Remembering Dan Haggerty, the Friendly Mountain Man

Dan Haggerty, the beloved actor who portrayed the gentle and bearded mountain man in the movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and its television series, has passed away at the age of 73. He brought the character to life with his warm personality and his connection to a bear named Ben. Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer of the spine.

Dan Haggerty, Who Played Grizzly Adams -

Before becoming an actor, Haggerty worked as a stuntman and animal handler in Hollywood. It was during this time that he was asked to act in some scenes for a film about a woodsman and his bear. The film, based on the novel “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” by Charles Sellier Jr., told the story of a man falsely accused of murder who found solace in the wilderness and developed a unique bond with the animals, including an orphaned bear.

Haggerty accepted the offer, but on one condition – he wanted to do the entire movie. The film was remade with a budget of $165,000 and went on to earn nearly $30 million at the box office. This success led to the creation of a television series, and in February 1977, Haggerty returned to his beloved role as the guardian of the woods and friend to the animals.

The series, known for its geniality and sentimentalism, quickly won the hearts of viewers. Haggerty’s portrayal of Grizzly Adams earned him a People’s Choice Award in 1978 for the most popular actor in a new series. The success of “Grizzly Adams” also led to two follow-up projects: “Legend of the Wild” in 1978 and “The Capture of Grizzly Adams” in 1982.

Born on November 19, 1942, in Los Angeles, Daniel Francis Haggerty had a challenging childhood. His parents separated when he was young, and he had a troubled upbringing. Despite these early struggles, he found solace in acting and began his career with small roles in films like “Muscle Beach Party” (1964) and “Easy Rider” (1969). He later appeared in various wildlife films and TV series.

Off-screen, Haggerty lived on a ranch in Malibu Canyon, where he cared for and trained a variety of animals. His connection with nature extended beyond his acting career, and he worked as an animal trainer and stuntman on shows like “Tarzan” and “Daktari.” Haggerty’s love for animals was evident, as he once mentioned in an interview, “Actors didn’t like animals leaping on them.”

In his later years, Haggerty’s career shifted towards horror films, including “Terror Night” (1987) and “Elves” (1989), where he played unique and memorable characters. Unfortunately, he faced personal struggles as well and was sentenced to jail in 1985 for selling cocaine.

Despite the challenges he encountered, Haggerty remained a resilient and inspirational figure. In 1977, he survived a horrific accident when a flaming cocktail set fire to his famous beard. He endured third-degree burns on his arms but managed to heal rapidly. Reflecting on this experience, Haggerty once said, “Sometimes animals know more than people about healing.”

Dan Haggerty will always be remembered as the friendly mountain man who captured our hearts with his compassion for nature and his unforgettable portrayal of Grizzly Adams. His legacy as a talented actor and animal lover continues to inspire generations.


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