At 5:36 am he's admitted. Whitman continues, "There was a chaplain at the hospital. Then Dr. Kennamer called me out of the room and said ‘I think we’re just going through the motions, I believe he’s gone’.

Elsewhere, Elliott Shapiro makes the drive to Malibu to pick up David for day 3 of shooting on "Father Damien". He does not have the radio on this morning. He rings the house via the hidden phone in the brick column out front.

Mother Berniece Janssen is putting on her makeup in her San Fernando Valley townhome. She is getting ready to return to 20th Century-Fox Studios as an extra on the office set of the Jane Fonda movie "Nine To Five". The phone rings.

Ex-wife Ellie Janssen is startled awake in her apartment by friend Patti Hartland's phone call in another part of L.A.

Friends, peers, other family, and fans alike are waking up to learn what Dr. G. Sugarman has pronounced at 5:55am. David Janssen has died at the age of 48.


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