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DeForest Kelley
DeForest Kelley, Dr. McCoy, Star Trek.jpg
Publicity photo of DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy from the television program Star Trek
Jackson DeForest Kelley

(1920-01-20)January 20, 1920
Died June 11, 1999(1999-06-11) (aged 79)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940–1998
Carolyn Dowling
(m. 1945)

Jackson DeForest Kelley (January 20, 1920 – June 11, 1999), known to colleagues as "Dee", was an American actor, screenwriter, poet, and singer. He was known for his roles in Westerns and as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of the USS Enterprise in the television and film series Star Trek (1966–1991).

Early life

Kelley was born in Toccoa, Georgia, the son of Clora (née Casey) and Ernest David Kelley, a Baptist minister of Irish ancestry. Kelley was named after pioneering electronics engineer Lee de Forest. He later named his Star Trek character's father "David" after his own father. Kelley had an older brother, Ernest Casey Kelley. Kelley was immersed in his father's mission (church) in Conyers, Georgia, and told his father that failure would mean "wreck and ruin".

Before the end of his first year at Conyers, Kelley was regularly putting to use his musical talents, and often sang solo in morning church services. Kelley wanted to become a doctor like his uncle, but his family could not afford to send him to medical school. He began singing on local radio shows, including an appearance on WSB AM in Atlanta. As a result of Kelley's radio work, he won an engagement with Lou Forbes and his orchestra at the Paramount Theater.

In 1934, the family left Conyers for Decatur, Georgia. He attended the Decatur Boys High School, where he played on the Decatur Bantams baseball team. Kelley also played football and other sports. Before his graduation in 1938, Kelley got a job as a drugstore car hop. He spent his weekends working in the local theaters.

He made his film debut in New Moon (1940), and nearly scored the lead of This Gun for Hire (1942), but Alan Ladd was chosen, instead.

During World War II, Kelley served as an enlisted man in the United States Army Air Forces from March 10, 1943, to January 28, 1946, assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit with the rank of private first class. After an extended stay in Long Beach, California, Kelley decided to pursue an acting career and relocate to Southern California permanently, living for a time with his uncle Casey. He worked as an usher in a local theater to earn enough money for the move. Kelley's mother encouraged her son in his new career goal, but his father disliked the idea. While in California, Kelley was spotted by a Paramount Pictures scout while doing a United States Navy training film.

In 1945, Kelley married Carolyn Charlotte Meagher Dowling. They had no children.


Early roles

Fear in the Night 1
Ann Doran and Kelley in Fear in the Night

Kelley's acting career began with the feature film Fear in the Night in 1947. The low-budget movie was a hit, bringing him to the attention of a national audience and giving Kelley reason to believe he would soon become a star. His next role, in Variety Girl, established him as a leading actor and resulted in the founding of his first fan club. Kelley did not become a leading man, however, and his wife Carolyn and he decided to move to New York City. He found work on stage and on live television, but after three years in New York, the Kelleys returned to Hollywood.

In California, he received a role in an installment of You Are There, anchored by Walter Cronkite. He played ranch owner Bob Kitteridge in the 1949 episode "Legion of Old Timers" of the television series The Lone Ranger. This led to an appearance in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as Morgan Earp (brother to Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp). This role led to three movie offers, including Warlock with Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn.

DeForest Kelley appeared in three episodes of the television series, Science Fiction Theatre (season one, episode four, April 30, 1955, "Y.O.R.D."; season one, episode 34, December 17, 1955, "The Long Day"; and season two, episode 24, November 3, 1956, "Survival in Box Canyon".

In 1957, he had a small role as a Southern officer in Raintree County, a Civil War film directed by Edward Dmytryk, alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Lee Marvin. He also appeared in leading roles as a U.S. Navy submarine captain in the World War II-set television series, The Silent Service. He appeared in season one, episode five, "The Spearfish Delivers", as Commander Dempsey, and in the first episode of season two, "The Archerfish Spits Straight", as Lieutenant Commander Enright. His future Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy also appeared in two different episodes of the series around the same time.

Kelley appeared three times in various portrayals of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral; the first was in 1955, as Ike Clanton in the television series You Are There. Two years later, in the 1957 film of that name, he played Morgan Earp. His third appearance was in a third-season Star Trek episode (broadcast originally on October 25, 1968), titled "Spectre of the Gun", this time portraying Tom McLaury.

Kelley also appeared in episodes of The Donna Reed Show, Perry Mason, Tales of Wells Fargo, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Boots and Saddles, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, Death Valley Days, Riverboat, The Fugitive, Lawman, Bat Masterson, Gunsmoke, Have Gun - Will Travel, The Millionaire, and Laredo. He appeared in the 1962 episode of Route 66, "1800 Days to Justice" and "The Clover Throne" as Willis. He had a small role in the movie The View from Pompey's Head.

