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Dynasty Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

At its height, "Dynasty" out-Dallased "Dallas" — even if it didn't last quite as long. 

The show began as a clear attempt by ABC to rip-off the CBS hit, right down to its wealthy oil families. While "Dallas" followed the Ewings and their Ewing Oil empire in Texas, the Aaron Spelling-produced "Dynasty" followed the Carringtons and Colorado's Denver-Carrington Oil company. Viewers, however, didn't have much interest in these upstart Carrington's business maneuvers at first. As show creator Esther Shapiro explained the first season to New York magazine, "We found that the audience wasn't very interested in the oil workers' stories. But people were just fascinated by what was going on inside that castle."

So beginning with Season 2, the show shifted away from oil intrigue and focused on the wild personal lives of the obscenely rich. Coupled with Joan Collins' entrance as the powerful and ruthless Alexis Morell Carrington Colby, primetime TV was never the same. 

Alexis made an enemy of practically everyone as she tried taking down her ex-husband, Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) and his new wife, Krystle (Linda Evans). For nine seasons, viewers just couldn't get enough of the wealth, glamour, fashion — and of course, catfights. It grew so popular, even actors you'd never suspect were banging on the door to join in on the fun. "Dynasty" took its final, campy bow 30 years ago, so while it's no surprise some of its cast are no longer with us, here are a few actors you may not realize have passed away.

John Forsythe's Blake Carrington headed the show for its entire run

What can't be said about Blake Carrington? Oil tycoon, ruthless business man, and over-bearing patriarch — when "Dynasty" started in 1981, Carrington did it all. He began the series marrying his secretary, Krystle, and casually discussing bumping off his rival, Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins). Over the years, he softened into a more sympathetic character, especially once his conniving ex-wife, Alexis, showed up to wreak havoc. He sparred with Alexis, the Colbys, and a never-ending supply of family members popping out of the woodwork. He even ran for governor of Colorado.

John Forsythe had moved easily between television and movies since the '40s, starring in a number of his own TV shows before collaborating with producer Aaron Spelling as the enigmatic Charles Townsend in "Charlie's Angels." Once that ended, Spelling shifted him over to "Dynasty" — as a last-minute replacement for George Peppard. Peppard had filmed the pilot, but Forsythe went on to appear in all 220 episodes of the show, plus the follow-up miniseries "Dynasty: The Reunion." After "Dynasty," Forsythe went on to try his hand leading one more show, a short-lived comedy called "The Powers That Be," before mostly retiring from acting. He did return one final time, though, to provide the voice of Charlie in the movie version of "Charlie's Angels" and its sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." Forsythe then retired from acting, and died on April 1, 2010 at the age of 92.

Dale Robertson's Walt Lankershim grounded the series in its first season

Back in the first season of "Dynasty," before Alexis showed up to drag the Carringtons into gleefully over-the-top chaos, the show had quite a different feel. Wildcat oil driller Walter Lankershim was part of the original cast of characters, teaming up with geologist Matthew to battle the Carringtons in oil fields. The audience, though, wasn't much interested in oil intrigue, and Lankershim got the boot by Season 2 to make room for more fabulously wealthy shenanigans. We finally learned he'd died sometime off-screen in the Season 6 episode, "The Proposal."

To give Walt just the right amount of ruggedness, the show turned to veteran actor Dale Robertson, a man who had made his name in the '50s and '60s in a slew of Western movies and television shows. He got top billing in movies like "Return of the Texan" and starred in NBC's western "Tales of Wells Fargo." By the '70s and '80s, he stuck pretty much exclusively to television, even hopping over to "Dallas" for a bit once Walt had been written out. Like a true cowboy, the Oklahoman retired to his ranch in the '90s, where he lived out most of the rest of his life. Robertson was battling pneumonia and had just been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer when he died at the age of 89 on February 26, 2013.

Lloyd Bochner's Cecil Colby made Alexis very powerful

A manipulative, shady businessman, Cecil Colby was the black-hearted sheep of the Colby family — which is probably why he was made CEO of ColbyCo. Oil. Once Blake Carrington's closest friend, as their companies grew, their friendship soured. So when Alexis showed up in town, it was inevitable that they'd get together. Greed, lust, and revenge turned the two on so much they decided to join in unholy union. Colby, though, couldn't quite handle a woman like Alexis. He had a heart-attack during sex, and in one of the show's most delightfully infamous scenes, she tried slapping and berating him back to life.

