Dick York, who died 20 years ago today, was once poised for a spectacular career. Debuting on a radio drama at just 15 years old, he quickly moved on to Broadway and the silver screen. He costarred with Joanne Woodward, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Gary Cooper, and more. But then disaster struck.
York's back was injured while he was filming the movie They Came to Cordura with Cooper and Rita Hayworth. A moment of bad timing led to a severe muscle tear, resulting in chronic pain that would last the rest of York's life. An addiction to painkillers followed. It wasn't the end of York's career – his most iconic role was still to come – but it limited his abilities.
Five years after the accident, York was cast in a role that he played perfectly: Bewitched's befuddled Darrin Stephens. Though he wasn't up to all the physical comedy that was so popular in sitcoms of the day, he still got plenty of laughs as his Darrin tried to navigate the world as the husband of a practicing witch.
After five seasons with the show, York's injury became unbearable, and the demands of the job were too much. Offered a chance to resign, he took it, devoting himself to recovering. But the show went on, and Dick Sargent stepped in to play Darrin. The transition between Darrins was a bit abrupt and strange, but many fans of the show took it in stride and continued watching. Still, a bit of the show's heart seemed to be missing after York's departure.
Dick York eventually beat his addiction to painkillers, and while he never fully revived his career, he did act a bit before his 1992 death. He also founded the charitable organization Acting for Life, which provided help for the homeless and others in need. York didn’t have the rich, full acting career he wanted, but we’re still glad for his good work and the laughs he’s given us.
Written by Linnea Crowther