For nine years, Kelley primarily played villains. He built up an extensive list of credits, alternating between television and motion pictures. He was afraid of typecasting, though, so he broke away from villains by starring in Where Love Has Gone and a television pilot called 333 Montgomery. The pilot was written by an ex-policeman named Gene Roddenberry, and a few years later, Kelley appeared in another Roddenberry pilot, Police Story (1967), that was again not developed into a series.

Kelley also appeared in at least one radio drama, the 1957 episode of Suspense entitled "Flesh Peddler", in which series producer William M. Robson introduced him as "a bright new luminary in the Hollywood firmament".

Star Trek

In 1956, nine years before being cast as Dr. McCoy, Kelley played a small supporting role as a medic in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, in which he utters the diagnosis "This man's dead, Captain" and "That man is dead" to Gregory Peck. Kelley appeared as Lieutenant Commander James Dempsey in two episodes of the syndicated military drama The Silent Service, based on actual stories of the submarine service of the United States Navy. In 1962, he appeared in the Bonanza episode titled "The Decision", as a doctor sentenced to hang for the murder of a journalist. The judge in this episode was portrayed by John Hoyt, who later portrayed Dr. Phillip John Boyce, one of Leonard McCoy's predecessors, on the Star Trek pilot "The Cage". In 1963, he appeared in The Virginian episode "Man of Violence" as a "drinking" cavalry doctor with Leonard Nimoy as his patient (Nimoy's character did not survive). Perhaps not coincidentally, the episode was written by John D. F. Black, who went on to become a writer-producer on Star Trek. Just before Star Trek began filming, Kelley appeared as a doctor again, in the Laredo episode "The Sound of Terror".

Star Trek Cast and Crew Visit NASA Dryden in 1967 (Kelley 2)
Kelley visiting NASA Dryden with the Star Trek cast and crew in 1967

After refusing Roddenberry's 1964 offer to play Spock, Kelley played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy from 1966 to 1969 in Star Trek. He reprised the character in a voice-over role in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973–74), and the first six Star Trek motion pictures (1979 to 1991). In 1987, he also had a cameo in "Encounter at Farpoint", the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as Admiral Leonard McCoy, Starfleet Surgeon General Emeritus. Several aspects of Kelley's background became part of McCoy's characterization, including his pronunciation of "nuclear" as "nucular".

Kelley became a good friend of Star Trek castmates William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, from their first meeting in 1964. During Trek's first season, Kelley's name was listed in the end credits along with the rest of the cast. Only Shatner and Nimoy were listed in the opening credits. As Kelley's role grew in importance during the first season, he received a pay raise to about $2,500 per episode and received third billing starting in the second season after Nimoy. Despite the show's recognition of Kelley as one of its stars, he was frustrated by the greater attention that Shatner received as its lead actor and that Nimoy received because of "Spockamania" among fans.

Kelley at Star Trek convention in 1988

Shy by his own admission, Kelley was the only cast member of the original Star Trek series program never to have written or published an autobiography; the authorized biography From Sawdust to Stardust (2005) was written posthumously by Terry Lee Rioux of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Kelley regarded "The Empath" as his favorite Star Trek television episode.

Later career

After Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, Kelley found himself a victim of the very typecasting he had so feared. In 1972, he was cast in the horror film Night of the Lepus. After that, Kelley made occasional appearances on television and in film, but essentially went into de facto retirement, other than playing McCoy in the Star Trek film series. By 1978, he was earning up to $50,000 ($224,000 today) annually from appearances at Star Trek conventions. Like other Star Trek actors, Kelley received little of the enormous profits that the franchise generated for Paramount, until Nimoy, as executive producer, helped arrange for Kelley to be paid $1 million for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), which was his final live-action film appearance. In 1987, he appeared in the first Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Encounter at Farpoint", in which he portrayed a 137-year-old Dr. McCoy. For his final film, Kelley provided the voice of Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars. Later in life, Kelley developed an interest in poetry, eventually publishing the first of two books in an unfinished series, The Big Bird's Dream and The Dream Goes On.

In a TLC interview done in the late 1990s, Kelley joked that one of his biggest fears was that the words etched on his gravestone would be "He's dead, Jim". Kelley's obituary in Newsweek began: "We're not even going to try to resist: He's dead, Jim". He stated the year before his death that his legacy would be the many people McCoy had inspired to become doctors; "That's something that very few people can say they've done. I'm proud to say that I have". In 1991, Kelley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1999, shortly before he died, he was awarded a Golden Boot award for his contribution to the genre of Western television and movies.

Health and death

Kelley was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1997, from which he died on June 11, 1999, aged 79, at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. His remains were cremated and the ashes were spread over the Pacific Ocean.