It worked, and he lived long enough to exchange vows in the hospital. After tense vows, Colby's heart gave out again as he railed against Blake and the Carrington family. He spat venom at Alexis about how his wedding gift was pitting her against her ex-husband and leaving her with the money and power to take him down. Then he flat-lined.

With an unforgettable voice, Canadian born actor Lloyd Bochner spent his career moving between movies and TV, with a particularly memorable performance in "The Twilight Zone" episode "To Serve Man." After leaving "Dynasty," Bochner continued acting into the new millennium, burnishing his credits with everything from the "Golden Girls" to a recurring voice role in "Batman: The Animated Series." He died of cancer on October 25, 2005, at the age of 81.

Lee Bergere gave Carrington man Joseph Anders life — and death

The Carrington's majordomo, Joseph Anders, was a ... complicated man. 

Though loyal to Blake, Anders initially had little patience for secretary-turned-wife, Krystle. But that disdain was nothing compared to his loathing for the former Mrs. Carrington, Alexis. But then, he wasn't alone in that. What Anders was alone with was Alexis' constant threat to tell his daughter, Kirby (Kathleen Beller), the truth about her mother — that she was an adulterous murderer, institutionalized in a prison for the criminally insane. Anders was a prime example of how Alexis could wear down even the steadiest of people. Having reached the end of his rope by the Season 3 finale, "The Cabin," the majordomo tried burning Krystle and Alexis alive in a — you guessed it — cabin. When they survived, Joseph tried to take Alexis out in the hospital. That too failed, and Anders finally broke and shot himself in the chest.

A prolific character actor who began his career on Broadway as an understudy for Danny Kaye, Lee Bergere had appeared in over 70 TV series by the time he signed on to "Dynasty." From "Soap" and "Perry Mason," to a memorable turn as Abraham Lincoln in an episode of the original "Star Trek," Bergere did it all. Though he stepped back from acting shortly after "Dynasty," Bergere wrapped up his television career with a small recurring role on another '80s soapy mainstay, "Falcon Crest." He died in 2007 at the age of 88.

Peter Mark Richman got the Carringtons out of a slew of legal scrapes

Helping the Carringtons out of their many, many legal entanglements was a job that required a quick mind and a steady disposition — not to mention flexible morals. Loyal to a fault, attorney Andrew Laird served both Denver-Carrington and the Carringtons themselves from the show's first episode until he faded away after the Season 5 episode, "The Mortgage." He backed Blake up no matter how distasteful the charges, even securing a reduced sentence after his boss killed Ted Dinard, the former boyfriend of Blake's son, Steven (AJ Corley).

With over 150 credits to his name over the course of his life, Peter Mark Richman had already been in the television business for nearly 30 years by the time "Dynasty" tapped him to play Laird. Among his many, many highlights were Richman's recurring role as Chrissy's father on "Three's Company," and appearing in the penultimate episode of "The Twilight Zone." After Laird disappeared, Richman took on what would become the much-recast role of C.C. Capwell for the launch of the NBC sudser "Santa Barbara," and even reunited with fellow "Dynasty" man Bochner for "The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear." The prolific actor was 93 when he died of natural causes on January 14, 2021.

James Farentino gave us one of the show's earliest villains

When Dr. Nick Toscanni showed up in the Season 2 episode, "Alexis' Secret," he seemed a decent enough fellow. He wasn't, of course, but then in the world of "Dynasty," decency wasn't exactly a winning trait. The unhinged psychologist had come to Denver for revenge, blaming Blake for the death of his brother. The not-so-good doctor, though, never seemed to have much of a plan in place. He first tried seducing Krystle, and then slept with Blake's married daughter, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin). When he finally got tired of the subterfuge, he literally launched himself at Blake out in the wilderness, then rode off into the sunset and left Carrington for dead when he fell from his horse off of a cliff. Blake survived, and Nick never returned.

The volatile Dr. Toscanni was played by James Farentino, a character actor who himself led a tumultuous life. He pleaded no contest to stalking his girlfriend, Tina Sinatra (yes, Ol' Blue Eyes' daughter), and was booked years later on misdemeanor battery charges. His career, which began in 1962, held steady through it all, as he made appearances on "ER" as the father of George Clooney's Dr. Ross, and was tapped again by Aaron Spelling for a recurring role on the '90s smash hit "Melrose Place." Farentino died on January 24, 2014 of heart failure, one month short of his 74th birthday.

