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June 30, 2009

Cancer Claims Actor Harve Presnell

Stage, TV, Film Star Was 75

Cancer Claims Actor Harve Presnell

Stage, TV, Film Star Was 75

Harve Presnell, a tall, strapping baritone who was the leading man in the 1964 Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, spent 10 years touring the country as Daddy Warbucks in Annie and flourished as a Hollywood character actor, notably in Fargo as an outrageously bullying father-in-law, died of pancreatic cancer June 30 at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 75.

Presnell, a 6-foot-4 former rodeo rider, made several well-received folk and opera recordings in the 1950s and early 1960s and performed at Carnegie Hall and on other leading stages.

Broadway composer Meredith Willson wrote a famous role for Presnell — the romantic lead of Johnny Leadville Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960).

Born George Harvey Presnell on a ranch in Modesto, Calif., he participated in rodeos as a young man. He briefly attended the University of Southern California on a sports scholarship until a music teacher, impressed by his voice, urged him to focus on a career in opera. He later said he ended up going into music because it was easier than being a jock.

Presnell hoped to make a career in Hollywood musicals, but the genre had gone out of favor. He appeared in the teen musical When the Boys Meet the Girls and the film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg.

Afterward, Presnell toured with many stage productions, including Annie Get Your Gun and Carousel.

In 1980, played the role of Daddy Warbucks in the Broadway production of Annie, and then toured in the show for a decade.

Presnell continued to work in films and on television. He made a memorable impression in the 1996 movie Fargo, as a businessman whose daughter is kidnapped. He then appeared in such films as Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, Old School and Evan Almighty.

On television, he had recurring roles on Andy Barker, P.I., The Pretender and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and others.

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