Year Title Role Notes
1945 Time to Kill Peter Short film
1947 Fear in the Night Vince Grayson
1947 Variety Girl Bob Kirby
1947 Beyond Our Own Bob Rogers
1948 Gypsy Holiday Carl Romano Short film
1948 Canon City Smalley
1949 Duke of Chicago 'Ace' Martin
1949 Malaya Lt. Glenson Uncredited
1949 Life of St. Paul Series Aram
1950 The Men Dr. Sherman Uncredited
1953 Taxi Fred Uncredited
1954 Duffy of San Quentin Eddie Lee – Police Detective Uncredited
1955 House of Bamboo Charlie Uncredited
1955 Illegal Edward Clary
1955 The View from Pompey's Head Jim Foster – Hotel Clerk Uncredited
1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Medic Uncredited
1956 Tension at Table Rock Jim Breck
1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Morgan Earp
1957 Raintree County Southern Officer
1958 The Law and Jake Wade Wexler
1959 Warlock Curley Burne
1961 Tales of Wells Fargo Cole Scoville
1963 Gunfight at Comanche Creek Amos Troop
1964 Where Love Has Gone Sam Corwin
1965 Black Spurs Sheriff Dal Nemo
1965 Town Tamer Guy Tavenner
1965 Marriage on the Rocks Mr. Turner
1965 Apache Uprising Toby Jack Saunders
1966 Johnny Reno Uncredited
1966 Waco Bill Rile
1972 Night of the Lepus Elgin Clark
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Dr. Leonard McCoy
1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Dr. Leonard McCoy
1984 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Dr. Leonard McCoy
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Dr. Leonard McCoy
1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Dr. Leonard McCoy
1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Dr. Leonard McCoy
1991 Star Trek Adventure Dr. Leonard McCoy Short film
1998 The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars Viking 1 (voice) Direct-to-video