Mark Jennings proved that the good die young

Over the years, Alexis did such a smash-up job in luring people to Denver to help her schemes, it feels like she may have been secretly working for the city's tourism board. One of the many patsies she pulled to Denver was tennis star Mark Jennings — Krystle's first husband. When Alexis learned that Krystle and Mark's quickie Mexico divorce wasn't valid, she snatched up the handsome man in the Season 3 episode, "Mark."

Jennings romanced Alexis but had little interest in playing her games, and it didn't take long for him to grant Krystle a divorce. And after rescuing the two from the cabin fire set by poor Anders, he finally seemed to be finding happiness. Naturally, he had to be bumped off. Congressman Neal McVane (Paul Burke) dressed in drag and pushed Mark from a balcony to his death in the Season 4 episode "The Engagement." It wasn't personal, McVane just wanted to frame his former flame, Alexis.

Actor Geoffrey Scott gave the doomed Mark his earnest decency after getting his start in the '70s on the gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows." Though he spent most of his career in television — even returning to soaps in the late '80s and '90s on "General Hospital" and "Guiding Light" — he took one final role before retiring; that of the President in Marvel's 2003 film, "Hulk." Afterwards, he retired to Colorado, where he stayed until he died of Parkinson's on February 23, 2021.

Rock Hudson played one last role

Though it may seem like Blake's side of the family had all the fun, Krystle's clan was far from drama-free. There was, for instance, her gold-digging niece, Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear). Then there was Sammy's father, Daniel Reece. He showed up in the Season 5 episode "That Holiday Spirit" to reconnect with the woman he'd long loved, Krystle. A millionaire, horse trainer, newspaper owner, and occasional mercenary (because why not?), Reece arrived knowing nothing about Sammy Jo. Krystle and her sister Iris were the only ones to know the truth — until she introduced father and daughter. It was their only meeting. Daniel died on a mission and left his fortune to Sammy Jo.

What folks may not remember is that Reece was played by one of the biggest heartthrobs of Hollywood's Golden Age, Rock Hudson. As his A-list star power began to wane, Hudson turned to TV, finding modest success in the '70s as the star of "McMillan and Wife." 

Though he kept his diagnosis a secret as long as possible, Hudson had already contracted HIV when he took on "Dynasty." It didn't take long for his HIV to progress, and when Hudson died of AIDS-related illness on October 2, 1985 at the age of 59, he was the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease. For much of the world, he became the first person to put a human face to the ravages of HIV and AIDS.

Diahann Carroll made Dominique Deveraux the first prominent Black character on a primetime soap

From the moment she showed up the end of Season 4 in the aptly-named episode "New Lady in Town," long-lost Carrington scion Dominique Deveraux was as haughty and demanding as Alexis (and she could land a slap just as well, too.) That was exactly what portrayer Diahann Carroll wanted when she asked the writers to depict her exactly the same as a ruthless, rich white man. Blake's half-sister went toe-to-toe with the best and the worst Denver and Los Angeles had to offer, crossing over between "Dynasty" and its spinoff, "The Colbys."

A singer, actress, and activist, Carroll blazed trails as the star of her own show in the '60s called "Julia." She was the first Black actress to hold her own series — not playing a domestic worker, but a nurse who lost her husband in Vietnam. It earned her a Golden Globe and led to her being the first African-American nominated for an Emmy award. So when she contacted "Dynasty" and said she wanted in on the fun, they would have had to be insane not to snatch her up. 

Carroll's career never slowed down, as she went on to appear on shows like "A Different World" and "Grey's Anatomy." By the time the actress died of breast cancer on October 4, 2019 at the age of 84, she'd shattered more ceilings than most people will ever encounter.

Christopher Cazenove brought the prodigal Carrington son up from Down Under

Towards the end of Season 6, Alexis decided she needed a new ally in the war against her ex. She tracked Blake's exiled younger brother, Ben Carrington, down in Australia and hauled him back to Denver in the aptly named episode, "Ben." They teamed up for revenge and, for a time, managed to take everything from Blake. But then the elder Carrington regained the upper hand and forced them to sign the house and Denver-Carrington back over to him.

Ben soon found that Alexis left a bad taste in his mouth, so when he soured on her, the Carrington brothers began repairing their relationship. But when his misdeeds kept resurfacing — his daughter, Leslie (Terri Garber), was in love with a man who may have been the illegitimate son Ben never knew he had — he left town with his tail between his legs in the Season 7 finale.

