Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Godspeed Ken Kercheval

Ken Kercheval, best known for playing Cliff Barnes on the classic TV show Dallas and appearing in such films as Pretty Poison (1968) and Network (1976), died on April 21 2019 at the age of 83.

Ken Kercheval was born on July 15 1935 in Woolcotville, Indiana. He grew up in Clinton, Indiana. Mr. Kercheval attended the University of Indiana in Bloomington where he studied music and drama. He later attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. In 1956 he studied acting under Sanford Meisner at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City.

Ken Kercheval made his Broadway debut in 1961 in The Young Abe Lincoln. He made his television debut the following year in an episode of Naked City. He made his film debut in 1968 in the film Pretty Poison. In the Sixties he appeared in the productions Something About a Soldier, Happily Never After, The Apple Tree, Cabaret, and Here's Where I Belong. On television he guest starred on episodes of The Defenders, The Nurses, The Trials of O'Brien, Hawk, and NET Playhouse. In the late Sixties he had regular roles on the soap operas Search for Tomorrow and The Secret Storm. He appeared in the movies Cover Me Babe (1970) and Rabbit, Run (1970).

It was in 1978 that Mr. Kercheval began playing the regular role of Cliff Barnes on the night-time soap opera Dallas. He played Cliff Barnes, the rival and bitter enemy of J. R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman). Mr. Kercheval appeared on Dallas for the entirety of the series. Alongside Larry Hagman, he was the only cast member to appear on Dallas throughout the entire show. In the Seventies he continued as a regular on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow. He appeared in the mini-series The Adams Chronicles. Mr. Kercheval also guest starred on the shows Get Christie Love!, How to Survive a Marriage, Beacon Hill, Rafferty, Family, Kojak, CHiPs, Starsky and Hutch, and Here's Boomer. He appeared on Broadway in Father's Day. He appeared in the movies The Seven-Ups (1973), Network (1976), The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977), and F.I.S.T. (1978).

Throughout the Eighties Ken Kercheval continued to appear as Cliff Barnes on Dallas. He guest starred on the TV shows Trapper John M.D., The Love Boat, Glitter, Hotel, You Are the Jury, Mike Hammer, Matlock, and Highway to Heaven. He appeared in such TV movies as The Patricia Neal Story, The Demon Murder Case, Calamity Jane, and Perry Mason: The Case of the Defiant Daughter. He appeared in the movie Corporate Affairs (1990).

In the Nineties Mr. Kercheval guest starred on the TV shows L.A. Law; Murder, She Wrote; Dangerous Curves; In the Heat of the Night; The Golden Palace; Walker, Texas Ranger; Lovejoy; Burke's Law; ER; and Diagnosis Murder. He appeared in such TV movies as I Still Dream of Jeannie, A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Grimacing GovernorDallas: J.R. Returns, and Dallas: War of the Ewings. He appeared in the movies California Casanova (1991), Beretta's Island (1993), and Rusty: A Dog's Tale (1998).

In the Naughts Ken Kercheval appeared in the movies Blind Obsession (2001) and Corrado (2010). He guest starred on the TV show Crossing Jordan. In the Teens he returned to the role of Cliff Barnes in the revival of Dallas. He appeared in the movies The Promise (2017) and Surviving in L.A. (2019).

There can be no doubt that Ken Kercheval will always be remembered as Cliff Barnes on Dallas. Cliff was a complicated character. Although a bit of a bumbler, he was actually an intelligent man who had the misfortune of having to match wits with the much smarter J.R. Ewing. Very few actors, if any, could have played Cliff as well as Mr. Kercheval did. Of course, Ken Kercheval played many other roles besides Cliff Barnes. In Network  he played the small role of Merill Grant, a lawyer who speaks on behalf of network programmer Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway). He played Buffalo Bill Cody in the TV movie Calamity Jane. In The Lincoln Conspiracy he played another historical figure, John Surratt. Ken Kercheval was an extremely talented actor who was capable of playing a wide variety of roles.


Caftan Woman said...

Ken Kercheval was always the most interesting actor on the screen, no matter the role or program.

Unknown said...

Great role as Cliff Barnes, whether it was prosecuting Jock Ewing for murder or trying to get vengeance against JR and vindicate his father, Digger Barnes, who died a penniless wildcatter.