DeForest Kelley

Active - 1947 - 1998  |   Born - Jan 20, 1920   |   Died - Jun 11, 1999   |   Genres - Western, Science Fiction, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a Baptist minister, actor DeForest Kelley was one of the lucky few chosen to be groomed for stardom by Paramount Pictures' "young talent" program in 1946. He served an apprenticeship in 2-reel musicals like Gypsy Holiday before starring as a tormented musician in Fear in the Night (47). Unfortunately, a sweeping cancellation of Paramount young talent contracts ended Kelley's stardom virtually before it began. By the mid-1950s, he was scrounging up work on episodic TV and playing bits in such films as The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (56) (this film, by the way, is the first in which Kelley uttered his now-famous line, "He's dead, captain"). Producer/writer Gene Roddenberry took a liking to Kelley and cast the actor in the leading role of a flamboyant criminal attorney in the 1959 TV pilot film 333 Montgomery. The series didn't sell, but Roddenberry was still determined to help Kelley on the road back to stardom. One of their next collaborations was Star Trek (66-69), in which (as everybody in the galaxy knows) Kelley appeared as truculent ship's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Virtually all of Kelley's subsequent film appearances have been as McCoy in the seemingly endless series of elaborate Star Trek feature films. And on the pilot for the 1987 syndie Star Trek: The Next Generation, DeForrest Kelley was once more seen as "Bones" -- albeit appropriately stooped and greyed.

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