To play the estranged Carrington brother, the show tapped British actor Christopher Cazenove. A working actor since the early '70s, he made regular appearances on British television and eventually became best recognized in movies like "Three Men and a Little Lady" and "A Knight's Tale". Cazenove worked right up until his death in 2010, when he fell ill with septicemia. The actor fought a hard battle, but sadly died of blood poisoning on April 7, 2010. Cazenove was only 64 when he passed away, just a week after his "Dynasty" sibling, John Forsythe.

Kate O'Mara's Caress gave Alexis a taste of her own medicine

When Alexis' younger sister, Cassandra Morell showed up in Denver in the Season 6 episode "The Alarm," she'd just been released from a Venezuelan prison with a massive chip on her shoulder and a new name: Caress. As she told her big sister, she'd always hated the name "Cassandra." 

Alexis smiled at the sibling she'd let take the fall for murder years before and replied with a cheery, "Oh, I always loved it!" Their verbal duels were delicious even when the smiles slipped, but Caress could never quite get the upper hand as she sought revenge against the sister who left her to rot in prison. She was instrumental in helping Blake get his life back when Alexis and Ben teamed up, but in the Season 7 episode "The Letter," she left town to dig up further dirt in Australia, never to be heard from again.

Though American audiences may have been unfamiliar with English actress Kate O'Mara's work, she was a staple on British TV from the '60s well into the new millennium. She made appearances on shows like "The Avengers" and "Absolutely Fabulous," and Whovians will always remember her as the renegade Time Lady, The Rani, who faced off against the Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the original "Doctor Who." When O'Mara died on March 30, 2014, she was 74.

Ricardo Montalban lent his Powers to some of the show's most devious plots

Zach Powers was many things; suave, sophisticated, dashing — and ruthless, underhanded, and manipulative. Though first introduced on the "Dynasty" spinoff "The Colbys" as a shipping tycoon hell-bent on revenge against the Colby clan, Powers had a huge impact when he visited Denver in the Season 6 episode "Souvenirs." It was, it turned out, his and Alexis' betrayal that had sent Caress up the river for murdering Powers' wife. He returned again in Season 7's "The Choice" to spar with Caress and wreak more havoc as he helped Carrington chauffer-turned-enemy Michael Culhane (Wayne Northrop) secretly invest in Blake's new business, Carrington Ventures.

Who better to play the charming and dangerous Spanish tycoon than Hollywood legend Ricardo Montalban? The Mexican-born actor had risen to stardom in his home country back in the '40s, before landing an MGM contract and playing against the likes of Clark Gable and Lana Turner. In his later years, Montalban stuck more to TV, but by the time he showed up on "Dynasty" and "The Colbys," he was well into a career resurgence, fueled by unforgettable turns as Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island" and Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Montalban continued to work in notable movies like "The Naked Gun" and two "Spy Kids" films before passing away at the age of 88 on January 14, 2009, with his final voice role on "American Dad" released posthumously.

John Saxon's sheikh fell prey to Alexis' charms

If there's one thing viewers learned from "Dynasty," it was that Alexis' ... let's call it "love" knew no borders. We first met Middle Eastern tycoon Rashid Ahmed in the Season 2 episode "The Mid-East Meeting," in which the former Mrs. Carrington seduced him. By the time she was done, Ahmed followed Alexis like a puppy, first partnering with Blake as she tried winning her ex back, then double-crossing the Carrington patriarch when she decided to destroy him. Alexis was free with both cash and sex, so it was a win-win for the sheikh — at least until Dominique and Adam Carrington (Gordon Thompson) tried convincing him to retract his double cross. They got their retraction in the Season 5 episode "Domestic Intrigue," but their strong-arming also got Ahmed shot and killed by the Turkish police. But hey, business is business.

Genre fans of all stripes will likely recognize Ahmed's portrayer, John Saxon. Horror fans know him from fare like "Black Christmas" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," while Western buffs recognize him from a slew of films, from "The Unforgiven" to "The Appaloosa" with Marlon Brando. And of course martial arts aficionados could never forget his work with Bruce Lee in "Enter the Dragon." Saxon continued working late into life, though when he died of pneumonia on July 25, 2020 at the age of 83, it had been a few years since he had been seen on screen.