A record-breaking 78 million viewers tuned in to see David Janssen’s Dr. Richard Kimble catch the one-armed man who killed his wife in The Fugitive’s 1967 series finale. But in real life, one thing always eluded David: lasting happiness.
After his parents divorced when he was 4, David was left by his mother, a former Ziegfeld Follies showgirl, at L.A.’s McKinley Home for Boys for three years. “Many times, his mother would call and say, ‘I’m picking you up,’ and she just wouldn’t show,’” friend Mike Phelps, co-author of David Janssen: My Fugitive, tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
He discovered acting as a teenager but didn’t find fame until he landed the title role in TV’s Richard Diamond: Private Detective in 1957. A year later, he married model Ellie Graham in Las Vegas. “The first five years were bliss,” says Phelps. “But as his fame grew internationally, she became insanely jealous and very insecure.”
Their marriage fell apart after David had an affair with Fugitive guest star Suzanne Pleshette. “David was one of the great loves of my life,” Suzanne later said about him. “But he had to figure out his life.” By the time David was divorced in 1968, Suzanne had gotten married to another man.
In 1975, David wed actress Dani Crayne, a socialite famous for throwing parties. “He hated it,” Phelps says. “He had a minibar in his bedroom, and that’s where he would stay.”
David’s heavy drinking — “I would call him a functioning alcoholic,” says Phelps — and smoking may have contributed to his death from a heart attack at 48 in 1980. “He was happiest when he was working,” says Phelps. “He said to me one time, ‘It keeps me out of trouble, especially with my wives.’”
For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!