Roger Davis is best known for his acting roles in "Dark Shadows" and "Alias Smith and Jones" in the 1960s and 1970s. But he's also well known as the Henry Fonda-soundalike on more than 6,000 commercial voiceovers, an accomplished designer and architect, and the first husband of "Charlie's Angels" star Jaclyn Smith.
Jon Roger Davis was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on April 5 to Edwin and Virginia Davis. The family, including 2 brothers, relocated from their farm to Louisville, KY, where Roger attended grade school. Davis' acting abilities surfaced early; at age 11, he played the role of the Archbishop in a production of "The Prince and the Pauper." Roger's high school years were spent in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he attended Castle Heights Military Academy. He was a star on the debating team (winning an eight-state debating championship) and excelled in cross-country running and swimming. Davis graduated with scholastic and extra-curricular honors, andRoger Davis is best known for his acting roles in "Dark Shadows" and "Alias Smith and Jones" in the 1960s and 1970s. But he's also well known as the Henry Fonda-soundalike on more than 6,000 commercial voiceovers, an accomplished designer and architect, and the first husband of "Charlie's Angels" star Jaclyn Smith.
Jon Roger Davis was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on April 5 to Edwin and Virginia Davis. The family, including 2 brothers, relocated from their farm to Louisville, KY, where Roger attended grade school. Davis' acting abilities surfaced early; at age 11, he played the role of the Archbishop in a production of "The Prince and the Pauper." Roger's high school years were spent in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he attended Castle Heights Military Academy. He was a star on the debating team (winning an eight-state debating championship) and excelled in cross-country running and swimming. Davis graduated with scholastic and extra-curricular honors, and was accepted into the Ivy League's Columbia University in New York City. He majored in American and British literature and minored in architecture, and his acting ability got him leading roles in major college theatrical productions. Roger also studied existentialism and acting there (under drama coach Michael Howard, and with Curt Conway and Lonnie Chapman, who both appeared with the late James Dean in "East of Eden,") and acted in summer stock at Woodstock, NY and with the Repertory Theatre in NYC. At the insistence of his father, a racehorse owner who doubted Roger's choice of an acting career, Davis enrolled at Harvard to major in law. Although he admits that lawyer Clarence Darrow was his boyhood idol, Roger stayed only six days at Harvard before he decided to give up and pursue a job offer to teach two classes of freshman English at UCLA. He made the trip to California by bus, with only $13 to his name. He also supported himself by pumping gas and waiting tables--occasionally clocking 90 hours a week. While at UCLA, Davis completed his master's degree and did his thesis on Robert Frost.
After a uncredited bit part in John Wayne's "The Alamo" in 1960, Roger's professional acting debut came in 1962 on the ABC-TV series, "The Gallant Men." He played Private Roger Gibson in this World War II drama about the American campaign in Italy. The show ran until mid-1963. Upon its cancellation, Davis was asked to replace Ryan O'Neal in the retooled version of NBC-TV's first full-color show, the western series "Empire," renamed "Redigo." He stayed with the series until its cancellation in mid-1964. Concurrently, Roger appeared in the movie, "PT109" in 1963, and in the cult-classic surf flick, "Ride the Wild Surf" with Fabian in 1964. He did guest leads on "The Twilight Zone" in 1964 and "Bonanza" in 1966.
By 1966, Roger returned to New York to pursue a serious acting career. He immediately captured one of the two lead roles, as the Bobby Kennedy character in the political satire "MacBird." Davis co-starred with Stacy Keach and played before audiences first at the Charles Playhouse in Boston and later in New York City. The show ran a year off-Broadway. During the production, Roger was referred to his first voiceover job by "MacBird" directors, touting Anacin on TV.
1968 was a pivotal year for Roger; he was offered the romantic lead as lawyer 'Peter Bradford' in ABC's afternoon gothic soap "Dark Shadows," and met his future wife, Jaclyn Smith, on an elevator in NYC. Davis would go on to play eight different roles on "Dark Shadows" between January 11, 1968 and March 11, 1970, and appeared in 129 episodes. Roger and Jaclyn were married in the winter of 1968. Smith had just moved to NYC to pursue an education in ballet, and was on her way to her first modeling job when she met Davis. She rejected an audition for the part of Victoria Winters on "DS" in 1968 when Alexandria Moltke departed the show because of pregnancy. Jaclyn later became the "Breck Girl" in shampoo commercials, and on to "Charlie's Angels" in 1976. Roger's career as a voiceover announcer was booming as well; he and Smith appeared as announcer and actress in commercials for "Close-Up" toothpaste in the early 1970s. Davis earned a $250,000 salary in 1971 for his voice work, including spots for Canada Dry that netted him $100,000 alone! (And a far cry from the $3 total he admitted to making for the year 1966.) He also did commercial spots for McDonalds, American Express, Nationwide Insurance, Plymouth, Salem Cigarettes (as actor and announcer,) Brut, Norelco, Gold Medal Flour, the Red Cross, Equitable Life Insurance, Heinz Ketchup, Mrs. Paul's Yams, Armour Star Bacon, Glad Bags, Kawasaki, Quiet World, and even Forest Lawn Cemeteries in LA! Roger also starred in several ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" presentations, including "River of Gold;" "The Young Country" (with Peter Duel,) which was a pilot not picked up as a series; and co-starred in a remake of "From Here to Eternity." Davis also did guest shots on "The Bold Ones," "The Most Deadly Game," and "The Big Valley" during this period, and starred in the 1969 movie, "Parachute to Paradise."
In 1970, Roger left "Dark Shadows" and made a pilot for Aaron Spelling Productions, entitled "Alias Smith and Jones." It featured Davis' friend and co-star from "The Young Country," Peter Duel. Davis was hired as the show's narrator, and also guest-starred on an October, 1971 episode (Roger's character has the distinction of being the only man killed by Kid Curry in the course of the show!) When Duel committed suicide on December 30, 1971, Davis was tapped to replace him in the role of Hannibal Heyes/Joshua Smith (he was chosen over actor George Peppard.) Roger was on a voice work project in Colorado the weekend Peter died, doing a marathon 48 radio spots, including 35 for the Ponderosa Steakhouse. He was hired for Duel's role by 1PM the very next day, and cut his trip short to return to California, where production on the show resumed the day after Peter was buried! Davis had to recreate Duel's scenes for the "Biggest Game in the West" episode that Peter had already partially filmed. "They even gave me Pete's dressing room," Roger explains, "His clothes, his personal belongings, even his cigarettes were still in there." While expecting apprehension from the show's stars and writers, Davis was soon welcomed into the fold, and the show ran another year, until January, 1973. ("Alias" was up against NBC's "The Flip Wilson Show" and CBS's "All in the Family" during its last season, where it quickly faltered.) Roger also co-starred with Ben Murphy in the western movie, "The Long Chase" with Buddy Ebsen (actually a combination of three "Alias" episodes,) and the TV shows "Medical Center," "Night Gallery" and again on "Bonanza" during his "Alias" run.
By 1973, Roger and Jaclyn had permanently relocated from NYC to Los Angeles, where Davis began buying and developing several apartment complexes and renovating homes in Beverly Hills. After just losing out on the starring role in "The Way We Were," Roger put his architectural skills to work by designing and constructing many new properties. Smith herself learned about the construction industry from Davis, and took up the hobby of buying, refurbishing, and reselling houses in LA. In 1973-74, Roger was hitting the big and small screens once again, appearing in "The Killer Bees," "The Education of Sonny Carson" and narrating "This is the West that Was," along with guest roles in the NBC shows "Faraday and Company," "Ironside" and the premiere episode of "The Rockford Files." His voice work continued with radio spots for Gabbert's Furniture, among others.
In 1976 came the theatrical release, "Flash and Firecat," and a major health dilemma for Roger: In December, 1976, Davis nearly died from an undiagnosed ruptured appendix. He had just made the pilot of "The Bionic Woman" as the romantic interest of Lindsay Wagner, whom he knew from actor James Best's acting class in the mid-1960s (Best was later the "Dukes of Hazzard" sheriff.) After five months in the hospital and surviving seven operations for peritonitis, and while recuperating at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel after his release from the hospital, Roger met with director Curtis Harrington. It was Harrington who had directed Davis in TV's "Killer Bees;" he asked Roger to star in the movie "Ruby," with Piper Laurie and Stuart Whitman.
In January, 1978, Roger and Jaclyn were divorced ("I was too much an innocent," Smith reflects, "I was too much living [just] for him, and I lost sight of myself.") They had no children together. Jaclyn would go on to "Charlie's Angels" the following year, and was married to actor Dennis Cole for just over a year, cinematographer Tony Richmond from 1981-89, and Dr. Bradley Allen from 1997 to present. Davis himself remarried in the late 1970s, becoming a first-time father to a baby girl later in 1978. Roger continued his acting career with the movie "Nashville Girl," and the TV miniseries "Aspen" during 1976-77. He also did guest shots on "Wonder Woman," "Quincy M.E." and "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries." In April, 1979, Davis was on-screen again, touting the new Chevrolet Citation in an advertising blitz to introduce the "First Chevy of the 80s," and guest-starred on the short-lived sequel to "Battlestar: Galactica" entitled, "Galactica 1980."
