Queensline: Tony Award winner Jack Cassidy hails from Richmond Hill

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

Born John Joseph Edward Cassidy on March 5, 1927, in Richmond Hill, actor and singer Jack Cassidy was a Tony Award recipient and father of 1970s teen idols David Cassidy and Shaun Cassidy.

In a career spanning four decades, the actor of stage, screen and television appeared in numerous Broadway musicals. He won a Tony Award in one production and was nominated three other times.

He also acted in a number of films and television shows seemingly too numerous to count. He was approved for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, but is still not listed on the List of Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Wikipedia page as having his own star.

The Queens native began his career on stage in the 1943 musical “Something for the Boys,” starring Astoria native Ethel Merman, as a member of the chorus. He found steady work in the chorus on Broadway throughout the 1940s, and found his first stage acting role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” in 1952.

Cassidy also toured nationally and internationally performing in musicals including “Oklahoma,” “Gypsy,” and “Camelot” up until the 1970s. It was on stage that he garnered perhaps his greatest recognition, winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “She Loves Me” in 1963.

The versatile talent soon branched out into television, where he was a frequent guest star from the 1950s to the 1970s in series such as “Gunsmoke,” “Bewitched,” “Get Smart,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Columbo” and “Barnaby Jones.”

On screen, Cassidy co-starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the 1975 action thriller “The Eiger Sanction.”
The following year, he even portrayed acting legend John Barrymore in “W.C. Fields and Me.” On screen and television, he usually inhabited characters with urbane, confident and dramatic personalities, perhaps best exemplified by his performance in this 1976 biographical film.

In his personal life, Jack Cassidy was married twice. His first wife was actress Evelyn Ward, and their son David became a 1970s teen heartthrob. Cassidy then married actress Shirley Jones, and together they had three more sons, two of whom also became actors.

Their son Shaun is best known as a star in the 1970s TV series “The Hardy Boys” and as a top-40 pop singer. David, Jack’s son from his first marriage, went on to star in the musical sitcom “The Partridge Family” alongside his second wife.

Shirley Jones later noted in her 2013 memoir that Jack was bisexual and in fact had an affair with the much older Cole Porter, who incidentally wrote the music and lyrics to “Something for the Boys.”

Jack Cassidy died tragically in a fire in his apartment on Dec. 11, 1976. After a night of partying at bars around West Hollywood, Cassidy returned home alone, lit a cigarette and fell asleep on his sofa, only to perish in the ensuing fire.

For further info, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or www.astorialic.org.

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