The Royal Dano Centennial

Born 100 years ago today, the amazing, always memorable Royal Dano (1922-1994).

Dano was a supporting player, but one of those ones who was so distinctive that he stood out even in bit parts. Tall, gaunt, cadaverous Dano was a production value unto himself. Directors would cast him when they wanted to accentuate a moment you wouldn’t forget. His presence was somewhere in a category that also includes the likes of Bill Wolfe and Harry Sean Stanton, assisted by a wonderful rumbling voice. He was mostly employed in westerns and horror films, and he read as “folksy”, which makes the fact that he was actually an Irishman from New York City come as some surprise. Back in the day Dano’s most widely attended performance was the Voice of Abraham Lincoln in Walt Disney’s exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair, and in attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Dano got his first performing experience in the army during World War Two. Directly afterwards, he played a leprechaun in a touring stage adaptation of the comic strip Bernard and Mr. O’Malley. This led to his casting in the original Broadway production of Finnegan’s Rainbow (1949) and a half dozen subsequent Broadway shows. John Huston cast him as “The Tattered Soldier ” in The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and Elijah in Moby Dick (1956), both of which helped establish his screen persona. Crazy preachers and prophets were a specialty, as were rifle toting sheriffs, as he played in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955, pictured above).

His westerns included Bend of the River (1952), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Far Country (1954), Trooper Hook (1957), Man of the West (1958), Cimarron (1960), Day of the Evil Gun (1968), The Culpepper Cattle Company (1972), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), Cahill U.S. Marshall (1973), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), and just about every TV western of the 1950s through the 1970s. He played St. Peter in King of Kings (1961) and played memorable ministers in Big Bad Mama (1974) and The Right Stuff (1983). Other spooky roles include the voice of Jacob Marley in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), and parts in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), Moon of the Wolf (1972), Messiah of Evil (1973), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Ghoulies II (1988), Spaced Invaders (1990) and episodes of Twin Peaks. His last credit, out of nearly 200, was in George Romero’s screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Half.

Son Rick Dano, and grandson Hutch Dano, are both actors.