Year Title Role Notes
1947 Public Prosecutor Danny Watson Episode: "The Case of the Man Who Wasn't There"
1949–1953 The Lone Ranger Doctor Barnes / Sheriff / Bob Kittredge 3 episodes
1950 Studio One Bob Philo Episode: "The Last Cruise"
1952 Armstrong Circle Theatre Episode: "Breakaway"
1952 Your Jeweler's Showcase Episode: "The Hand of St. Pierre"
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater Bert Dexter Episode: "Dreams Never Lie"
1953 The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse Jeff Episode: "Frozen Escape"
1953–1954 Your Favorite Story John Ainslee 3 episodes
1953–1954 City Detective Hartfield / Benjamin 2 episodes
1953–1956 You Are There Soldier / Al Hammill / Maj. Bremen / Ike Clanton / Lt. Col. Everton Conger 9 episodes
1954 Waterfront Bob Vogelin / Lloyd Allen 2 episodes
1954 The Lone Wolf Nick Kohler / Ted Hopkins 2 episodes
1954 Public Defender Mr. Sanders Episode: "The Murder Photo"
1954 Cavalcade of America Episode: "A Medal for Miss Walker"
1954–1955 Mayor of the Town Nash / Tracey 3 episodes
1954–1955 Studio 57 Alfred / Ted Lance 2 episodes
1955 The Loretta Young Show Pilot Episode: "Decision"
1955 The Millionaire Dr. Michael Wells Episode: "The Iris Millar Story"
1955–1956 Science Fiction Theatre Dr. Milo Barton / Matt Brander / Captain Hall, M.D. 3 episodes
1955–1956 Matinee Theatre Alan Brecker / Frank Lawson 2 episodes
1956 Gunsmoke Will Bailey Episode: "Indian Scout"
1956 Strange Stories Harvey Harris Episode: "Such a Nice Little Girl"
1956–1960 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre Swain / Logan Wheeler / Sherm Pickard / Les Porter 4 episodes
1957 Navy Log Captain Smithwick / Corporal 2 episodes
1957 The O. Henry Playhouse 2 episodes
1957 The Adventures of Jim Bowie Dr. Robert Taber Episode: "An Eye for an Eye"
1957 Code 3 Deputy Don Reason Episode: "Oil Well Incident"
1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Jordan Haig Episode: "Hands of the Enemy"
1957 The Web Detective Lt. Johnny Wright Episode: "Kill and Run"
1957 Boots and Saddles Merriweather Episode: "The Marquis of Donnybrook"
1957–1958 The Silent Service Lt. Comm. Enright / Ferrara / Commander Dempsey Episode: "The Archerfish Spits Straight" 3 episodes
1957–1958 M Squad Police Sgt. Miller / Detective 3 episodes
1957–1958 Playhouse 90 Lambert 2 episodes
1957–1959 Trackdown Tom Dooley / Ed Crow / Brock Childers / Perry Grimes 4 episodes
1958 Steve Canyon Radar Major Episode: "Operation Jettison"
1958 The Rough Riders Lance Episode: "The Nightbinders"
1958–1960 Alcoa Theatre Jake Brittin / Marshal 2 episodes
1959 The Californians Joe Girard Episode: "The Painted Lady"
1959 26 Men Ed Lacy Episode: "Trail of Revenge"
1959 Special Agent 7 Martin Episode: "Border Masquerade"
1959 Northwest Passage David Cooper Episode: "Death Rides the Wind"
1959 Wanted Dead or Alive Ollie Tate / Sheriff Steve Pax 2 episodes
1959 Rawhide Slate Prell Episode: "Incident at Barker Springs"
1959 Mackenzie's Raiders Charles Barron / El Halcon Episode: "Son of the Hawk"
1959 State Trooper Graham Jones Episode: "The Patient Skeleton"
1959 The Lineup Episode: "The Chloroform Murder Case"
1959 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Kenneth Porter / Sheriff 2 episodes
1959 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Eddie Robbins / Philip Conroy 2 episodes
1959 21 Beacon Street George Manning Episode: "The Hostage"
1959 Walt Disney Presents Silas Morgan Episode: "Elfego Baca: Mustang Man, Mustang Maid"
1959 Black Saddle Sam King Episode: "Apache Trail"
1960 Johnny Midnight David Lawton Episode: "The Inner Eye"
1960 Markham Danny Standish Episode: "Counterpoint"
1960 Two Faces West Vern Cleary Episode: "Fallen Gun"
1960–1961 Lawman Bent Carr / Sam White 2 episodes
1960–1961 Coronado 9 Shep Harlow / Frank Briggs 2 episodes
1961 Riverboat Alex Jeffords Episode: "Listen to the Nightingale"
1961 Tales of Wells Fargo Captain Cole Scofield Episode: "Captain Scofield"
1961 Assignment: Underwater Barney Episode: "Affair in Tokyo"
1961 Stagecoach West Lt. Clarke / Clay Henchard 2 episodes
1961 The Deputy Farley Styles Episode: "The Means and the End"
1961 Bat Masterson Brock Martin Episode: "No Amnesty for Death"
1961 Shannon Carlyle Episode: "The Pickup"
1961 Cain's Hundred Bob Tully Episode: "The Fixer"
1961 Perry Mason Peter Thorpe Episode: "The Case of the Unwelcome Bride"
1961–1962 Route 66 Bob Harcourt Jr. / H. Norbert Willis 2 episodes
1961–1966 Bonanza Tully / Dr. Michael Jons / Captain Moss Johnson 4 episodes
1962 Have Gun – Will Travel Deakin Episode: "The Treasure"
1962–1963 Laramie Jack / Bart Collins 2 episodes
1962–1966 Death Valley Days Elliott Webster / Martin - Prisoner / Clint Rogers / Shad Cullen 4 episodes
1963 The Virginian Lt. Beldon / Ben Tully 2 episodes
1963 The Gallant Men Col. Davenport Episode: "A Taste of Peace"
1963 The Dakotas Martin Volet Episode: "Reformation at Big Nose Butte"
1963 77 Sunset Strip Phil Wingate Episode: "88 Bars"
1964 Slattery's People Gregg Wilson Episode: "Question: Which One Has the Privilege?"
1965 The Fugitive Charlie Episode: "Three Cheers for Little Boy Blue"
1965 The Donna Reed Show Williams Episode: "Uncle Jeff Needs You"
1966 A Man Called Shenandoah Egan Episode: "The Riley Brand"
1966 Laredo Dr. David Ingram Episode: "Sound of Terror"
1966–1969 Star Trek: The Original Series Dr. Leonard McCoy 76 episodes
1967 Police Story Lab Chief Greene Television film
1970 Ironside Mr. Fowler Episode: "Warrior's Return"
1970 The Silent Force Curston Episode: "The Judge"
1970 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Parrish Episode: "Giants Never Kneel"
1971 Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law Frank Slater Episode: "Make No Mistake"
1971 Room 222 Matt Silverton Episode: "The Sins of the Fathers"
1972 The Bull of the West Ben Tully Television film
1973 The ABC Afternoon Playbreak Dr. Goldstone Episode: "I Never Said Goodbye"
1973–1974 Star Trek: The Animated Series Dr. McCoy (voice) 22 episodes
1974 The Cowboys Jack Potter Episode: "David Done It"
1981 The Littlest Hobo Prof. Hal Schaffer Episode: "Runaway"
1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation Admiral Leonard McCoy Episode: "Encounter at Farpoint"

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
1994 Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy CD-ROM version
1995 Star Trek: Judgment Rites Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy CD-ROM version
1999 Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy Cancelled

See also

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