Remembering Dan Haggerty: The Gentle Mountain Man

On Friday, the world sadly lost a beloved actor and animal lover, Dan Haggerty. Known for his iconic role as the gentle mountain man in “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams,” Haggerty captured the hearts of audiences with his impressive beard and his bear companion, Ben. He passed away at the age of 73 in Burbank, California, due to cancer of the spine.Before his breakthrough role, Haggerty had already made a name for himself in Hollywood as a stuntman and animal handler. However, it was his fateful encounter with a producer that would change his life forever. Asked to act in some opening scenes for a movie about a woodsman and his bear, Haggerty agreed on one condition — he wanted to be in the entire movie.

The film, based on Charles Sellier Jr.’s novel, became a surprise hit. Made on a modest budget of $165,000, it went on to gross nearly $30 million at the box office. This incredible success led to the creation of a television series adaptation, where Haggerty reprised his role as the nature-loving protector of the wilderness.“The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” resonated with audiences, with its genial and heartfelt tone. It was a story of a man falsely accused of murder who seeks refuge in the woods, befriends animals, and adopts an orphaned bear. As John Leonard of The New York Times aptly noted in his review, the show “lukewarms the heart,” combining elements of communing with nature and tugging at the heartstrings.

Grizzly Adams' star Dan Haggerty dead of cancer at 74 – New York Daily News

Haggerty’s portrayal of Grizzly Adams earned him the adoration of fans and even a People’s Choice Award in 1978 for being the most popular actor in a new series. The show’s success also led to the creation of sequels like “Legend of the Wild” in 1978 and “The Capture of Grizzly Adams” in 1982.But Haggerty’s life was not without its challenges. Born Daniel Francis Haggerty on November 19, 1942, in Los Angeles, he faced a difficult childhood. After his parents’ separation at the age of 3, he had a troubled youth, even escaping from military school multiple times. Eventually, he moved in with his actor-father in Burbank.

In his early career, Haggerty appeared in various films, including “Muscle Beach Party” in 1964 and a role in the iconic “Easy Rider” as a member of a hippie commune. He wholeheartedly embraced his connection with nature, living on a small ranch in Malibu Canyon alongside tamed and rescued wild animals. This unique experience translated into jobs as an animal trainer and stuntman for TV series like “Tarzan” and “Daktari.”Throughout his life, Haggerty continued to take roles that showcased his love for wildlife and the outdoors. From films like “Where the North Wind Blows” in 1974 to “Grizzly Mountain” in 1997, he always embodied characters reminiscent of Grizzly Adams. He also delved into the horror genre, appearing in films such as “Terror Night” in 1987 and “Elves” in 1989.

Despite his success, Haggerty’s life was not without its ups and downs. In 1985, he faced legal issues and received a 90-day jail sentence for selling cocaine to undercover police officers. Additionally, he experienced a moment of tragedy in 1977 when a patron accidentally set his famous beard on fire in a restaurant, resulting in severe burns on his arms. Remarkably, Haggerty relied on his knowledge of animal healing to recover swiftly.Despite his passing, we will always remember Dan Haggerty as the gentle mountain man who brought joy and warmth to our screens. His role as Grizzly Adams and his unwavering love for nature will forever be etched in our hearts.

Dan Haggerty is survived by his children Megan, Tracy, Dylan, Cody, and Don, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come.

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