Born Albert David Hedison in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 27th 1927 to his Armenian parents. His career was crafted at Brown University with the Sock and Buskin Players and in New York at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, and finally at the Actors Studio.
His early days were in theatre and he rapidly was recognised as a leading talent by being awarded most promising young actor. Using his birth name at the start of his career in such films as The Enemy Below and The Son of Robin Hood, he gained a leading role early on in the horror film The Fly in 1958, it wasn’t until 1959 that ABC insisted that he use a different name and he reluctantly decided to stay close to home and use his middle name instead.
During the 60’s his career flourished within television and film. He played the role of Captain Lee Crane in the television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, co-starring with Richard Basehart between 1964 and 1968. After the series ended, he spent a couple of years working in London and loved it but found it difficult to get work when he returned to the USA but he did manage guest starring roles in various television shows both in the UK and in the USA at the start of the 70’s.
In 1973, He played Felix Leiter in the first of Roger Moore’s Bond films, Live and Let Die. He later stated that the role didn’t do much for his career, he got plenty of fan mail but it didn’t lead to any work at all.
The 1980’s brought him another busy decade, again teaming up with Roger Moore in the film North Sea Hijack, and guesting in episodes of Charlie’s Angels, T.J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, The A-Team and Murder, She Wrote amongst many others.
And then in 1989 he put on his Felix Leiter suit again, and this time with a different Bond, Timothy Dalton, in the film Licence to Kill. Commenting on his time on the film he said that it was fun, but nothing serious and nothing memorable because the character didn’t have a specific great scene that he could get any depth with.
In the 1990’s he was a regular on the US soap Another World. He returned to the theatre in the late 90’s and into the 2000’sappearing in numerous plays right up to 2009. His last film role was as an interviewee in the 2017 film, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk.
He was married to Bridget in London on 29th June 1968 and they were together until her passing, from breast cancer, on 22nd February 2016. They had two daughters, Alexandra (who followed in her Dad’s footsteps) and Serena, a producer. His family said he always entertained friends and family with a positive attitude and ‘wicked’ sense of humour. He once quipped: ‘When I know I’ll be on TV I have a dinner party and invite my friends over so they can’t see the show.’
He died at his home in Los Angeles on the 18th July 2019.