Denver Pyle, who was the grizzled good ol’ boy Uncle Jesse on “The Dukes of Hazzard” after years of playing character roles in films and spaghetti Westerns, died Dec. 23 of lung cancer at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 77.
Less than two weeks earlier, Pyle was present at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Pyle’s lanky frame brought a Western authenticity to parts in such movies as “The Alamo,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “Cahill, U.S. Marshal.” He appeared in such TV series as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.” He also played hillbilly patriarch Mr. Darlin on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
On “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which enjoyed a successful run on CBS from 1979-85, Pyle was a cranky relative who offered sage advice to two Southern country cousins as they crossed paths with the law in their souped-up car. Pyle appeared in a “Dukes” reunion TV movie that aired last spring.
A native of tiny Bethune, Colo., Pyle was named Denver after his mother’s favorite city. He left the University of Colorado after two years to try his hand at music. When his career as a drummer failed to take off, he took odd jobs, becoming an oil field worker in Oklahoma and a Texas shrimp fisherman.
His acting career began in California theater productions, with his first movie part coming in 1947 with “The Guilt of Janet Ames,” which co-starred Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas. Other films credits include “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Horse Soldiers.”
Pyle is survived by his wife, Tippy; and two sons.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
In lieu of flowers, family has asked donations be made to the Denver Pyle Scholarship at Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky.