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Denver Dell Pyle (May 11, 1920 – December 25, 1997)[1] was an American film and television actor.


Early life[]

Pyle was born in Bethune in Kit Carson County in eastern Colorado, to farmers Maude W. and Ben H. Pyle;[2] he was the nephew of journalist Ernie Pyle and had one brother, Willis. After graduation from high school, Pyle briefly attended college before he decided to pursue a career in show business.He worked as a drummer and band member until the start of the Second World War, when he entered the Merchant Marine. Pyle would claim in later life that he was in fact was a U.S. Navy veteran who had been wounded in action at Guadalcanal. However the National Personnel Records Center stated in 1991 that there was no evidence that Denver Pyle had ever served on active duty in the Navy. Pyle’s statements were not resolved prior to his death; however. as a Merchant Mariner during World War II, Pyle would still have held creditable veteran status.[3]


After the war ended, Pyle began his film career, having starred in several motion pictures and frequently on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He had a role as Thompson in the 1955 Audie Murphy war film To Hell and Back. He guest starred twice on NBC's 1955-1956 western anthology series Frontier, having appeared as Eben in "Mother of the Brave" and as Frank in "The Voyage of Captain Castle". That same season, he appeared three times on the religious anthology series, Crossroads on ABC. Pyle appeared twice on the western series My Friend Flicka. He appeared with Grant Withers in the 1959 episode "Tumbleweed Ranger" of the syndicated western 26 Men, true stories of the Arizona Rangers. He also appeared in the syndicated series Pony Express in the 1960 episode "Special Delivery". Pyle guest starred in the episode "Trail of the Dead", the story of five missing western prospectors, of Rod Cameron's syndicated series State Trooper. He appeared with Sammy Jackson in the episode "Resurrection" of the syndicated American Civil War drama Gray Ghost. He appeared twice as an unidentified bank robber in Duncan Renaldo's The Cisco Kid series. In 1954, Pyle played a henchman of Sam Bass in Jim Davis's syndicated series, Stories of the Century. In 1958, Pyle starred with Judith Evelyn in the episode "Man in the Moon" of the NBC docudrama about the Cold War, Behind Closed Doors, hosted and occasionally starring Bruce Gordon.[4]

Pyle made several appearances as "Briscoe Darling", the gruff patriarch of a clan of musical hillbillies, on CBS's The Andy Griffith Show. He also appeared in a number of Westerns by John Ford, including The Horse Soldiers with William Holden and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He played a Tennessee soldier (called "Thimblerig") in John Wayne's The Alamo (1960). He appeared too in many television westerns, including the 1960 episode "Crime Epidemic" of the syndicated series Tombstone Territory, the 1961 episode "Hand of Vengeance" of the syndicated western Two Faces West, he appeared twice on the CBS series "Route 66" with Martin Milner and George Maharis, first in 1961 in the episode "The Newborn" and again in 1962 in the episode "A Long Piece Of Mischief", and the segment "Lawyer in Petticoats" of the NBC series Overland Trail (1960). One of his early roles was a villain in an Adventures of Superman television episode called "Beware the Wrecker". He appeared in the 1963-1964 season in ABC's drama about college life, Channing. He frequently appeared on Gunsmoke (14) and Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater (7), Frontier Justice (2), all on CBS. He also is known for portraying both the suspect and the murder victim on the final Perry Mason episode; he was the only actor to play a victim, a suspect and the actual murderer (in a previous episode) on the series out of 6 appearances. He was Grandpa Tarleton in all 26 episodes of Tammy in the 1965-66 season.

His most known television role may have been that of Uncle Jesse Duke in the CBS series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979–1985) (146 episodes). In addition, Pyle played the role of Mad Jack in the NBC seriesThe Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1977–1978) (36 episodes), the antagonist in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Buck Webb (Doris Day's father) during the first two seasons of CBS's The Doris Day Show (1968–1970), and Briscoe Darling on The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968) (6 episodes). He did some writing and directing too for the short-lived half-hour western Dirty Sally starring Jeanette Nolan, which ran on CBS in the first half of 1974. He also appeared twice in the Cheyenne Show starring Clint Walker.

In his later life, Pyle played mostly cameo television roles and retired from full time acting. His last cinematic movie role was alongside Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and James Garner in the 1994 film Maverick, playing a cheating cardplayer who jumps off a riverboat to keep his dignity rather than be thrown off. His last known acting role was a reprisal of Jesse Duke in the 1997 made-for-TV movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion!.

Personal life[]

Pyle died of lung cancer on Christmas Day 1997. His presents that year were auctioned on Ebay with all proceeds going to charity. He was buried in Forreston, Texas.


  1. Social Security Death Index. New England Historic Genealogical. Retrieved on September 4 2010}}
  2. Great Character Actors
  3. (Source: Freedom of Information Act response, NPRC, 1991)
  4. ” 'Behind Closed Doors’". Retrieved on September 2, 2009

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