Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Bear of a Man

"Dan Haggerty, 73; trained animals, was ‘Grizzly Adams’" by William Grimes New York Times  January 21, 2016

NEW YORK — Dan Haggerty, who played a gentle mountain man with a luxuriant beard and a bear named Ben in the 1974 movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and the NBC television series of the same name, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 73.

The cause was cancer of the spine, his friend and manager Terry Bomar said.

In real life, Mr. Haggerty lived on a small ranch in Malibu Canyon with an assortment of wild animals that he had tamed at birth or rescued from injury.

At 17 he married Diane Rooker. The marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Samantha Hilton, died after a motorcycle accident in 2008. He is survived by his children, Megan, Tracy, Dylan, Cody, and Don.

Mr. Haggerty was working as a stuntman and animal handler in Hollywood when a producer asked him to act in some opening scenes he was reshooting for a film about a woodsman and his bear.

Based on the novel “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams,” by Charles Sellier Jr., it told the story of a California man falsely accused of murder who flees to the woods, where he develops a rapport with the animals around him.

Mr. Haggerty agreed but only if he could do the entire movie. The film was remade for $165,000 and eventually took in nearly $30 million at the box office. It was then adapted for television, and in February 1977, Mr. Haggerty resumed his eco-friendly role as guardian of the woods and friend to the animals.

“It lukewarms the heart,” John Leonard wrote a review of the first episode in The New York Times.

“Man and bear hide out in a log cabin, to which Mad Jack (Denver Pyle) and the noble red man Makuma (Don Shanks) bring flour and advice,’’ Leonard continued. “When they leave the cabin, man traps fur while bear washes his. Meanwhile, there are raccoons, owls, deer, rabbits, hawks, badgers, cougars, a lot of communing with nature and a big lump in the throat.”

Genial and sentimental, the series endeared Mr. Haggerty to viewers and made him the winner of a People’s Choice Award in 1978 as the most popular actor in a new series. “Grizzly Adams” spawned two codas: “Legend of the Wild,” broadcast in 1978 and released theatrically in 1981, and “The Capture of Grizzly Adams,” broadcast as a TV movie in 1982, in which Adams is taken back to town by bounty hunters and finally clears his name.

Daniel Francis Haggerty was born on Nov. 19, 1942, in Los Angeles. His parents separated when he was 3, and he had a troubled childhood, escaping several times from military school before going to live with his father, an actor, in Burbank.

His first film was “Muscle Beach Party” (1964), in which he played a body builder named Biff opposite Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello....