As a performer known for his work in Westerns, “Andy Griffith Show” actor Denver Pyle had plenty of iconic moments to choose from. There was his work on “The Andy Griffith Show” as Briscoe Darling Jr. There was his turn as Jesse Duke in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Then there was his performance in the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde.” Or in the John Wayne film “The Alamo.” Or in the classic Western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”
Pyle was a World War II veteran who acted in more than 200 television shows over the course of his career, per Rotten Tomatoes. He also appeared in many movies, particularly Westerns.
Pyle would have been 101 had he lived to see today. The actor died in December of 1997 at the age of 77. He had suffered from lung cancer. His death came two weeks after he attended the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Denver was just bigger than life in his career, his charity work,” Tippie Pyle, the actor’s wife, told the Times.
Here is a partial list of the late actor’s iconic moments.
Pyle on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
On “The Andy Griffith Show,” Pyle played Mr. Darling, the patriarch of a hillbilly clan. The Darlings featured in just six episodes of the show. But they soon became fan favorites, according to Wide Open Country. In the Darling clan’s musical scenes, Pyle played the jug. The bluegrass band The Dillards portrayed other members of the hillbilly family. In the show, Darling later kidnaps Aunt Bee and takes her to the Darling family cabin before Andy steps in.
Pyle on ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’
Uncle Jesse was probably Pyle’s best-known television role. On “The Dukes of Hazzard,” he played the wise uncle to troublemaking cousins Bo and Luke Duke, who are always trying to stay one step ahead of the sheriff and a corrupt local politician. The Dukes all live on Duke Farm, which Uncle Jesse oversees, making it a home for his orphaned niece and nephews.
Pyle in ‘Mountain Man’
As a character actor, Pyle had smaller parts in many great films, among them “The Alamo,” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” But he starred in “Mountain Man,” a 1976 biopic about Galan Clark. Clark was friends with the naturalist John Muir, and he fought to save the land that later became Yosemite National Park from lumber companies. The movie follows Clark as he goes out into the wilderness to die, only to find that nature rejuvenates his spirit and makes life once again worth living.