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Denver Pyle From ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Became A Champion Of Philanthropy

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Releasing in 1967, Bonnie and Clyde stands the test of time as one of the most celebrated crime films to date. It is led by a star-studded cast that includes the talents of film and TV star Denver Pyle, whose additional television accomplishments match his fame in this celebrated movie. So, just what did he do outside of Bonnie and Clyde?

Pyle was born on May 11, 1920, in Bethune, Colorado, to a farming family. Despite these rustic origins, Hollywood called to much of the family; Pyle briefly attended college at Colorado State University but dropped out to plant roots in Los Angeles in the name of pursuing show business. HIs own brother, meanwhile, became an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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Making a solid landing in the world of show business

GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING, Denver Pyle, 1959 / Everett Collection

Pyle started what would become a very fruitful career in 1947 – but first, he was a drummer before he served in the Navy or Merchant Marines. When he was finally focused entirely on acting, he landed a guest-starring role on The Range Rider, where he appeared 14 times. Gearing up for Bonnie and Clyde, he appeared in The Roy Rogers Show, though this saw him play a wrongfully-convicted killer, rather than the real-life Texas Ranger Frank Hamer.

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Bonnie and Clyde / Everett Collection

RELATED: The Cast Of ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ Then And Now 2023

Actually, that role might have gone to someone else, originally destined for Morgan Woodward, who only dropped out because of slowed production of Cool Hand Luke. He would add this iconic role to a roster that includes credits in The Andy Griffith Show and The Dukes of Hazzard, in which he played Jesse Duke.

What happened to Denver Pyle?

He also featured prominently in The Dukes of Hazzard / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

While also building his own esteemed career, Pyle would also inspire others. Fans of The Andy Griffith Show can hardly forget Gomer Pyle. Well, his name is a combination of Denver Pyle and Gomer Cool, while also being inspired by a real-life Greenbaum gas station attendant. Fittingly, he appeared in the sitcom Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

After a titanic career of recurring and leading roles, Pyle would later favor cameo television roles. But where his acting slowed, his philanthropy did not; he sponsored the Texas-based Uncle Jesse’s Fishing Tournament, which across 10 years raised $160,000 to support local children’s programs. In 2017, the tournament celebrated its 30th year of raising valuable funds.

One of the last roles Pyle ever had / YouTube screenshot

In fact, Pyle became so prolific with his charity, he and his wife were honored by Texas Senate with a special resolution celebrating their work for the Special Olympics and Denver Pyle’s Children’s Charities.

For a man who gave so much, it is therefore bittersweet that he died on Christmas Day, 1997, at the age of 77. His passing is attributed to lung cancer. He is survived by his second wife, Tippi Johnston; previously, he had been wed to 20th Century production assistant Marilee Carpenter, with whom he had two sons, David and Tony. He is immortalized by a powerful on-screen legacy as well as a Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he received in ’97.

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