Roger left Beverly Hills in the fall of 1979 to return to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where he resumed his interest in real estate and his affection for 18th century architecture by designing and building the 20-story Georgian-style luxury condominium building known as "1400 Willow." It was a four-acre site in Louisville's prime historic district overlooking Cherokee Park (a park created by Olmstead, who is best known for designing Central Park in NYC.) Davis also purchased the ritzy, yet alledgedly haunted Seelbach Hotel in town (located on the "100% Corner" of the city,) a 1905 structure that he gutted, completely restored, redesigned and reopened in 1982 (it had been closed since 1975.) Unfortunately, he lost over $30 million on the investments! (CNN estimated the cost of the renovations at $7 million, but city records confirm that Roger spent $26 million on the Seelbach and over $20 million on 1400 Willow; Roger's credo is, "...When it comes down to making a decision based on doing it well, or based on dollars, I will always opt for doing it well.") Undaunted by the costs, Davis completed both projects. He opened the Seelbach doors to "Dark Shadows" fans in 1987 and 1988 to host the "Dark Shadows Fellowship Fair," and later sold the property to the Hilton chain (the hotel was featured prominently in the 2000 film, "The Insider," starring Russell Crowe.) Roger also renovated buildings in the Highlands area of Louisville, as well as the city's famous Commodore Apartments.
In 1982, Roger found time to appear in a theatrical movie, "The Act." He was back on TV again in the late-1980s, appearing in a January, 1988, episode of "The Highwayman" and in a May, 1989, episode of "Matlock," where he was murdered in the first 10 minutes of the show! He also acted in the 1989 TV pilot, "Chameleons," which was not picked up as a series. Also in 1989, Davis relocated once again to Los Angeles, got divorced, and began recreating business as a real estate developer, designer and architect. He also opened a shirt manufacturing business, "Packing Crate Classics," in Santa Monica, CA, which is still thriving today in nearby Van Nuys and boasts over 100 employees.
Roger's recent real estate projects have taken him to neighboring Hollywood Hills and Malibu, where he is designing bold, contemporary homes to be sold for $3 million each! See his website at www.viewmontnorth.com. His most recent acting roles were in the 1997 TV series, "Night Man," and the theatrical movies "Molly" and "Beyond the Pale" (shot in Ireland, it won the 2000 Houston [TX] Film Festival competition for independent productions.) In November, 1999, Davis appeared on the E! cable network's "Mysteries and Scandals: Peter Duel" documentary. He also takes time to appear at every "Dark Shadows" festival, and still appreciates the undying interest around the show.
Roger recently moved from his home on a 5-acre spread in Malibu, California, where he lived for a decade, to a dramatic "bachelor house" high above the Hollywood Hills, with a 50-mile wide view across Los Angeles, from downtown to Catalina Island.
A recent front-page article in Louisville's Pulitzer Prize-winning Courier-Journal applauded Davis for having created properties (the venerable 1400 Willow and the classic Seelbach Hotel) that the succeeding 20 years have proved out as the state's most prestigious. The article was headlined that today, "Recovered from Losses, Davis Pursues His Muse"...still movie-star good-looking and youthfully exuberant, Roger continues to create new projects that may, in retrospect, prove legendary.… Expand
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|Alias Smith and Jones: Season 3||Sep 16, 1972||Joshua Smith / Hannibal Heyes||tbd|
|Alias Smith and Jones: Season 2||Sep 16, 1971||Joshua Smith / Hannibal Heyes / Narrator (Uncredited) / Narrator (Uncredited)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 12||Jan 28, 1971||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Alias Smith and Jones: Season 1||Jan 5, 1971||Narrator (Uncredited) / Narrator (Uncredited)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 11||Sep 25, 1970||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 10||Jul 20, 1970||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 9||Mar 30, 1970||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 8||Nov 14, 1969||Ghost Of Peter Bradford / Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 7||Mar 3, 1969||Charles Tate / Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 6||Apr 1, 1968||Jeff Clark / Jeff Clark / Peter Bradford (Dream Sequence) / Peter Bradford||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 5||Nov 20, 1967||Peter Bradford / Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 4||Jul 17, 1967||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|
|Dark Shadows: Season 3||Mar 21, 1967||Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark; Ned Stuart; Dirk Wilkins; Charles Deleware Tate (1968-1970)||tbd|